American Visions will be producing a one-hour documentary entitled Beyond American Gothic - The Story of Grant Wood, a portrait of the artist whose American Gothic is one of the most recognized paintings in the world. Wood's other works did not enjoy such recognition, and he died at a relatively early age, remaining forgotten for decades.
This is the first film project dedicated exclusively, and comprehensively, to Grant Wood’s life. This special presentation will premiere on Iowa Public Television (IPTV), and a nationwide broadcast on PBS is expected.
The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art will play an important role in the development and creation of this original documentary. Beyond American Gothic will become one of the many American Visions programs that showcase American people and places and their impact on history.
He was a face in the crowd, not someone you would easily recognize. He once said, “I’m the plainest kind of fellow you can find,” yet he painted one of the most recognized images of the 20th century. He painted farms, yet never farmed. He glorified small town life, though he lived trying to escape it. He was considered a native genius, but studied in Paris and Munich and exhibited his work at the leading venues of his day. His art celebrates a communal way of life, yet he was profoundly lonely – a mystery to himself and to those around him.
Grant Wood was both insider and outsider, native son and itinerant wanderer, an artist who achieved fame on the world’s stage, a craftsman who left an indelible mark upon the city in which he toiled....you can see it in a luminous stained glass window; in a mural that has fed the imagination of students; in an alley that would have been just an alley had he not embellished it with his unique vision. He was a teacher who gave his students something many would never forget: the freedom to be creative at a time and in a place when such pursuits were frowned upon. He was the inspiration for an art community struggling in a factory town.
His paintings captured a way of life that represents the best of America, the quiet dignity of a shop steward or a farmer tilling soil; the ordinary majesty of farmhands gathering for a communal meal; the heroic simplicity of a spring field. His work also pokes sly fun at that life. His line is clean and precise, unlike the world he lived in – a world caught between a devastating depression and the start of the greatest war in history. And while his imagery is simple, there are hints of something darker just below the surface…the black car hurtling toward a terrible destiny on a lone country road. Yet in his art he created a world that stirred people, touching something deep in the American soul.
This is an American story, a story of yearning and achievement, of a dream realized and a life left unfulfilled, of a striving for something that is always just out of reach. It is the artists’ story and the story of the common man. By faithfully capturing farms and farmers, rolling fields and billowing factories, Grant Wood gave Iowa to the world, and in so doing, expressed the enduring hope that lies at the heart of the American dream.