Cedar Rapids: the city of Iowa is the true “American Gothic” | To travel
By Jim Winnerman Post-shipment special
Grant Wood invited me to Cedar Rapids. Well, sort of. In fact, he died in 1942 at the age of 50, before I was born. But his iconic “American Gothic” painting, which most people interpret as an Iowa farmer and his wife, had been completed there in 1930, and Wood had always been an artist I admired.
Then when I found out that he had painted the famous couple in his studio in Cedar Rapids (the original painting is at the Art Institute of Chicago) and that it was open for tours, and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art had a collection of 50 Grant Wood paintings on display, it was the perfect excuse to go on a trip again. At the time, the pandemic seemed to be coming to an end, and it was only a 4.5-hour drive from Saint-Louis.
What I didn’t expect to find in a city of 137,000 people is a rich cultural history and a contemporary, state-of-the-art, student-run hotel.
The first surprise was to find that Wood’s art was much more versatile than I had known it. The Cedar Rapids Art Museum’s collection of his works includes several pieces from the time he painted in Europe and his style was Impressionist, incorporating a loose brush compared to the precision seen later in ‘American Gothic’. Also on display are examples of his little-known talent as a metallurgist, an example of which was an ornate firewall he designed.
Several of the museum’s galleries were devoted to Wood, including one that featured humorous versions of ‘American Gothic’, as the familiar image has the distinction of being one of the ‘most parodied’ works of art in the world. story. Included was a painting of the famous farmer couple wearing quarantine masks and rubber gloves, and a roll of toilet paper hanging from the farmer’s fork. ($ 8; crma.org)