Monday, February 14, 2011
Grant Wood a Life - Read It!
When it comes to art books I admit, I mostly just want to look at the pictures. I rarely read anything in the realm of art criticism and in terms of biography I generally have two interests; which other artists did the artist know and work with; and how did the artist make a living and survive as an artist? It always interests me to learn which artists hung out together – even on a subconscious level they often influenced each other’s work. And, as an artist myself, the question of how other artists kept a roof over their heads is interesting and of relevance to my own life.
I just finished reading R. Tripp Evans new biography of Grant Wood called Grant Wood a Life. Reading this book was a bit of an exception to my rule for what I read. I highly recommend this one. Grant Wood’s personal story was interesting, but what really sets the book apart from many artist bios is the way Evans has set the artist’s life in the cultural context of the time and place he lived. The book is as much social history as artist’s biography.
For all our coastal smugness about the flyover states in the Midwest, I really had no idea how truly repressive and uptight the Midwest was in the early half of the 20th Century. It’s comical at times until you think about the creative and free spirits trapped there who did not escape to settle on the coasts. As a closeted gay artist in Iowa, Wood had a particularly difficult struggle.
And, as much as I just rather look at the pictures, Evan’s analysis of the symbolism in Wood’s paintings is spot on. Yes, Grant Wood was an ass man. After finishing the book I took a trip to the de Young for another look at Dinner for Threshers. I found myself wanting to snicker like a kid in junior high.