I’m going to have to figure out a way to adjust to this pure-blogging thing. The new-stuff first is messing up my narrative thread.
One of the most interesting things about this year is spending so much time with people from overseas. For the most part, they’re sophisticated people who’ve traveled farther and wider than I probably ever will, but they aren’t Americans, and there are gaps in their educational and cultural experience that I find fascinating.
Take this weekend. We had about one hour to see the Art Institute of Chicago, which is a one-day museum at the very least, but hell, you work with what you have. (My friend Greg, who was my host when I visited Paris, showed me the Louvre in an afternoon he called “the roller-skate tour,” and I can’t say I missed all that much.) Of course, one of the stops on the roller-skate tour of the Art Institute is Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.” Afterward, at dinner, one of the overseas fellows asked, in essence, What’s the big deal about that one?
The best anyone could come up with was: It’s important because we’ve made it important. It’s an icon because it’s … iconic. It’s probably the second-most satirized painting in the world. (You know which one is the first.)
Noodling around online, I see I could have come up with a much more grad-schooly answer, referencing 16th-century Dutch portraitists and the like, but I guess the original works as well as any: Because it’s there.