Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” has got to be the most parodied painting in the world. Must be the appeal of tweaking an icon, over and over and over….
I like parody. I’d rather see parody with purpose, but ever since I was a kid and discovered Wacky Packages, the idea of transforming a well known visual into something new has had major appeal to me. Even for no reason at all, it’s kind of fun. It mesmerizes people… trips up the brain for just a second, if it’s done well.
It took a while for the painting to achieve icon status. Painted 1930, Wood entered it into a competition in the Art Institute of Chicago. It earned a bronze medal (plus a $300 prize for the artist), and the Institute bought the painting. Backlash arrived like a fist in the face when Iowans (the painting was set in the Hawkeye State) felt that Wood was mocking them as grim, bloodless rubes. Wood insisted he wasn’t, but many assumed his work was part of a trend toward caricaturing rural American life as old-fashioned, repressed, backward. The artist denied this charge, aligning himself during the depression with Midwest artists like John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton, who celebrated the tough, straightforward American spirit in their works.
Parodies of the painting started popping up soon, from the serious to the the frivolous. Here’s a slew of ’em for you.