Friday, October 8, 2010

AMERICAN GOTHIC JUXTAPOSED





American Gothic, Chicago AI
But Seriously, Internet Domain
Different Perspective, Columbus, OH
No Laughing, Columbus, OH


A small house in Iowa built in the Carpenter Gothic style caught the eye of American painter Grant Wood in 1930. He decided to paint the house with “the kind of people I fancied should live in that house”. So, he painted the house, added his sister and then added his dentist to the scene. The Gothic window, the stitching in the farmer’s overalls and the shape of his face all conform to the three-pronged shape of the pitch fork. Wood’s sister Nan didn’t like the notion of being perceived as married to a man twice her age, so she promoted the concept that this painting depicted a man and his daughter. The painting earned Woods a bronze prize at Chicago’s Art Institute and they bought it. Although art critics assumed it was a satire on rural America, it became a symbol of the American pioneering spirit at the onset of the Great Depression.

Over the years the image of the grim-faced couple has morphed into a cultural icon, mainly due to its adaptation to parodies in our popular scene. Woods probably helped to promote this when he was quoted as stating, "All the good ideas I've ever had came to me while I was milking a cow." It was ironic to photograph one of the Chicago Art Institute’s most frequented artworks and then drive through Columbus, Ohio to find one of the parodies on the brick wall of a side street—a street so isolated that through truck traffic was prohibited. I mean, seriously, who better to send that particular message to the local populace than none other than Grant Wood’s own puritanical dentist!

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