The man who mows grass masterpieces

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NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

GWEN IFILL: Tonight’s NewsHour Shares come from Roger Baker, an artist whose paintbrush is often a lawn mower.

His latest work, a giant portrait of Beethoven

ROGER BAKER, Artist: My name is Roger Baker. I’m an artist, a commercial artist.

So the field piece is an expression of my own personal interests. I start with something that I’m passionate and interested in, so it’s real. I’m not cutting for everybody else. I’m cutting myself.

And so the first one I did in 2000, we cut the Statue of Liberty. And after the Statue of Liberty, we did Elvis. And then we did Einstein with the Museum of Natural History in New York. And then I cut Hendrix and then Indian Larry.

I cut a piece in Orange County, New York. It was for the 75th anniversary of the Purple Heart. And this last piece I did, which was Beethoven, it was about a million square feet. It has shagbark hickory trees, which are loaded with squirrels. And they have kind of landed on Beethoven’s lapel.

I pick a field that’s going to be conducive to the piece. It has to be a healthy field, a hayfield. I do a scale drawing in my studio. I might do four or five different drawings. And then we come in and lay out our image, and then we cut with smaller mowers, like zero turns and just push mowers.

Once that’s established, we can come in and cut the gradations and get the different levels of grass to reflect light differently. So, when you are over top of the field from 2,000 feet, looking straight down on it, the areas that are cut real low will be lighter. The areas that are left tall will be darker. And we have gradations in between those.

On the ground, when you look at it, you can’t tell really anything. It just — it’s so huge. It just looks like a bad mowing job. But when you get up high, it gets very representational and becomes an image of Beethoven.

You’re mowing a lawn. And that’s all I’m doing. I’m mowing a lawn. And it brought people together. I think that’s really, really great and it’s very satisfying to see as an artist to have a piece of artwork that you do from the soul and the heart go out there, and it brings people together. And I think that’s really special. That’s really special to me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A different kind of talent.

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