Historic art right down the street

Guest post by Josh Kvinlaug-Lewis from the admissions office


Sometimes it’s easy to forget that DMU is just 12 blocks away from a renowned art museum. The Des Moines Art Center is less than a mile west of campus on Grand Avenue, yet I rarely visit the museum, despite driving past it every week.

Last night was an exception.  I had the opportunity to head over and listen to a lecture by former Stanford professor and art history expert, Wanda Corn, regarding the famous painting “American Gothic.”  

Few people may recognize the name of the painting, and even fewer will know that it was created by Iowa native Grant Wood in 1930, but everyone is familiar with the now iconic and often satirized image of a woman and man standing with a pitchfork in front of a white farmhouse.  This painting has become one of the most widely known works of regionalism art.  It has been spoofed, cartooned, lampooned and distorted throughout the years.  And, despite (or maybe because of) its many reinterpretations, it has come to represent Americana in a way that is nearly universally recognizable. Dr. Corn has studied American Gothic and its use in American culture for more than 30 years, and has written multiple books about the subject.  Her lecture was both entertaining and extremely educational.

For those of you who haven’t seen American Gothic in person, this great piece of Iowa artwork is currently on loan to the Des Moines Art Center from its place in the permanent collection at the Art Institute of Chicago. However, if you want to see it in Iowa, you’ll have to act fast. American Gothic heads back to Chicago next week.   

Photo is the actual house in Eldon, IA pictured in American gothic!

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