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In State Fair crop art, none top Prince

ST. PAUL -- When it comes to crop art at the Minnesota State Fair, the race wasn't between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It was between Trump and Prince.

ST. PAUL -- When it comes to crop art at the Minnesota State Fair, the race wasn’t between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It was between Trump and Prince.

And the winner was Prince.

Much like Marshmallow Peeps diorama contests, the crop art competition displayed at the Fair’s Agriculture-Horticulture building is often driven by pop culture, with seedy tributes to recent celebrity deaths or inspired by people in the news.

This year, the recently late and long-time great rock star Prince took the title as the favorite subject for crop artists, with works ranging from a mashup between Prince and the logo from the “Hamilton” musical, a Prince glyph turned into a seed necklace and a seed art version of the album cover art of Prince’s “HITnRUN Phase One.”

But coming in a close second was Republican presidential candidate Trump, who was the inspiration for a crop art depiction of the cartoon character Richie Rich spouting quotes like, “I’m yuge,” and “I don’t like losers.”

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There was also a Trumpian chicken declaring “The sky is falling!” and Trump as a Pokémon Go character called “Evil Trumpachu.”

But even if you count the crop-art depiction of Ronald Reagan in heaven saying, “I said tear down the wall,” the Prince-inspired seed art entries outnumbered the Trump references seven to five.

Prince’s image also could be seen at the Fair’s Creative Activities building, woven into ribbon-winning rugs.

Despite making history as the first woman presidential candidate of a major party, we didn’t see any crop art versions of Clinton. But there was one that featured a quote from President Jimmy Carter, and another depicted Trump critic Khizr Khan waving a copy of the U.S. Constitution.

And poor David Bowie. He’s another pop-music icon who died in the past year, but he didn’t rate a crop art portrait at the State Fair. But there was a version of Abe Vigoda, the longtime character actor who died in January.

Nick Rindo said he’s not surprised that Prince inspired so many crop artists, even though it can be hard to find purple seeds among the crops grown in Minnesota.

“Prince is a natural fit. It just makes sense. There’s nothing more Minnesota than Prince,” Rindo said.

After methodically sorting purple corn kernels by hue, Rindo did a version of “Purple Rain” Prince emerging from a purple lotus flower.

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“I tried to make the whole thing out of purple seeds, which proved to be very difficult,” he said.

Former Pioneer Press artist David Steinlicht, who did the Prince album cover in crop art, said that if you were really serious about getting a crop art blue ribbon, you’d probably avoid what other people are doing and try to come up with something different or unusual.

“In the past, I’ve worried about what other people would do,” said Steinlicht, who now lives in Canada. But he said crop art takes so long to create, “you want to do something that appeals to you to put in that much effort.”

“That illustration kind of spoke to me,” Steinlicht said of the Prince album cover image that he re-created in seeds.

As far as why Trump attracted so many entries, well, there’s the hair.

“I use corn husks as hair,” said Laura Melnick, a longtime crop artist from St. Paul, who did the Trump as Richie Rich entry. “You can draw your own conclusions on whether it works.”

“Trump is just so out there and so obvious. He’s given us so much to work with,” said Teresa Anderson, a crop artist from St. Paul who did Ronald Reagan commenting on Trump.

Anderson said she once saw a crop art entry that depicted Democratic Minnesota Sen. Al Franken as the Joker.

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But in general, when crop artists get political, they tend to be left leaning, say many of the competitors.

Crop art competitor Cathy Camper said that’s been the trend as a new generation of younger crop artists started getting interested in the medium. Over the years, Camper has done crop art portraits of Malcolm X, Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

“Where else can you have your artwork viewed by thousands of people?” she said.

“We get a lot of grief from right-wing blogs,” Anderson said.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing Republican crop art,” Melnick said. But “Republicans don’t do it.”

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