Thursday, April 28, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Lots of exciting news updates this week!
1. The Grant Wood Bus Trip was quite an enjoyable day thanks to our tour guides at the Figge Art Museum and the University of Iowa Museum of Art, and to Jim Hayes, who generously opened his home (formerly Grant Wood’s) to our group for a wonderful tour.The ride to Davenport was comfortable in a Burlington Trailways coach. We were able to reach the Figge despite rising water on both sides of the road and some minor detours. When we arrived we split into two groups and toured three of the museum’s collections. The John Deere Collection was accumulated by Deere to educate employees about art from the countries the company does business with. Some pieces were also advertisements for Deere’s equipment. The Regionalist Collection, as you might imagine, held works by Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, Marvin Cone, and similar artists. Among the paintings we saw were Wood’s Self Portrait, Return from Bohemia, andThe Spotted Man. Finally, we toured two railroad photography exhibitions: Tracks: The Railroad in Photographs from the George Eastman House Collection, and Crossing the Mississippi: The Quad Cities, the Railroad and Art.
At the University of Iowa Museum of Art, the group again split in half and saw a section of the University’s collection of African art, ceramic art, and some controversial pieces like the Gap bag by Jonathan Seliger. Favorites were, of course, Wood’s painting Plaid Sweater, and Jules Kirschenbaum’s Spanish Poet.
We then made our way to Iowa City, where we toured 1142 East Court Street. Jim Hayes, current owner, has preserved much of the reconstruction work Wood did when he lived in the house. Check out photos from our tour of Mr. Hayes’ home, also known as the Oakes-Wood House. This tour was a great way to finish out our day!
2. Our web store is officially up and running! This means you can now purchase many of the items found in our gift shop online. The finalization of the web store was helped along by a much appreciated grant from the Wapello County Foundation. Mother’s Day is coming up in just a couple of weeks, and our web store has tons of gift ideas from mugs and magnets to books and prints. Start shopping now!
3. I have thoroughly enjoyed my job as administrator at the American Gothic House Center. Talking with visitors, working in the garden, designing the new exhibit and writing this newsletter are among my favorite parts of the job. However, as those who attended the spring sale and art show inside the American Gothic House know, my first love is painting. With sadness but excitement, I have decided to leave my position here to pursue my M.F.A.
Grant Wood painted the landscape and culture of our state. He founded Regionalism based on the philosophy that he would do what he did best, focusing on what he understood and loved most. I am right there with him! I've learned a lot and had many unique opportunities and experiences as administrator of the Center, and I hold them dearly as I move forward with my painting career. I will continue to write the newsletter for the next few weeks as the search for a new administrator is conducted.
If you are interested in applying for the administrator position, please do so by Wednesday, April 27. View a job description here.
American Gothic House Center
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Grant Wood sketched the American Gothic House in 1930, and we all know the story that followed. The house is one of the most recognizable houses in America and is by far the most well-known of any house Wood painted. Still, it is one building among many in Wood’s large body of work. Birthplace of Herbert Hoover, Arbor Day, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, Stone City and Parson Weems' Fable all include architecture. But variations of the American Gothic House appear repeatedly, and not just throughout the numerous American Gothicparodies.
In 1931 Wood painted Appraisal, an artwork whose main characters are a chicken and two women from different backgrounds. Much has been said about this image—some have pointed out that the woman in the fur coat has a facial profile closely resembling the chicken’s, others have drawn conclusions about why the chicken has the fanciest coat of the three. I would like to direct your attention to the background, where Wood has placed a familiar front porch on a simple white house. Based on Wood’s sketch of the house (click the images to enlarge them), it’s hard to say what color the front screen door was when he visited Eldon in 1930. Older photographs of the house do show its door painted the same color as the one in Appraisal. Probably just a coincidence, but interesting nonetheless.
Nine years after he painted American Gothic and just three years before his death, Grant Wood again referred to the house in Eldon. Fertility, a lithograph, contains an almost exact recreation of the American Gothic House. The small home is painted white and has a simple front porch and a peaked roof with a Gothic window.
Wood's style used repeating patterns, shapes, and objects. The brooch worn by his sister Nan in American Gothic and his mother Hattie inWoman with Plants actually belonged to his mother, a souvenir from Grant's travels. It follows that the American Gothic House, referenced again and again in his paintings, held some kind of important meaning for Wood.
The rural Anamosa home where the Wood children were born was destroyed by a fire in 1974. I was able to find one photograph of the house (not an online version, unfortunately), and sure enough, I saw a white home with a front porch. Although much larger than the house in Eldon, Wood's childhood home has a tall square window as the centerpiece in a peaked roof above the porch.
I don't like to assume I understand any artist's intentions. Maybe Wood was remembering his birthplace, maybe he was paying tribute to the house that helped launch his career, or maybe it was just a common style of building. Whatever the case, the little house in Eldon continues to prove its significance not only to Wood but to all who visit it, live in it and near it, and care for it.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Grant Wood affectionately called his Iowa City home 1142, for its location at 1142 E. Court Street. Wood moved in to 1142 in 1935 and began teaching at the University of Iowa. During the next two years, Wood made the house his home by remodeling, just as he had in his studio at Turner Alley. He designed his own furniture, returned the building’s shutters to their proper place around the windows (He found them in the backyard, functioning collectively as a chicken coop.), and changed the landscaping. Wood’s studio, reminiscent of his Cedar Rapids days, was located in the carriage house.
Like the American Gothic House, 1142 is not open to the public. It has been preserved in a different way. Not stagnated by unchanging recreations of life from another time, not restricted by roped off doorways, not made stale with limited seasonal hours and a lack of human presence like many historic buildings. The house at 1142, like the American Gothic House, has continued to evolve and grow richer in its history over the years—because it’s being lived in.
The house has been occupied by lawyer and art collector James Hayes since he purchased it in 1975. Prior to buying 1142, Hayes rented the carriage house where Wood kept his studio. In 1978 the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and author Richard King published a book detailing the building’s history in 2008.
This video from the archives of the Daily Iowan depicts the outside of 1142 and gives a little history of the house and its architecture.
If this beautiful historic house is privately owned, how can one get beyond the picket fence? It just so happens that this year’s American Gothic House Center bus trip includes a rare tour of 1142!
It’s not too late to sign up! Click here for information on the day’s itinerary, meals, and ticket prices.