Help keep One Green Planet free and independent! Together we can ensure our platform remains a hub for empowering ideas committed to fighting for a sustainable, healthy, and compassionate world. Please support us in keeping our mission strong.

40 years ago, in 1982, Agnes Denes tended to her two-acre Wheatfield, which she grew in the Battery Park landfill in Manhattan. Even though that was 40 years ago, the trash-filled ground under the field was valued at $4.5 billion.

Source: The Shed/Youtube

Agnes has been a pioneer in several art forms but is best known for her environmental art. Her wheatfield project, titled “Wheatfield—A Confrontation.” is by far her most influential.

Denes was protesting to call attention to the contradictions between the urban and rural world. The field was planted on a landfill in lower Manhattan, just two blocks from Wall Street and the World Trade Center and facing the Statue of Liberty.

Two hundred truckloads of dirt were brought to the site, and 285 furrows were dug by hand and cleared from rocks and garbage. The seeds were planted by hand, and the field was maintained for four months. The crop was harvested three months later and yielded over 1000 pounds of healthy golden wheat.

Planting and harvesting the wheat on land that was worth so much created a powerful paradox.

“Wheatfield was a symbol, a universal concept; it represented food, energy, commerce, world trade, and economics. It referred to mismanagement, waste, world hunger and ecological concerns. It called attention to our misplaced priorities,” the artist’s website says about the project.

The grain traveled to 28 states around the world in “The International Art Show for the End of World Hunger.” The seeds were carried away by people who wanted to plant them across the globe.

A famous photo from the protest shows the artist tending to her field in a striped shirt with high-waisted blue Jeans. Another photo shows the Statue of Liberty in the distance, while another angle shows the large buildings in the background.

“My decision to plant a wheatfield in Manhattan,” Denes said, “instead of designing just another public sculpture, grew out of the longstanding concern and need to call attention to our misplaced priorities and deteriorating human values.”

Source: The Shed/Youtube

“Manhattan is the richest, most professional, most congested and, without a doubt, most fascinating island in the world. To attempt to plant, sustain and harvest two acres of wheat here, wasting valuable real estate and obstructing the ‘machinery’ by going against the system, was an effrontery that made it the powerful paradox I had sought for the calling to account.”

Denes says Wheatfield represented “food, energy, commerce, world trade, economics” and referred to “mismanagement, waste, world hunger.”

“My work was aimed to deal with one little problem at a time,” Denes said, “and to find benign solutions. I don’t make my work for myself; I make it for humanity.”

Check out these 10 Most Interesting Environmental Artists and 8 Eco Artists You Should Know About!

Related Content:

For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter! Also, don’t forget to download the Food Monster App on the App Store. With over 15,000 delicious recipes, it is the largest meatless, vegan, and allergy-friendly recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy!

Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!