In 1988 Stan Herd planted and plowed a field of soybeans in Ottawa, Kansas into a five-acre drawing of two crushed soda cans—one Coke and one Pepsi. So large as to be fully viewable only by air, he sought volunteers to wear red or blue T-shirts to provide the full color “trade dress” for the two competing brands.
THE SUCCESS of his first attempt at “pop art” depends largely on the number of people who come out to celebrate the Ottawa Community Arts Council’s 10th anniversary. Herd said he needs about 1500 people to make the red and blue portions of the field sculpture adequately dense. “It’s pop art because of the crushed cans, op art because it’s an optical illusion, crop art because it’s in a field and flop art if no one shows up,” he said.
Lawrence Journal, October 19, 1988
(More about the project, after the fold…)Some press quotes:
Using the world’s two fiercest cola competitors is Herd’s tongue-in-cheek treatment of what he said is a very serious subject.
“We’re a frenzied consumer society,” Herd said Thursday. “We are, in fact, the Pepsi Generation. I wonder what the great minds of history would think about that… “This generation is named after a soft drink?”
Deborah Baker, the art council’s administrator, called the project the perfect anti-advertisement.
“He finally came up with a way to do a Pepsi commercial and a Coke commercial that cancel each other out.”
Lawrence Journal, September 2, 1988
Stan Herd’s “canvas,” a bean field near US-50 and 23rd Street, is ready to come to life. All that’s needed now is 1,200 to 1,400 people for the finishing touches…
Those participating in next Saturday’s “cola wars” are asked to… arrive about noon…
People shouldn’t be too bored while waiting… The Kansas Arts Commission is providing “roaming musicians”… There will also be concessions of food and soft drinks.
The soft drinks will be brands other than Coke and Pepsi, and …they will be in recyclable aluminum cans.
Those helping out must wear red or blue shirts, the colors of the Coke and Pepsi cans. Commemorative T-shirts of those colors — declaring “Ottawa Bean Field Cola Wars” and depicting the cans — are on sale now…
Purchasing a T-shirt isn’t required “at all, if you have a Coca-Cola red or Pepsi Blue,” Herd’s wife, Jan said.
It appears that getting 1,200 to 1,400 people for the unusual art event won’t be a problem. In addition to the 800 tickets already distributed, Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City media will publicize the event beforehand and urge citizens to help out.
Ottawa Herald, October 14, 1988
Herd and council officials expected more than 1,200 participants, donning red and blue clothes, to give color to the Pepsi and Coke cans.
However, a light rainfall probably deterred about 400 of the participants… The gathering of about 800 stood on the formation for about three hours while photographers too aerial pictures.
…Other participants, such as Rose Marie Miller, came out to show support for their favorite soft drink. But Miller became disappointed after learning that she was a part of the section that would top the Pepsi can.
“I’m a Coke fan — I have a six pack in the car right now. But if being on the Pepsi can is the only way I can participate, then I’ll be flexible.
Lawrence Journal, October 23, 1988
This work is one of the few he did where people were a part of it. The white outlines are gypsum. The blue & red “dots” are people with corresponding T-shirts. We have much, MUCH fewer people show up than desired …. so, some of us held “empty” shirts between us. We were bent over to max the exposure. It was tons of fun…we are featured in a “coffee table” book showing his art …. lol We (wife & I) are in the “k” of the Coke.
“Actually, I’m a Coke drinker. I’ve only missed drinking a Coke two days in the last five years and that’s because I was trapped in the jungles.”
–Stan Herd, quoted by Lawrence Journal, October 19, 1988