Overalls All Over will include 25 life-sized 6’ fiberglass statues depicting the farmer and daughter from the American Gothic painting. It is one of the most familiar images in 20th-century American art and painted at 5 Turner Alley in Cedar Rapids. Local artists will create unique designs for each statue. Statues will be on parade from May through September 2016, culminating at the NewBo Arts Festival. The locations of these statues will be promoted as fun photo opportunities and both print and digital maps will direct visitors through the area.
The 10th annual 2x2xU is a public art event, where the public is invited to purchase a 2′ x 2′ plywood board and let their imaginations run wild, creating original works of art based on this year’s theme, “My Grant Wood.” The 2x2xU display will be up from May – October in Cedar Rapids’ New Bohemia District. Find more details here.
Cedar Rapids is proud to call Grant Wood (February 13, 1891 – February 12, 1942) one of its own! Wood, Iowa’s most famous artist, lived in Cedar Rapids from the age of ten, until his death in 1942. Wood was born on a farm near Anamosa in 1891 but moved to Cedar Rapids after the death of his father.
While Wood studied, taught and engaged in many art mediums, including lithography, ink, charcoal, ceramics, metal, wood and found objects, he is most recognized for his painting. Throughout his life, he hired out his talents to many Iowa-based businesses as a steady source of income. This included, painting advertisements, sketching rooms of a mortuary house for promotional flyers and, in one case, designing the corn-themed decor (including a chandelier) for the dining room of a hotel. In addition, his 1928 trip to Munich was to oversee the making of the stained glass windows he had designed for the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids. In fact, Wood’s work and influence can still be seen in many buildings throughout Cedar Rapids, including public school buildings, the Brucemore mansion, as well as many homes.
Wood embraced a movement known as Regionalism. Regionalism may be in any style, and is defined as painting what an artist lives with, in, or around. The Regionalist movement arose during the Great Depression when few artists could afford travel costs to study in Europe.
Wood became the spokesman for the Regionalist painting movement, when he famously and (somewhat outrageously) remarked that he “got all his best ideas for painting while milking a cow.” As part of playing that role, he frequently wore bib overalls in photos. Even if he did milk cows when he was a young boy, as an adult, this was not a part of his life.
In his uncompleted autobiography, he states that he always remembered his life on the farm and drew from those memories for his paintings. It is important to understand he was using the farm life of the past for his inspiration and ideas. Evidence of modern life on the rural landscape, like telephone poles and tractors, rarely appear in his work.
In its December 24, 1934 issue, Time magazine ran a cover story about Regionalism, proclaiming that a “truly American art” was being born at last and asserted that Regionalist painters were creating it. The article also included Wood’s theory on Regionalism: “…regional art rests upon the idea that different sections of the U.S. should compete with one another just as Old World cities competed in the building of Gothic cathedrals. Only thus, [Wood] believes, can the U.S. develop a truly national art.”
Regionalism was not, however, exclusively about making art nor was it an invention of Wood’s. In Iowa, poet and writer Jay Sigmund suggested the idea of Regionalism to Wood. Sigmund, along with author Ruth Suckow, reasoned that artists of any medium should focus on what they know rather than trying to emulate artists from New York and the East.
Wood eventually became a principal spokesman for Regionalism in art for two reasons: first, because his painting American Gothic achieved almost instant fame and second, in the summers of 1932 and 1933, Wood ran the successful art colony at Stone City, which received a great deal of attention from the national press. This too gave both Wood’s ideas and the concept of Regionalism a national audience and legitimacy in the art world.
Arguably the most American painting of all time, Wood painted American Gothic in 1930. The piece was displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago (where it remains on display today) and won a $300 prize. American Gothic is one of the few paintings to reach the status of widely recognized cultural icon.
Inspiration for American Gothic came from a trip to Eldon, Iowa with a fellow painter. Wood sketched a small farm cottage designed in the Gothic Revival style with an upper window in the shape of a medieval pointed arch. Wood decided to paint the house along with “the kind of people I fancied should live in that house.” Wood’s sister Nan, and Cedar Rapids dentist, Dr. B.H. McKeeby, served as models for the painting, but never stood before the house, or together in the manner in which they are depicted.
For more information about Grant Wood, and the American Gothic painting, visit www.americangothichouse.net.