Text Box: Some images courtesy of Aaron Dysart and Jim Dunn.

The panels of the cab focus on concepts of “chewing” and our oral fixations — actual and vague. 

The Cab of the Combine:


The Cornhead of the Combine (Its “Teeth”):



Sloane’s Tool Set

The set of panels on the corn-head (“teeth”) of the combine showcases the “teeth” or tools by which rural America came to be: a series of traditional hand-tools used by pioneers to carve out the wilderness of the Midwest, as illustrated by Eric Sloane in A Museum of Early American Tools.

A Closer Look ...






On the Left

     (Driver’s Side):



On the Right

     (Opposite Driver’s Side):





This panel pays homage to the artwork from the cover of the first-ever “Chew” comic book.  Character Tony Chu is a police detective who is also a “cibopath”:  he has special empathic powers that are activated by chewing.  (Chewing what?  You’ll have to read the comic Chew to find out!)  


Mustachioed Corn-Chomper


The “face” of the combine – a close-up of a mustached man chomping with gusto onto a cob of corn




In the classic video game, the yellow PacMan chomp-chomps his way across the screen, attempting to clear it without getting destroyed by one of the four colored ghosts. This panel pays homage to a creative reimagining of that game by painter Travis Pitts in an ancillary genre of visual art inspired by video games, both past and present. The painting depicts PacMan as a human space traveler and the four ghosts (“Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde”) as skeletons in their respectively colored space suits, about to descend on him!

The Crayon Kid

An affectionate reference to oral

fixations in childhood


Termite — The ultimate chewer

Photo credit:  Aaron Dysart

Photo credit:  Aaron Dysart

Photo credit:  Aaron Dysart

I am particularly taken by “Near-Mint Condition” and “Ruminant (the Grand Masticator)” because of the multiple layers in each piece; the viewer can engage in so many ways. The pieces are really beautiful – colorful, shiny, glowing. And, the images in the glass relate with the function of the original piece of machinery. There’s this unexpected presence of stained glass in a large machine.


Kristine Frank Elias,

The Soap Factory (Minneapolis)

Director’s Blog

(full interview)

Articles & Press:


Where in Wisconsin? — Ruminant (The Grand Masticator) in Reedsburg, NBC15 Madison, Wisconsin, Dec. 2, 2016


Reedsburg’s Harvest Park recognized by Lt. Gov., Heather Stanek, Reedsburg Times-Press, May 17, 2016


How a Minnesota Farm Boy Found His True Calling as an Incredible Stained Glass Artist, Bill Vossler, Reader’s Digest, 2016


Food for the Soul: Endless hours of daydreaming in a tractor cab now fuel this artist’s whimsical storytelling style, Bill Vossler, Farm and Ranch Living Magazine, Feb/Mar 2016


Ruminating in Reedsburg: Combine becomes permanent piece of art in community park, Jim Massey, The Country Today Magazine, Dec. 2, 2015


Art You Can Sink Your Teeth Into, Jason Smith, Wisconsin People & Ideas, Quarterly Magazine of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, Madison, Wis., Fall/Winter 2014


Reedsburg art project wins national award, front-page story, Reedsburg Times-Press, August 16, 2014


Artist Karl Unnasch is honored by Public Art Network Year in Review, Fillmore County Journal, Aug. 25, 2014


Cornfield Cathedral:  Seeing Karl Unnasch’s Grand Masticator, Aaron Dysart, Walker Art Center’s mnartists.blog, Nov. 28, 2013


John Deere 6600 Combine Becomes a Work of Art, John Deere Company Magazine, Autumn 2013 (Copyright John Deere & Co.; used here with permission)


Karl Unnasch Interview, Kristine Frank Elias, Soap Factory (Minneapolis) Director’s Blog, January 16, 2014


Stained Glass Artist Turned Combine into Art, Farm Show Magazine, Cover Story for Vol. #38, Issue #3, May 2014


Wisconsin park will offer stained glass John Deere combine, Quad-Cities Online, April 17, 2014


Goal met for art project, Peter Rebhahn, Wisconsin State Journal, August 4, 2014


Fundraising goal met for art project, Peter Rebhahn, Reedsburg Times-Press, July 16, 2014


Council approves Webb grant for permanent city art piece, Reedsburg Independent, February 27, 2014





In the Artist’s own words:


“Different sections of the combine focus on different methods by which we ‘chew’. 

The corn head (as the teeth) highlights a set of pioneer tools (a nod to the illustrator and sign painter Sloane) that were used to carve out the wilderness of the Midwest. The cab focuses on concepts of our oral fixations using disjointed visuals of the act of chewing — actual and vague. The sides respond to historical harvest propaganda with “combined” comic book and WPA imagery. The rear (where chaff is expelled) deals with “raw” food humor in simplified form in the mode of puns and wordplay.”

                                                                                                                       — Karl Unnasch

To Ruminant Fans, Area Businesses and

Interested Community Members:


My name is Joann Mundth Douglas and I worked with other community members to acquire Ruminant:  The Grand Masticator as a permanent art installation for downtown Reedsburg. Karl's piece had made a big impression on our community. During Fermentation Fest, Ruminant had drawn a lot of attention and many locals identified with it as a monument to Reedsburg's agricultural heritage.  


The City of Reedsburg has converted a vacant lot space into a new city park featuring Ruminant, right across from the Reedsburg Chamber of Commerce.  Karl's piece is so compelling, we believe that it will both distinguish Reedsburg and attract visitors year round for many years to come.  


We have great plans for the landscaping of Harvest Park, but more funding is still needed to carry them out. If you would like to make a contribution in support of The Ruminant/Harvest Park Project, please do not hesitate to contact me. Donations are tax deductible to the full extent provided by law and are being accepted in any amount. 


Ongoing details about progress on the project are available on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ruminantproject — just

“like” the page to follow updates.


The Ruminant/Harvest Park Project is a Reedsburg ArtsLink initiative. Reedsburg ArtsLink is catalyst for connecting creative people of all disciplines within and beyond our community to strengthen “the culture” of arts and culture in the Reedsburg Area.


We look forward to hearing from you!



Joann Mundth Douglas

Ruminant Acquisition Committee


E6180 Churchill Road

Reedsburg, WI  53959




Reedsburg ArtsLink is on Facebook:  Visit us and *like* our page!

Sharing a note from Joann Mundth Douglas of the Reedsburg ArtsLink initiative regarding The Ruminant Acquisition Project:

Special thanks go out to:


· Fermentation Fest and the Farm/Art DTour

· Wormfarm Institute

· Reedsburg ArtsLink and the Ruminant Acquisition Committee

· The City of Reedsburg

· Cameron Aslaksen Architects, LLC

· Ron and Judy Churchill, along with sons Keith and Kory and families

· Jan and Carolyne Aslaksen/Kotchi

· Joann Mundth Douglas and Don Douglas

· Aaron Dysart

· Jeff Manthey of Manthey Salvage in Mauston, WI

· Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas

· Katie Schofield

· Katie Godfrey

· Kari and Mike Walker

· Americans for the Arts

· Jarad Christianson, Sam Bruno, Jim Dunn and Tristan Donaldson

· Mike Cimino

· Richard Unnasch

· Joe Forrer and Joe Forrer Sr.

· Ron Cooley

· Casey Goddard

· “Opie” Minter

· Nicole Huss

· And all donors to this project, large and small, whether cash or in-kind

Related (External) Links:



Fermentation Fest and Farm/Art DTour


The Farm/Art DTour is a part of Fermentation Fest — A Live Culture Convergence organized by Wormfarm Institute and made possible in part through support from ArtPlace America, National Endowment for the Arts, the Wisconsin Arts Board and Sauk County UW Extension Arts and Culture Committee with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.  





Wormfarm Institute



Reedsburg ArtsLink (Facebook page)



The Ruminant/Harvest Park Project (Facebook page)


“Like” the page to follow updates.


Ruminant (the Grand Masticator) was located five miles north of Reedsburg, WI along the Farm/Art DTour route on County F during the October 2013 Fermentation Fest, situated in a cornfield owned by Ron and Judy Churchill. Ron Churchill and sons Keith and Kory assisted Unnasch with set-up.

The John Deere model 6600 combine was provided courtesy of Manthey Salvage in Mauston, WI

What gave you the idea/the inspiration for using heavy farm equipment for your stained glass installation?


In 2010, I was invited to participate in the Minnesota Biennial.  It is an ongoing survey of fine artists making innovative contemporary work in their field.  Being raised on a 220 acre dairy farm in the 1970s and 1980s, I spent quite a bit of time doing my part to help the family earn a living.  I learned to run a John Deere B as my first introduction to hauling loads and tilling fields.  One of my teenager functions was to pull the chisel plow tilling up the spring fields for planting.  The drone of the tractor engine, the long hours spent in the cab and my fervent imagination combined to make for a place where the tractor cab became a place of almost tantric contemplation.  I got lost in my own thoughts and ideas which would have a long-term effect on my art-making ideas and solutions.  My piece for the 2010 Minnesota Biennial, a tractor titled Near Mint Condition, became a tribute to all the popular culture “country boys” whom I saw as having some influences on my older self.  As a stained glass survey, Near Mint Condition had the appearance of not only a glowing, colorful extravaganza but became a contemplative site of rural meditation. 


Near Mint Condition was a turning point in my career in that it enabled me to further pursue solutions to public/larger outdoor art ideas that I was working on.  I had been following the progress of the Wormfarm Institute and the Fermentation Fest in Reedsburg, Wisconsin for several years and saw the advance of progressive work being offered to the public in an approachable vein.  When the call went out I jumped at the chance to showcase a larger stained glass installation as my next challenge.  My decision was to offer a stained glass combine as a viable public work since the festival occurred during the harvest.  My take on this was to use stained glass imagery on the John Deere combine to refer to varying ideas and perspectives of the harvest.


                          — Karl Unnasch          


What do the panel’s images represent, both to the festival, and to you as an artist? How does this tie in with the agricultural background?


I saw the combine’s distinct separate yet related physical functions as a means by which to divide yet connect areas of reference. 


The 4-row corn head showcased the “teeth” or tools by which rural America came to be.  I am a big fan of Eric Sloane’s illustrations and decided to pick several of his classic drawings as exemplary pioneer tools. 


The cab became the anthropomorphic center where ideas involving the act of “chewing” were idolized.  Here is where I decided to cherry-pick examples of silly yet relevant images (termites, toddlers putting things in their mouths, mustachioed sweet-corn eating, etc.) to give the viewer a chuckle and get them to linger long enough to start seeing connections of the visual language as well. 


The central hopper chassis section portrayed historic American propaganda central to cultural ideas of the harvest.  I chose imagery from World War II due to the significant role food production played in the war effort.  As a comic book enthusiast, I found a cover from World’s Finest #11 depicting Batman and Robin in a Victory Garden to be a perfect addition.  I added a corn harvest image from a WPA-commissioned Benton painting as well.  


The rear chaff ejection casing above the steerage of the combine became the billboard for agricultural humor and puns.  This section became a set of one-liner cartoons that worked together or could easily stand alone.


                                       — Karl Unnasch          

How did you come up with your title (“Ruminant (the Grand Masticator)”) for your installation?


I am a fan of wordplay.  Just as food goes through several chewings and other processes as it is picked and broken down by cattle, so does the harvest as it is gathered and processed by a combine.  In my take on making art, the process of viewing, thinking about and enjoying art is done by the viewer in a metaphorically similar fashion to a cow or a harvester.  We are ruminants of visual language in the same manner as a cow is of its feed or as a combine is of a crop.


                          — Karl Unnasch          

Photo credit:  Aaron Dysart

From cornfield to

city park centerpiece: 

Ruminant’s move

“Okay people, we’re trippin’ in the countryside…


You know, ideally, deep down, we should all aspire to a constant state of ecstatic wonder.


We should be appreciating the universal transcendent power of a leaf, a strand of hair, a crushed beer can, of anything at all. Of everything.

But most of the time we need help…


For the fortunate souls in and around rural Reedsburg, Wisconsin, help has arrived in the form of Ruminant.





Quite a sight even by day, the Unnasch piece is particularly impressive at night, when backlighting behind each of the thirty-four stained glass panels makes the entire installation seem to glow from within.


Ruminant (the Grand Masticator) plays with the concept of “chewing” in the panels of the cab, beginning with its “face” — a close-up of a mustached man chomping with gusto onto a cob of corn — and ranging from Pitts’ rendition of PacMan to a kid chewing on crayons to a simple and stark image of a termite. Also in this set is “Chew”, a comic book character with special empathic powers activated by chewing.


Other images associated with “the harvest” are represented by various scenes from harvest-oriented artwork, including an homage to one of Benton’s WPA paintings, 1940s depictions of Batman and Robin in the Victory Garden from World’s Finest No. 11 comic, and a cartoon version of the famous American Gothic painting featuring earthworms with a pitchfork and watering can as the farm couple.  The set of panels on the corn-head (“teeth”) of the combine showcases a series of traditional rural hand-tools as depicted in Sloane’s A Museum of Early American Tools, while others on the rear are sets of silly agricultural puns.


“Unnasch’s monumental piece mashes up the histories of stained glass, comic books and farm machinery to create a funny, expansive re-telling of the harvest narrative.

A Public Art Network Year in Review Winner for 2013


Americans for the Arts, Washington, D.C. 



                                    Press Release                            Database entry




Batman and Robin in the Victory Garden


During World Wars I and II, “Victory Gardens” were planted at private residences and public parks. Besides playing a significant role in the war effort in terms of food production, they were also viewed as a morale booster.  In honor of this, the cover of World’s Finest No. 11 comic book in 1943 depicted Superman, Batman and Robin as “Victory Gardeners”!

The central hopper chassis section portrays historic American propaganda central to cultural ideas of the harvest:

Homage to Benton


During the Great Depression, a federal program was created to ensure that artists would survive the tough economic climate by providing funding for their work. This “Works Progress Administration” (WPA) program gave rise to more than 200,000 artworks, including some of this country’s most significant ones. The harvest-oriented painting to which this panel is an homage was a WPA work by Midwestern artist Thomas Hart Benton, who often portrayed laborers in his imagery.

Corn-Husk Doll


A memorial to the days when toys were simple and lovingly crafted from whatever cast-offs were at hand on the farm, this panel is also a nostalgic tribute to times when imagination still played a greater role in a child’s day-to-day life.

The rear chaff ejection casing is a billboard for “raw” food humor in simplified form. Agricultural puns and riddles based on lighthearted farm/garden/fermentation silliness here take the form of a set of one-liner cartoons in the mode of puns and wordplay. Look closely! There may be more to some of these than meets the eye.


One of the panels below is a cartoon tribute to America’s most famous farm-themed painting — and simultaneously a play on words to honor the name of a local Reedsburg arts organization.  Can you figure out which panel it is, and why?


(Hint:  The answers can be found elsewhere on this page if you look closely!) 

“[A] gentle, shocking,

hallucinatory creation.”


Ralph Helmick,

Public Art Network Year in Review Juror



Harvest Park of downtown Reedsburg, Wisconsin is now home to a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork:  Ruminant (The Grand Masticator), a harvesting combine clad in 34 agriculturally themed, backlit stained glass panels. Ruminant has already earned a juried spot as one of the nation’s most compelling public art pieces by Americans for the Arts of Washington, D.C. and continues to gain attention around the country. 


A tribute to agriculture, farming and food, Ruminant is also an anthropomorphic beacon of contemplation and an intricate play on words and concepts. Its creator, artist Karl Unnasch, explains:  “Just as food goes through several chewings and other processes as it is picked and broken down by cattle, so does the harvest as it is gathered and processed by a combine, or art as it is pondered and enjoyed by its viewer. We are ruminants of visual language in the same manner as a cow is of its feed or a combine of its crop.”


Originally on display in a Reedsburg-area cornfield as a temporary installation along the Fermentation Fest’s 2013 Farm/Art DTour route, Ruminant resonated so strongly that a group of locals began a grassroots effort to acquire the piece for the City. Reedsburg ArtsLink thus formed: a local arts non-profit which adopted the acquisition of Ruminant as their first major initiative. As a result of their efforts, a vacant lot owned by the city just opposite the Reedsburg Area Chamber of Commerce downtown was converted into what is now known as Harvest Park, and Ruminant was dedicated to the City as its centerpiece in October 2014. It became an instant landmark and is expected to attract curious visitors to Reedsburg for decades to come.











On the Right

     (Opposite Driver’s Side):



On the Left

     (Driver’s Side):



Reedsburg ArtsLink organized a (successful!) Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for Ruminant.


Watch the campaign video below, or visit the Ruminant page on Kickstarter’s website


On behalf of  Reedsburg ArtsLink, many thanks to all who have donated, in amounts both large and small! 


But the fundraising is not over yet — continued efforts are underway to secure funding for the remainder of the landscaping of Harvest Park, so it can become a fitting home for Ruminant


See the “letter” from Joann Mundth Douglas below for details.

“It is Reedsburg’s Eiffel Tower.”


Mike & Kari Walker,

local tavern owners

Excerpts from an Interview with the Artist:

Get a Ruminant T-shirt!



$20 plus $5 shipping.



To order,


Send a message to:

               The Ruminant/Harvest Park Project Facebook page


Or, e-mail Joann Mundth Douglas at:




Available in men’s and women’s sizes

     (sometimes limited to certain sizes; please inquire).

Sorry, no refunds or exchanges.



All proceeds benefit The Ruminant/Harvest Park Project!



How to Get to Ruminant:

Map & Directions


Ruminant is located just south of the Police Department and just north of the Chamber of Commerce in Harvest Park of Downtown Reedsburg, which is

on the northwest corner of S. Park St. and Railroad St. 


(Please note that its precise location is not yet marked on this embedded map.)




If traveling on Hwy. 23 / Hwy. 33 through Downtown Reedsburg (E. Main St.), just turn south onto S. Park St. and follow it for two blocks.  Harvest Park will be on your right, just prior to the intersection with Railroad Street.




If biking along the “400 State Trail”, the Chamber of Commerce (the historic train station) is your terminal point.  Ruminant is right across Railroad Street from the front door.



Ruminant is now listed on TripAdvisor as a Reedsburg Attraction.  Please visit the page and add your review to Ruminant’s list!


“An endearingly outsized

mash-up of stained glass, agricultural symbolism, and popular culture […] a niche of discovery for all to enjoy.”



Jason Smith,

Communications Director

of the Wisconsin Academy

and Editor of its

quarterly magazine

Visitors to Ruminant in the brand new Harvest Park in Reedsburg

Ribbon-cutting at the Dedication Ceremony in the brand-new Harvest Park, October 2014

“The sight of it lit up at night in the field on the Churchill farm was hard to get out of your mind.”


Reedsburg Mayor Dave Estes

Any of the panels can be re-created for individual purchase.

Contact the Artist directly by phone or e-mail.

Ruminant at its new home in Harvest Park


New stained glass signage, also by Ruminant Artist Karl Unnasch,

was installed in Harvest Park in 2015.

The Ruminant/Harvest Park Project was awarded one of only six


Wisconsin Top Rural Development Initiatives


in 2016




Karl Unnasch -- Public Art, Stained Glass and Sculpture

created by Sculptor and Stained Glass Artist Karl Unnasch

and brought to you by Reedsburg ArtsLink


Originally installed Oct. 2013

Reedsburg, Wisc.



Karl Unnasch Public Art, Stained Glass and Sculpture


HOME   |   Public Art & Sculpture   |   Stained Glass   |   About the Artist   |   Project Index   |   Gallery   |   Summer Apprenticeships   |   Upcoming Events   |   Sitemap   |   Contact


(The Grand Masticator)

Ruminant (The Grand Masticator)

A Selection of Other Works:


Ruminant tees designed by Amy Sullivan | Art + Illustration

A Tribute to Agriculture, Farming and Food

Heading out to visit Ruminant



Print yourself out this 2-page PDF sheet

to take along as a guide. 


It’ll give you some background information

on the imagery in the stained glass panels.





[T]he gleeful mixing of material and cultural references … adds up to something gloriously unexpected — work that at once respects and stretches its appropriated references and their attendant histories.”


Aaron Dysart,

Walker Art Center’s


(full story)







They had an opportunity to happen upon this gentle, shocking, hallucinatory creation.


It is resourceful, elegant, beautifully crafted. And its barroom stained glass style meshes mighty well with a repurposed combine.


This piece might make me want to just say ‘yes’ to drugs. But it’s so soulful I won’t really need them.”



Ralph Helmick,

Public Art Network

Year in Review Juror

To view other works by Karl Unnasch, visit the Public Art page.

Or, go directly to the Project Index.


Web design courtesy of SQVIBL



Copyright Notice for Karl Unnasch.  All rights reserved.

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HOME   |   Public Art & Sculpture   |   Stained Glass   |   About the Artist   |   Project Index   |   Gallery   |   Summer Apprenticeships   |   Upcoming Events   |   Sitemap   |   Contact