Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables is at the Whitney Museum in New York City through June 10th.

American Gothic 1930
You probably remember seeing this painting. The Financial Times critic said: "It's hard to separate  homage from mockery, nostalgia from bitterness. An uneven talent, the Iowa native was barely known outside Cedar Rapids when the 1930 unveiling of  American Gothic, his signature work, made him a national celebrity overnight at age 39. The two glum figures are interpreted as a heartland farmer and his wife, could be read as examplars of admirable sobriety or of a repressive small-mindedness, and knowing more about the artist doesn't settle the matter. In this and many of his other paintings, Wood ennobled the Bible bound agricultural life he was raised in, but as a gay man, he also experienced its menace."

(Blogger Em's facts: They're actually Wood's sister and Wood's dentist). The pinched small-minded look of this couple is what Wood wanted us to see.)

Self portrait 1941.
The New Yorker critic said, "Still there would be no New York exhibit were it not for American Gothic. The notoriety it brought him pretty well wrecked him, eventually driving himi to drink. A hint of fame's toll can be seen in the self portrait Wood completed in 1941. The paining seems tragicomic, a show of macho resolve from a baby-faced sensitive man who would die of cancer a year later at 50. The longer I look at the picture the more I feel its subject is about to burst into tears."

(Blogger: Tears? In this portrait we perceive a straight-forward man saying confidently, with a touch of annoyance, "I paint what I see.")

Sultry Night 1939
The Washington Post critic said: "A craftsman and designer, he dabbled in impressionist painting after traveling in Europe, but found inspiration in the Flemish Old Masters and developed a self-conscious American style that combined hard lines and rural iconography. Well after he gained renown, in 1939 he created Sultry Night, that the US Office wouldn't distribute. More often Wood's wonderfully queer take on the world manifests itself in more interesting ways." Praising a 1933 painting of a truck barreling toward two cars, this critic said: "It is an ominous image and also one of the most gender-fluid he ever made--a dramatic commingling of masculine and feminine forms."

(Blogger:  Instead of hurrying to the Whitney Museum, you can Google his name and see some of my favorite Grant Wood visions of roads, land, homes, and people. 
Arbor Day 1932
Birthplace of Herbert Hoover


Spring In Town 1941
Spring  Turning
I have included this short film of Wood's concept: "Where Tillage Begins, Other Arts Follow."  A large section of the museum was devoted to a breathtaking panorama that depicted ordinary activities. Seeing the film, you'll understand his concept better than if I try to explain it with words.  

Having driven across America eight times before becoming a blogger, performing in more than 1000 cities and towns in the United States, the pictures on this blog are only a few of the many scenes that live in my mind. What various critics said about the exhibit that is closing at the Whitney Museum... oh my... I hope we can outgrow the small-mindedness of what they said about the man, the artist, Grant Wood.


Carola said...

Thank you for this blog. It made me appreciate Grant Wood. I'd love to hear you talk about some other artists!

Dustspeck said...

Much of what America was has been abandoned and the curious look at it with greed in their hearts, not unlike their forbearers did when they passed it all by on their way to the future; that place where I cry.

Juss said...

I remember Wood's paintings from my gradeschool art appreciation classes. He fell for me then, and still does, into a group evoking a similar feeling of Americana with Thomas Hart Benton and Edward Hopper. I immediately liked them all, and to this day have a particular emotional and artistic chord struck whenever I see any of their works—the paintings themselves, or as pop cultural themes mastered on book covers, t-shirts, posters, etc. I like them, and know what they mean to me. It means absolutely nothing whatever to me that critics may choose to bring in high falutin' esoteric theories of interpretation, or that they choose specifically to deconstruct the pictures based on pre-decided sexual points of view.

Linda Vee Sado of Slippery When Wet said...

wow I had no idea. But I don't care about anyone's sexual orientation. I have people think I am a lesbian because I play rock guitar and a lot of lesbians attend our shows.. The notion is changing some
since more women are taking it up, but I was playing 40 years ago and you would not believe the harassment I got because of it. There will always be a portion of the population who is just plain crazy. They need to go weed their own gardens lol