Weaving the traditions of Dance, Music, Art & Language

Celtic Junction Arts Center

Best Cultural Center in North America –IrishCentral, 2018

836 Prior Avenue, St. Paul, MN, 55104

A 501(c)(3) organization

Klein / Morales

Crop Art

Borrowed from Issue 6 of The Celtic Junction Newsletter featuring crop art by Tom Klein and Jeanne Morales

First Sowing

Jeanne: ”I have always been a crop art enthusiast and would make it one of my priority stops at the Minnesota State Fair. But I never thought about participating, until I saw Lillian Colton (the queen of crop art) demonstrate the craft at an exhibit of her art at Minneapolis Institute of Arts. She was inspiring to watch-- dabbing a bit of glue on the end of a toothpick and then picking each seed one by one for its appropriate placement on the canvas. The process was simpler than I realized and I thought…I can do that…I WANT to do that.

My first piece was a Haitian Voodoo flag, inspired by a trip I took to Haiti. I realized my crop art piece was an opportunity to educate the public about this Haitian art form, and hopefully convey as well that Voodoo has little to do with zombies. I included a “fact sheet” with my piece that explained the background of the flag. I am not sure how many people read it but a judge noted that they appreciated the explanation. I won a third place ribbon and was hooked.”

For Tom, the pull into crop art took a different form: “My wife, crop artist Adele Binning, got me into the seedy underworld of crop art. In 1994, as a pre-dating hazing, she asked me to come along to a “crop art party”. The idea being that - if I thought it was really cool- then I would be suitable for her to date. I like the party, the artistic challenge, the people (and the art) and now, here we are some 18 years later. ”

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Cross Pollinations

Jeanne: “Crop art offers endless opportunities to express what is on the mind…whether it’s a humorous event, a political opinion, or honoring a favorite animal or place. While the number and types of seeds may be limited (restricted to Minnesota crops only, at least for entries to the Minnesota State Fair), the end products from these seeds are varied and always interesting. The State Fair is very generous because it displays every piece submitted. I do enjoy creating pieces that I like and may connect with viewers. Occasionally I will be contacted about a piece and I appreciate knowing that I made someone’s day. “

She continues: “One of my favorite connections through crop happened in 2008. I did a piece that honored the late, great Minnesota architect Ralph Rapson. While I never met him personally, there were people in my life who were his devoted students and admirers of his work. The piece was a copy of a caricature he did of himself. Towards the end of the Fair, I received an e-mail from his son who had heard about the piece from several different people. He thanked me for remembering his father. While the piece is simple, it is definitely my favorite because it ties in many things that are great about Minnesota…the people, the places, ideals. “

“Any visitor to the crop art exhibit at the State Fair will see that it can be very political. I love to see the current debate of the time being expressed, often in very humorous ways, in the pieces. You could call this debate “civil discourse” --usually all sides are represented in Minnesota Nice sorts of ways. Crop art is also a haven for the lovers of puns and kitsch. “

Tom: “What I find really interesting in making crop art is the confines that are put on you to use an extremely limited “palette”. There are a small number different kinds of seeds you can use. And for that matter, I enter the crop art category (there are many different “lots” each with their own forms and stipulations) that allows only natural, (neither painted nor dyed), seeds on a regular, two-dimension surface. It is quite a challenge to make work you enjoy under such limiting parameters.”

“I work as a graphic artist (in the natural history sciences field) and musician (I am an uilleann piper). But I do have a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in drawing, painting and sculpting. That being said, crop art is about the only “artsy” thing I do these days. I have been told that my graphics background shows in my designs. Thematically, my crop art tends to draw heavily on my natural history background, and I almost always have a critter in there somewhere.”