The Depression Dilemmas of Rural Iowa, 1929-1933

By Lisa L. Ossian | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
ART
“An Athens of Sorts”: Poetry of Place and Farm Playlets

“Why, our township programs grow better each
month.

We’ve more music, more originality being
expressed in the programs, and more people tak-
ing part in the program.

We’ve better food, more fun, and finer family
spirit than ever before.”

Wallaces’ Farmer (July 12, 1930)

“… an Athens of sorts was created among
the pigs and cornfields of Iowa.”

—Clarence Andrews, A Literary History of Iowa (1972)

American Gothic by Grant Wood surprised the art world and the general public in 1930 with his rather dour image of an Iowa farmer and his daughter posing with tools in hand before their farmhouse. The touches of realism in the material world of this painting remain quite striking as well as the focus and determination of this rather fierce and stoic pair. Historian J. C. Furnas describes the complex dynamics within the painting: “And now here was the conscience-relieving arrival of a canvas taken seriously by critics that carried recognizable detail to fanatic lengths, that look exactly, exactly like what you just knew its models were in real life. The worn area on the overalls bib, the potted plants on the side porch, the cameo at her throat, the stray lock of lank hair …” Furnas compares the double portrait to “that first feeling as though one had come around a corner on two long-lost cousins.”1

-81-

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