Thursday, October 11, 2012

Surprise yourself with another look

I make a habit of revisiting good books, or other forms of art, which especially move me. There is no set time for this relook but it is usually after something jogs my memory. Such has been the case this past week.

Recently, after a visit to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.—home of the Green Bay Packers—I got to thinking about a book I read when I was around 12 years old about the Packers. I recalled little about the book other than it was written by a lineman with the last name of Kramer and it made quite an impression on me at the time. Last week, while at a book store I frequent, the clerk and I got into a discussion about the Packers (they had lost miserably the day before). One thing led to another, I mentioned the book, found it had been re-released a few years back and, by luck, she had one in stock. That very afternoon I tore into Instant Replay, by Jerry Kramer.

It is one thing to read a book a few years after the first read, but quite another to visit it 30 years later. Think child’s eyes versus an adult’s. For instance, from the first read I remembered Kramer writing about how the players would drink pop at the local bowling alley during breaks in pre-season training. The second time around I realized “pop” was code for beer (no doubt trying to protect impressionable young men like me). I also noticed how much money was a motivator to Kramer, as well as other players on the team ($25,000 to each player on the team that won the NFL Championship). This was something I hadn’t picked up on before, no doubt focusing on other aspects of the game which intrigued me more.

But there is one stark difference that struck me more than anything else: at the time all the players Kramer wrote about were playing. I would see them on Sunday afternoon, read about them and when the neighborhood gathered for a game of touch football we were Bart Starr, Paul Hornung or Ray Nitscke. In the 1960s they were in their prime as players, now most are in their 70s and some are gone. Today, the book is history; then it was real. Thirty years makes quite a difference in perspective.

Perspective is the primary reason a relook at literature or art is worth the time. When art is approached it is usually viewed through a certain lens. Sure, there are folks out there that have the ability to look objectively and deeply into art, discovering the intricacies it offers, but it is my belief that most of us are casual observers. We approach a work of art with a certain perspective which narrows the experience. It’s not a bad thing, but this perspective is the exact reason why art should be revisited, to find yet undiscovered—by many of us anyway—vagaries and meanings.

I do this on a weekly basis with the work of Grant Wood. Since the Center is lined with various prints by Wood there is ample opportunity to revisit all of his most famous works and discover something new, or realize that a certain work is gaining favor over another. So, if you haven’t visited us for awhile, or never have visited us, plan a trip or stop by, take a closer look at the repeating images in American Gothic or Parson Weems Fable. Or discover for the first time the smug faces on the dowagers in Daughters of Revolution. It is not only revealing, it’s fun.

Speaking of fun, it’s almost time for the annual American Gothic House Halloween Party.

This year the party will be held on Saturday, Oct. 27 from 2-4 pm. Children preschool through fifth grade are invited to come to the American Gothic House in costume and make a spooky American Gothic parody in front of the house that made Grant Wood famous.  Other activities planned for the day include making paper-plate ghosts and leaf luminaries, pumpkin-pitchfork relays and a mad-scientist will be making an appearance. All activities are free. In case of rain the party will be moved to the Eldon Library Hall. For more information contact Holly Berg at

Other upcoming events:
Nov. 15: Humanities Iowa Lecturer Larry Stone 7:00 pm
Dec. 1-14: Gingerbread House Display
Dec. 8: Gingerbread House Decorating 1:00-4:00 pm

Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
The American Gothic House Center
The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
        Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 |

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