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Taking Art to the People

Grant Wood

In July of 2005 Celeste Smeland, the Executive Director of the Vallejo Community Arts Foundation, asked Trevor Burrowes and Pete Hubbard to conduct a demonstration on our newspaper mural project during the Vallejo Jazz and Art Festival, held on the last weekend of August 2005. We agreed and set out to select a suitable subject and to recruit artists to help us put it on. We wanted to do several pieces simultaneously so we could get as many people involved as possible. We decided on doing Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” because it was easily recognizable and it would fit on the wood panels we would be working on. The pieces themselves are 33”w x 44”h. The materials, as always are acrylic on newspaper. We wanted to invite the average passer-by to try their hand at it. The photos below show the results. We had a great time and the event was a big hit.
American Gothic
American Gothic
by Grant Wood

Grant Wood’s American Gothic caused a stir in 1930 when it was exhibited for the first time at The Art Institute of Chicago and awarded a prize of 300 dollars. Newspapers across the country carried the story, and the painting of a farm couple posed before a white house brought the artist instant fame. The Iowa native, then in his late 30s, was enchanted by a cottage he had seen in the small southern Iowa town of Eldon. Its Gothic Revival style, indicated by the upper window designed to resemble a medieval pointed arch, inspired the painting’s title. He asked his dentist and his sister Nan to pose as a farmer and his unmarried daughter. The highly detailed style and rigid frontal arrangement of the figures were inspired by Northern Renaissance art, which the artist studied during three trips to Europe. After returning to Iowa, he became increasingly appreciative of the traditions of the Midwest, which he also celebrated in works such as this.

American Gothic remains one of the most famous paintings in the history of American art. It is a primary example of Regionalism, a movement that aggressively opposed European abstract art, preferring depictions of rural American subjects rendered in a representational style. The painting has become part of American popular culture, and the couple has been the subject of endless parodies. Some believe that Wood used this painting to satirize the narrow-mindedness and repression that has been said to characterize Midwestern culture, an accusation he denied. The painting may also be read as a glorification of the moral virtue of rural America or even as an ambiguous mixture of praise and satire.


Vallejo Jazz Festival
(All pictures have zooms and super-zooms: just click the pictures;
Pictures presented in time sequence - note progress made on the
3 paintings as people go through the various steps; click here for
more info on Pete Hubbard's theory of painting employed here)

This is how they started out. One blank one with
just the grid and one with the grid and image.

Pete, Scott, Trevor, Shiela: "We're Gonna Do It!"

Scott is getting this one ready

This is how they look before the paint

Here are the colors and their sequence. The NI
(negative image) and IM (image) are indicated

three hombres begin work (Trevor, Ed, Scott)

Sheila is being interviewed by a writer
from the S.F. Chronicle

Half way through we realized we hadn't
told anybody they could help

Each had a different chart
(unknown drop-in, Gypsie, Scott)

Gypsie perseveres... (Pete filled
in the blue on the left)

Trevor comtemplates his next move

Here's one with the model and chart above
the completed works...

Many people thought this was the best one
(note newspaper comics used to cover the "image")

Gypsie did the green
stripes on this one

"I like the negative image
in this one" (Pete)
For a short discussion about the theory behind what is going on in these three 'American Gothic' examples, click here.

Here's the whole gang, except for Trevor who was taking a break
(Sheila, Ed, Gypsie, Pete, Scott)

The Maestros - Trevor and Pete!


 
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