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Giant Van Gogh reproduction in Goodland gets a facelift

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, July 15, 2012, at 6:01 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, July 15, 2012, at 10:13 p.m.

The Kansas weather has taken a toll on the sunflowers of Goodland.

The giant landmark painting of Vincent Van Gogh’s vase of sunflowers that thousands of visitors drive past in Goodland has been taken down and is currently being restored by Canadian artist Cameron Cross.

The 24-foot-by-32-foot reproduction of “Three Sunflowers in a Vase” — one of Van Gogh’s most famous works — was installed by Cross, complete with an 80-foot-tall easel, 12 years ago.

It has since become one of the most visible and blogged-about pieces of art in Kansas, in part because I-70 passes near it

When it was first installed 12 years ago at a cost of $140,000, some locals wondered about its worth.

“When Cameron first approached the National Sunflower Association and said he was thinking about installing this huge sunflower painting, we first were like, ‘Really?’ ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Are you a real person?’ ” said Donna Price, director of Goodland’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.

But soon a local volunteer group, the Sunflowers USA Association, raised money for the painting — $50,000 in an attractions grant from the Kansas Department of Tourism and $4,000 from the Kansas Arts Commission. The rest came from corporate and private donations. No tax money was involved.

Once the painting was installed, people stopped, took photos and even stayed long enough to grab a meal or do some shopping.

“Goodland and Sherman County produce more sunflowers than anywhere else in the state of Kansas,” said Mike Solomon, Sherman County’s economic development director. “We are the sunflower capital of Kansas. And that painting shows this is what we are about. Once people get past the painting, they sometimes come down our downtown brick streets and visit our businesses. We see it as an opportunity.”

And now, Price said, the painting has become one of the best-known things about Goodland.

“I think Cameron should have dual citizenship,” Price said. “We want to adopt him, or at least I do.”

The Goodland painting marks the third giant reproduction Cross has completed. His goal is to reproduce all seven of van Gogh’s sunflower paintings in seven countries spanning the globe – in areas connected either to van Gogh or with sunflower agriculture. The first was done in Altona, Canada; the second in Emerald, Australia. Other works are planned for the Netherlands, Japan, South Africa and Argentina.

Cross said the Goodland painting held up remarkably well in the 12 years since he first installed it.

The painting’s backing is 24 sheets of three-quarter-inch plywood behind two layers of fiberglass, which is covered with industrial automotive paint and gel coat. It weighs about 45,000 pounds.

“It will take about two weeks to finish it but there have been some delays,” Cross said Sunday. “The weather is hampering me. If it is 100 degrees outside, it is about 120 degrees on the fiberglass. I can’t work on it in the heat. It is not good for the paint to cure in the heat.”

He works mornings and evenings in Pioneer Park, along Goodland’s business route of U.S. 24. Invariably, visitors will pull off the highway and come watch him as he works.

“They come from Canada, Texas and California, wanting to take pictures and be a part of this,” Cross said.

Solomon said the restoration is estimated to cost $15,000 and is being paid for by the city of Goodland. Sunflowers USA has since disbanded.

“The City Commission stepped up and decided to take ownership of it,” Solomon said. “They saw it as an important thing for this community.”

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com.

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