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Landscape artist unveils a giant portrait of NASA pioneer Stephanie Wilson

Artist Stan Herd's portrait of NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson on display in Atlanta is 70 feet by 90 feet.
John Zarr
Artist Stan Herd's portrait of NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson on display in Atlanta is 70 feet by 90 feet.

Updated October 14, 2021 at 4:24 PM ET

Stan Herd is known for giant works of art — his "earthworks" are etchings in the ground so big that they're best viewed from the sky.

His most recent portrait of NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson on display in downtown Atlanta's Woodruff Park is 70 feet by 90 feet. In the portrait, Wilson looks skyward out of a spacesuit helmet. Above is the hashtag #AimHigher.

Herd and his team removed large amounts of grass to make the image, and filled in those empty spaces with different light and dark materials — like mulch and compost — to create Wilson's portrait.

Wilson was the second Black woman to go into space. She's flown in three missions — her first in 2006 — and she's also one of 18 astronauts on the NASA Artemis team, which is set to go to the moon in 2024.

"The whole idea of this was to create an image and a message for the young women of Atlanta, especially the young minority women, that they can aim higher," Herd said.

The portrait of Wilson debuted on Monday and coincided with the U.N.'s International Day of the Girl Child and World Space Week.

"She's persevered and worked hard and she had a vision young and early and she never let up," Herd said. "Kind of like I feel like I do with my art. You just don't slow down, you keep going."

Herd plans to continue taking inspiration from the sky for upcoming projects. He says a second Earthworks portrait could feature Sian Proctor, who recently became the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft when she orbited the Earth in a SpaceX Dragon capsule.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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