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Monthly Masters Discussion ⇒ Monthly Masters' Discussion - January 2020 - Grant Wood's "American Gothic"
A monthly discussion on people who have influenced photography, directly or indirectly.
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- Mentoris Supremus
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This month we will consider an image familiar to almost everyone, Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic.
It was exhibited publicly for the first time at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930, winning a three-hundred-dollar prize and instant fame for Grant Wood. The impetus for the painting came while Wood was visiting the small town of Eldon in his native Iowa. There he spotted a little wood farmhouse, with a single oversized window, made in a style called Carpenter Gothic. “I imagined American Gothic people with their faces stretched out long to go with this American Gothic house,” he said. He used his sister and his dentist as models for a farmer and his daughter, dressing them as if they were “tintypes from my old family album.”
Wood studied art in Europe in the 1920s then returned to his native Iowa where he became one of America’s most famous 20th century painters and is now firmly entrenched in the nation’s popular culture. Though some thought his interpretation of the couple was satirical Wood intended it to be a positive statement about rural American values and stoicism, an image of reassurance at a time of great dislocation and disillusionment.
Consider the image, then study some of the links offered below and share with us your opinion about the work. Below are some questions to stir your thinking. Answer any of them you wish to, or pursue thoughts of your own about the painting.
1. What do you think of American Gothic? The composition? The colors? The background? The execution? Would you want it on your wall? Why or why not?
2. What do you see as the message of American Gothic? Is it comedic? Is it a tribute to the stalwart survivors of the Great Depression during the dust bowl years? Do you consider it iconic? Why or why not? What is its relevance today?
3. Consider the title. What does it add to the painting? Would the painting create the same impression with a different name? Do you think it was a reflection of the architecture in the background as some have stated? Or does it moreso reflect the two human subjects? Or are both intertwined, as was suggested elsewhere? How do you feel about titles for photographs? Do you title your photos? How do you make these choices?
4. The subjects are not portrayed in a particularly flattering manner. We sometimes make photographic images that do not portray subjects in a flattering manner. How do you handle this? Do you use touch-up or not? Does it differ if the subject is a stranger to you? Street photographers sometimes make their subjects actually look worse by emphasizing wrinkles and flaws. What do you think about this practice? Is this different than removing blemishes?
5. The internet is full of copies of American Gothic, with other people standing in for the two figures - from movie stars to politicians. Have you ever taken a photo that has some inspiration from this iconic image? If so, would you share it here?
Links for Study
https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ ... othic-1930
https://www.americamagazine.org/arts-cu ... -heartland
https://maps.roadtrippers.com/stories/t ... c-painting
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