Feb 18, 2014
Grant Wood: More Than Pitchforks and Cornfields
It gave the Midwest a bad name. The goggle-eyed farmer with pitchfork looks like he's about to go storming off to protest civil rights, or gay rights, or violence in comic books. The weepy woman, her beauty faded by the boredom and isolation of farm life, dreams of escape.
Even today, if I admit to being from the Midwest (I usually don't), I get "How awful it must have been for you! Nothing to do but watch the corn grow and fight all those redneck bigots!"
So I didn't know much about Grant Wood until I started investigating John Bloom, who sculpted the statue of a naked man that I got for Christmas in junior high.
In 1934, when Grant went to the University of Iowa, he took John with him.
In 1935, Grant married Sara Sherman Maxon (the marriage ended in divorce three years later). John moved to Davenport, where he married Isabel Bloom in 1938.
Sounded a lot like a spurned lover.
Sure enough. A new biography, Grant Wood: A Life, by R. Tripp Evans, reveals that Grant was gay. When he got to the University of Iowa, some faculty members in the Art Department suspected, and they already looked down upon Grant for rejecting the status quo of European Impressionism -- ergo his screen marriage and giving John Bloom the boot.
But if you look carefully at his work, you can see the glimmers of homoerotic desire.
And even that stupid American Gothic isn't heterosexist. Everybody thinks the woman is the farmer's wife, but she's his daughter.