Grant Wood Docudrama opens at Cedar Rapids Art Museum

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Excerpt from the docudrama The Wood Problem will be performed at the Cedar Rapids Art Museum, followed by a panel discussion.

By Salma Rios
salma-rios@uiowa.edu

When the phrase “American Gothic” comes to mind, most people think about the iconic artwork. An older couple standing outside of a plain white house, with the man looking sternly into the viewers’ eyes and the woman looking off into the distance. They are dressed in plain farm clothing and the man is holding a pitchfork.

But while people know the painting, not many know about the man behind the painting or his life. The Grant Wood Art Colony and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art seek to change that with the première of the docudrama-styled play The Wood Problem, about famous artist Grant Wood.

The play will open at the Cedar Rapids Art Museum, 410 Third Ave. S.E., at 6 p.m. today.

The Wood Problem, written by Scott Bradley, tells the life and legacy of Wood. The excerpt of the play that will be presented will focus on the tensions surrounding him during his academic career at the University of Iowa.

Wood came to the university and taught painting from 1934 to 1941. While here, he became a key part of the cultural community through his supervision of mural paintings, student mentoring, and production of his own works.

The Grant Wood Art Colony, which is located on Burlington Street, was established by Jim Hayes in 2009.

While teaching at Iowa, Wood contributed to many works of art in the school. As a result, his career skyrocketed.

Joni Kinsey, a UI professor of American art history, said that at the time Wood was here, he was one of the most famous and popular artists in the United States and one of the principal advocates for the Regionalism Movement, an artistic style focusing on local subject matter.

“His painting American Gothic had brought him national attention in 1930,” she said. “He had done a number of other paintings that were recognized at the time as being important and relevant to people’s interests during that difficult period.”

But while Wood’s art career prospered, there was tension in his academic career.

Maura Pilcher, the director of the Grant Wood Art Colony, said that while many senior leaders appreciated Grant Wood as an artist and a professor, others were at odds with him.

“[Lester] Longman, the chairman of the Department of Graphic and Plastic Arts, complained to the deans that Wood was not a good artist — painting from photographs, for example,” Pilcher said.

There was also resentment toward Wood regarding his level of education and questioning of his sexuality, Pilcher said.

Nonetheless, Wood’s legacy will live on, and fans of his work will be able to see what he was really like in life and how he is treated now.

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When: 6 p.m. today

Where: Cedar Rapids Art Museum, 410 Third Ave. S.E.

Cost: Free

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