1930: The models for #AmericanGothic (two pictures: http://t.co/dx3tz5Z2UQ) pic.twitter.com/Nt8Qkhnl8P
— Retronaut (@theretronaut) May 19, 2014
Grant Wood's famous painting meant nothing to me until seeing this photograph. The modern models (who can easily be pictured as the inhabitants of Case Study House #22) next to this fantasy of farmers and their home with the Gothic window. The farmers did not come from the mass-produced frame house behind them, but the other way around. Wikipedia:
Wood decided to paint the house along with "the kind of people I fancied should live in that house."He recruited his sister Nan (1899–1990) to model the woman, dressing her in a colonial print apron mimicking 19th-century Americana. The man is modeled on Wood's dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby (1867–1950) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The three-pronged hay fork is echoed in the stitching of the man's overalls, the Gothic window of the house, and the structure of the man's face.
But the thing that this photograph and the account on Wikipedia make clear is how the rural can only be as real as the farmers in the painting. The only problem is that this fiction, which persists to this day, turns out have real political effects. I read a novel a long time ago (forgot its name and author—which can only mean it wasn't that good) whose characters slowly began to realize that their world is a fiction created by someone in the real world. In American society, those who inhabit the only real world of density and shared transportation find their lives, their bus services, their tax system influenced by fictional characters in fictions of rural areas and suburbs.