Thursday, October 28, 2010

On the web this week: Klingons, Pitchforks, and Let's Make a Deal

Where has October gone?! Last week I was writing about sunshine, and tonight we have a freeze warning. The blustery days we’ve had this week have changed the parody photo from couples with eyes squinted against the sun to pairs with collars and hair blown askew and bodies leaning diagonally into the wind.

And that’s not the only new parody since last week. Photographer Jason Tracy visited Saturday with an interesting plan in mind. “My photo would attempt to recreate (as faithfully as possible) the painting but replace the farmer and his wife with two impressive, dominant Klingon models. This is the first planned image in a series tentatively titled, "Juxtapositions" where I'm taking familiar or everyday scenes and twisting them with something unusual or surreal.” I’ve posted a preliminary photo of the Klingons in traditional American Gothic wear on our Facebook page.

With this photo in mind, I look forward to the costumes I’ll see this Saturday at our Halloween party! Kids from preschool through fifth grade are invited to attend and join in a scavenger hunt and a gothic eyeball relay race, try a wizard’s brew, decorate orange ‘monster’ cookies, and make spiders and vampires at the craft table. The party takes place from 2-3 pm at the American Gothic House Center. Parents are encouraged to attend with their small children.

Here are a few festive Halloween parodies to set the mood for trick-or-treaters this weekend:

American Gothic in the Rocky Horror Picture Show

American Gothic Halloween card

Pitchforks in the News
Did I ever imagine I’d be handling a hayfork daily in my first job? Nope. Luckily I’ve yet to use one for its intended purpose. Instead I get to help those posing with one. “Point the tines toward you, but don’t poke your face! Tilt the fork left… right… back a little… Perfect.” Since starting here, I’ve become acutely aware of the presence of forks in the world. I realized the best fork in my kitchen (yes, I have a favorite fork) has only three tines, just like the one in the painting. Last weekend I purchased a hayfork at a garage sale for Beth's pitchfork pie stand. Because of Grant Wood, the pitchfork has become an American symbol. Which is apparently why this man in Phoenix, AZ is going to court over carrying one.

Reminder: Tune in to KCCI at 2pm this afternoon! Eldon natives Loren and Mary Ellen Fligg will appear on Let’s Make a Deal, hosted by Wayne Brady. The Fliggs borrowed American Gothic gear from the Center when their daughter purchased tickets to the show. Dressing like the Gothic couple attracted attention at the filming, and the Fliggs were selected from the audience to play the game. The American Gothic House Center thanks Loren and Mary Ellen for their support, and hopes for a big win!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

On the web this week: Hollywood, Models, and WHO-TV

Another breezy, sunny day in Wapello County reminds us why Wood found Iowa worthy of commemoration in his work. Let’s hope this fabulous weather keeps up, because next weekend is the Children’s Gothic Halloween Party at the American Gothic House Center! Kids from preschool through 5th grade are welcome to attend on Saturday, October 30 from 2-3 pm. Arrive in costume to create a spooky parody photograph. Photos will be printed at the party and are a gift to all who attend! Activities also include a scavenger hunt, cookie decorating, and fun crafts.

American Gothic goes to Hollywood! Tune in to KCCI at 2pm on October 28. Eldon natives Loren and Mary Ellen Fligg will appear on Let’s Make a Deal, hosted by Wayne Brady. The Fliggs borrowed American Gothic gear from the Center when their daughter purchased tickets to the show. Dressing like the Gothic couple attracted attention at the filming, and the Fliggs were selected from the audience to play the game. The American Gothic House Center thanks Loren and Mary Ellen for their support, and hopes to see a big win next Thursday!

Nan Wood Graham and Dr. Byron McKeeby are the stars of American Gothic. Those with a special interest in the painting may know the story of these two models, but what about the models in other famous paintings? For example, who was the girl in Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring? Was the person who posed for Munch’s The Scream a man or a woman? Who was Picasso’s Weeping Woman, and what’s the story of Whistler’s Mother? View images of these artworks and learn more about the people they feature.

WHO-TV followed up last week’s Des Moines Register article on Eldon and Beth Howard with a story on Monday’s 5 o’clock news. See cameraman Mike Borland’s version of American Gothic, and check out the story as it appeared on WHO-TV.

If you haven’t heard enough about
Grant Wood; A Life, you can listen to an interview with author Tripp Evans which aired yesterday on WNYC!

Writing the weekly newsletter is one of my favorite things to do. I hope you enjoy it as well, and that you find the content exciting and relevant. If you have suggestions for blogs, articles, or topics you’d like to see featured, please contact me at Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On the web this week: Eldon appears in the Des Moines Register

Late last week, Des Moines Register reporter Kyle Munson arrived in Eldon to spend the day with Gothic House tenant Beth Howard. Beth gave him a quick bike tour of Eldon which included lunch at City Hall and a peek at the McHaffey Opera House. Munson’s blog post on his visit was published Sunday, and the article appeared on the front page of Monday’s Register. The online versions of the story include snapshots of Eldon and a video tour of the house. Mike Borland, from WHO-TV out of Des Moines, saw Munson’s story and will interview Beth in Eldon tomorrow.

Four guests at the Center on Monday made the journey from Des Moines to Eldon after reading that morning’s Register. All wanted to sample Beth’s pie. She plans to begin selling apple pie (by the slice or as a whole) this Saturday afternoon. Working next door to her has its perks, and one of them is the role of pie sampler--which naturally I have adopted with open arms. I highly recommend a visit to the Center paired with a slice of Beth’s mouth-watering apple pie this weekend!

Upcoming Events

Don’t miss the Children’s Gothic Halloween Party on Saturday, October 30 from 2-3 pm. Arrive in costume to take a spooky parody photo in front of the house, make Halloween crafts and play games! Kids ages preschool through 5th grade are invited. Young children should be accompanied by an adult.

Coming up on KCCI at 2 pm, October 28: Tune in to Let’s Make a Deal to see someone you may recognize!

Hardcover copies of Grant Wood; A Life are now on sale in the gift shop for $37.50, and will be available for sale at the lecture on November 10. Author Tripp Evans will sign books following a reading, presentation, and Q&A at the Eldon Library Hall.

More reviews of November’s lecturer, Tripp Evans, and his new book, Grant Wood; A Life.

October 8 Press Citizen

October 9 Press Citizen

Gothic Fun!

As reported by the TH, the God Bless America statue by sculptor J. Seward Johnson arrived in Dubuque on Tuesday. This is the statue’s first appearance in Iowa, where it will remain until April of 2011. The Dubuque Museum of Art houses one of the largest collections of Grant Wood art in the country.

Cake Wrecks: Scroll down about three images to see this beautiful American Gothic themed cake!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

On the web this week: ISU and Book Reviews

This week the American Gothic House Center hosted a bus tour of women from Iowa State University. The fifty well dressed ladies arrived bright and early and full of curiosity about the Center, the house, and the city of Eldon. The ISU Women's Club began many years ago as wives of faculty members meeting during the day. It has evolved to include female faculty and now incorporates a yearly bus tour. The group watched a video, Grant Wood’s America, in the media room, toured the gallery, enjoyed the gift shop, and took photos in costume. Beth Howard, tenant at the Gothic House, even allowed the inquisitive bunch to tour her home!

I have already referenced it multiple times, and this book just keeps coming to my attention. Grant Wood: A Life, by R. Tripp Evans, was released this Tuesday and has been reviewed by the New York Times and many more. Following are excerpts from several reviews paired with links to full articles. Evans is scheduled to speak in Ottumwa on November 9 and in Eldon on November 10 at 7 pm in the Eldon Library Hall.

“I hope people come to realize that Grant Wood was everything they think he was, but he was a whole lot more,” says Evans. “People look at his paintings and they see common people living simple lives, but many of those paintings have this power to unnerve us and we can’t put our finger on why. That shows what a talented artist he was.” --University of Iowa FYI, Tom Snee

“Wood clearly loved to hide things in plain sight. He also loved to create images that, like “American Gothic,” ensure that “the viewer doesn’t know whether to giggle or shiver.” Mr. Evans offers intensive analysis of “American Gothic” as well as many other Wood paintings, most notably “Parson Weems’ Fable” (1939), which rivals “American Gothic” for tacit but turbulent complexity and is so surpassingly strange and dreamlike that it is “a kind of Rosetta Stone to Wood’s inner conflicts.” --Review by NY Times reporter Janet Maslin

“No doubt there will be readers, whatever their motives, who see Grant Wood: A Life as a slander against the self-described “simple Middle Western farmer-painter” and his wholesome paintings. But Evans has done Wood a great service in saving him and his work from the one-dimensionality to which they have largely been consigned. He has rendered the artist and the art in all their ambivalence, disquiet, mischief, deceptiveness, and anguish. This is a deeply respectful and compassionate biography.” --Stephen Biel’s Review --Biel is the author of American Gothic: A Life of America’s Most Famous Painting (2005).

“Even today, the story of Wood’s sudden rise from obscurity to fame remains without precedent. No other American artist has ever achieved such sudden and lasting national fame from a small-town base, without ever showing his work in New York, and without even having an art dealer." --Henry Adams for Art and Antiques Magazine