Trust the Artist Not the Art

RECEIVED Tue., Aug. 9, 2005

Dear Editor,
    Your article on the FLDS [“Meet the New Neighbors,” News, July 29] was disturbing enough, but your cover holds the real shocker. The FLDS might be wallowing in polygamy, but what's happenin' on your front page is likely incest to boot. How so, you ask? Because, contrary to popular myth, that dour-faced gal puckering in Grant Wood's 1930 painting American Gothic isn't the farmer's wife, but rather it's his daughter. "Grant"ed (pun intended), Wood was intentionally vague about this (as with most of his works), but although conventional wisdom overwhelmingly embraces the "man and wife" interpretation, in fact it was more likely "man and offspring.” This is according to Wood's own sister Nan (the actual model for the woman; Wood's dentist was the model for the man). Perhaps embarrassed and alarmed by the barbs flying from "not amused" Depression-era Midwesterners for being depicted as "married" to a man twice her age, Nan repeated the "Grant intended it to be a spinster daughter" story emphatically and often enough to make it stick (and brother never exactly refuted it). Indeed, it looks like that "what we've got here is a failure to amalgamate (er, marry)!"
    However, if you good folks want to stick with the "it's his wife" interpretation, and it's therefore "just" polygamy, then I'd make the one in the window my fave – I love the shy type.
Mike Hagye
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