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.

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