‘Seriously Funny’: Cedar Rapids Museum of Art shows parodies of Grant Wood’s iconic painting

Almost 91 years after American Gothic conquered the world, Grant Wood’s iconic painting from 1930 continues to excite the audience.

Some of these viewers have mass-produced their mark on Wood’s grumpy husband and wife, replacing their faces with those of Kermit and Miss Piggy, the Red Queen and the Mad Hatter, and The Girl with the Pearl Earring and Vincent Van Gogh. Others have added yuppie props, quarantine masks, snow sports gear, and even a McDonald’s hamburger impaled on the farmer’s pitchfork.

These images and more will be featured on the walls and in a digital feed at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. “Seriously Funny: American Gothic Parodies” opens on Saturday (January 16) and continues until May 2 in the back gallery on the second floor. But you won’t see the original “American Gothic”. You have to go to the Art Institute of Chicago to see this.

What you’ll see are 23 physical ephemera pieces – collectibles that are most commonly written or printed, such as front pages, greeting cards, and newspaper cartoons – framed and grouped, plus a five-minute digital slide show of recent pop culture parodies. play on a loop.

All are pieces that have been given to and housed in the museum, but since they are bulk pieces, not original works, they are owned by the museum but have not been included in the permanent collection, noted Kate Kunau, the museum’s associate curator.

Parodies fall under a pretty nebulous concept, she said.

“A parody is an imitation of the style of a particular writer or artist with an intentional exaggeration for the comic book effect,” she explained. “So it’s a weird imitation of another work like (the movie) ‘Pride and Prejudice & Zombies.‘”

Fascination for the American Gothic

Why are we still so obsessed with “American Gothic” that was painted on 5 Turner Alley in Cedar Rapids and owned and exhibited by the Art Institute of Chicago?

“There are a lot of thoughts about it and I’ve done a lot of research on it,” said Kunau.

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She spoke to Wanda Corn, a professor emeritus at the Stanford Department of Art and Art History, a few times for insight.

“She is one of the great scholars in American art history in general, but certainly the great scholar of Grant Wood,” said Kunau, “and she is writing a book on” American Gothic. “

Kunau also spoke to a curator at the Art Institute of Chicago who “speculated that people always parodied it because it’s such a blank board,” said Kunau. “There is no expression on either face, so it’s very easy to involve different emotions or people and do it differently that way.

“I also think it was an instant painting that really impressed people from 1930 when the picture was published after it won the Art Institute award.

“It was really polarizing,” remarked Kunau. “They had people on the east coast who saw it as an indictment against the Puritan rural folk in the middle of the country. And then you had women in Iowa who were really offended and thought they were looking back, and there are housewives who wrote letters about it.

“It always made people feel a lot of things. It’s been a very emotional piece since its creation, ”said Kunau.

Painting is easy to parody

Parodies popped up immediately in the 1930s and 40s, she added.

“When we talk about parody of art, there are really three paintings I would be talking about: ‘American Gothic’, ‘Mona Lisa’ and, in a very distant third, probably Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’.‘”

But it is “American Gothic” that Kunau said was the most parodied work – even more so than “Mona Lisa”.

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“I think that’s because they’re a couple, which obviously allows for a lot to talk about a lot of different things, and this exhibition is about both of them. In pop culture, it’s very easy to think of it as Shrek and Fiona or C-3PO and R2-D2 or one that I just looked at, Morticia Addams and Edgar Allan Poe, ”said Kunau.

“It really makes sense to talk about things – family and Central America – because there are two people. I think it’s actually a bit more difficult to parody the ‘Mona Lisa’ in a socially interesting way because it’s only one person, while with two people it’s instant conversation between the two of them. “

Grant Woods Art “Still Very Relevant”

If Oscar Wilde’s idea that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery is true, what would Wood think of all of this?

“He had a really good sense of humor,” said Kunau. “I always refer to his painting“ Daughters of the Revolution ”as an example. He had a really good sense of humor about his art. There were things like the mourning bench and the fact that he used a coffin door as a door to his house so I think he would actually love it.

“I think he would of course be delighted that one of his paintings was still so present in pop culture in nearly a hundred years, and I think he would really appreciate the humor people have dealt with.

“In the original painting, he really cultivated the ambiguity of who these people were.” Were they husband and wife or father and daughter? He never really answered that, said Kunau. “I think he would love the fact that people saw it as the starting point for all of these different interpretations.”

She hopes the exhibition will show modern viewers how art can stay relevant and outlive the artist for decades and even centuries.

“With Grant Wood, we have been assuming for over 90 (years) that people are still talking about his art, and that is still very relevant in both popular culture and socio-political circles,” she said.

“I think this is a great takeaway: this art is really important. Art gives us the opportunity to talk about ourselves and the society in which we live. We’re using this 1930 painting to talk about social concepts today. As some kind of serious foundation for a fun exhibition, it emphasizes that art really helps us to discuss life and how society is changing and how we see ourselves. “

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Notes: (319) 368-8508; [email protected]

When you go

• What: “Seriously Funny: American Gothic Parodies”

• Where: Second Floor Gallery, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, 410 Third Ave. SE

• When: January 16 to May 2

• Opening times: Tuesday to Wednesday, Friday, Sunday from 12pm to 4pm; Thursday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Admission: $ 8 for adults; $ 7 for students age 62 and older; $ 4 ages 6 to 18; free from 5 years

• Safety: Masks or face coverings required

• Information: crma.org/exhibitions/upcoming/seriously-funny-american-gothic-parodies

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