Feature, Photography

Corn mazes: fad or art?

design by Will Sillin, courtesy Mike's Maze)

design by Will Sillin, courtesy Mike’s Maze)

Crop circles and corn mazes can be amazing, intricate and down right scary sometimes. Cherished by many UFOists, equally loved and hated by farmers, and an absolute treat following a trick, these agronomic pranks have sparked imagination for years now. The first pioneering crop art can be arguably attributed to   Doug Bower and Dave Chorley who started making truly intricate models spanning whole square miles in the 1970s.

courtesy Mike's Maze)

courtesy Mike’s Maze)

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Obviously, some people took them seriously – as in actual cryptic messages from outer space. Whatever your take on it is, one thing’s clear: crop mazes elicit attention. People love attention of course and before you know it England became littered with these, as more crop artisans jumped on the bandwagon. By the 1990s, crop art had become something of an art form, sometimes turning fields into local tourist attractions in their own right. Farmers, at first mad that their crops were wasted, turned around after realizing having the press move in on their property is actually a money maker.

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Oddly enough, the US lagged behind in quality crop art, but not for too long. Many fantastic artists have surfaced in the past few years displaying some marvelous art. Mike’s Maze in Sunderland, Massachusetts, is definitely the most interesting out of the whole bunch. Not just a crop circle, Mike’s Maze is a veritable navigable maze. An aerial view of their works shows intricate forms, portraits or nature, as each year they grow something different.  Portraits of Charles Darwin, dictionary creator Noah Webster, and celebrity chef Julia Child, as well as recreations of Andy Warhol’s iconic soup can and the Mona Lisa are a few examples.

This year Mike’s Maze features a fantastic portrait of Salvador Dali. What’s really innovating about Mike’s Maze is that they actually provide a navigable experience, complete with quests and such. For instance, this year, you could try you chance at completing optical illusions puzzles complete with a forced-perspective room and a hall of mirrors (hidden somewhere around Dalí’s impressive mustache).

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