First they were fans. Now they are friends.
Comedian and Twin Cities native Lizz Winstead's phone blew up this summer when people started pinging her about a seed art portrait in her likeness displayed at the Minnesota State Fair.
There she was, rivers of white beans for her hair, looking smart and sassy in her cat-eye glasses.
The portrait was the work of crop artist Christy Klancher of St. Paul, someone who has admired Winstead's comedy for years. Years ago, Klancher also created a Prince-Hamilton mash-up silhouette that Winstead ended up buying for her New York apartment. The artist gifted Winstead the portrait of herself, which is now hanging in her new home in Minneapolis.
The two creatives started to get to know each other better this year. Winstead invited Klancher to her "fully vaccinated" 60th birthday dance party in August at the Uptown VFW. Turns out, they have lots in common — from their love of local music to memories of working at Dayton's.
Now that "The Daily Show" co-creator is back in town for her string of New Year's Eve shows at the Cedar Cultural Center, I asked her and Klancher to sit down and talk about their appreciation for each other's craft. Here's an excerpt of their conversation, edited for length and clarity.
Klancher: Lizz, do you have any first memories of seeing crop art, and what made you first fall in love with it?
Winstead: What I love about it so much is it is so Minnesotan. It is culture, it's Minnesota culture, it's political, it's painful. When you go look at crop art at the fair, the juxtaposition is amazing. Joe Garagiola, antiwar crop art, and then Prince. One year there was Paul Ryan's Wienermobile. I loved Lillian Colton, who was like, the Beyoncé of crop art. I would talk to her there, and she was so lovely.
I love everything about the fair. This is, to me, the the biggest honor I'll ever get in my life: to have somebody make a portrait of me out of crops.
How did you decide that you were going to do crop art?
Klancher: My day job is something where I don't get to use a lot of creativity. I'm an attorney editor at Thomson Reuters. I don't know how I got into the Weird Arts, but I have done Post-it note art on a large scale in the office, like a wall-size version of "Girl With a Pearl Earring."
I started doing crop art about six years ago for the 50th anniversary of the existence of the crop art competition. My whole life I thought I should enter something and I never did. I'm like, "OK, I'm going to do it and try to get something on the wall." As it turns out, they accept almost anything.
Winstead: How does one decide, "Omigod, I'm really good at this?"
Klancher: Part of the appeal to me is that there's such variety in the quality. Anybody can do crop art. Children can enter. I do it more because I just want people to smile. I'm not making great art. I like to use bigger seeds because I don't have enough patience to do the tiny seeds with the shading of a cheekbone. But I can make something that definitely resembles someone or something.
Winstead: Yes! When you go every year and you see your heroes, your nemeses, you say, "I hope one day this can be me." Now it's off my list, and I have no more goals.
Klancher: Now I feel like you're becoming famous in a different way — with your activism. [Winstead was arrested this month in front of the Supreme Court on the day it heard oral arguments on a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.] I feel like you're helping so much in just getting the word out there that abortion is health care. How do you stay optimistic?
Winstead: My optimism comes from working directly with providers of care, activists who are funding the care, helping patients who need assistance. It is motivating, it's inspiring, and it reminds you why you do the work every day. I'm not shy in talking about the fact that I have had an abortion. It was something that helped me be on the path to everything that I got to be in the world, and I'm lucky enough to have a platform where I can be loud about it.
Klancher: Everybody should go to your New Year's Eve shows because you do make the most terrible things that have happened funny. I don't know how you do it, but I always feel better leaving your show.
Winstead: The year kicked off with the insurrection, and then it was downhill from there. What I want to do is provide a night out for people who have been desperately doing everything to bring our country back to normal. You deserve a show. It's just good to exhale, and push forward. I think we all need it.
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