Center Gears up for New Exhibit

The drums are rolling and the tension is building in preparation for the unveiling of a new exhibit at the American Gothic House Center—“Parodies of a Portrait: An American Icon’s Place in Pop Culture.”

The exhibit will premier from 6 to 7 pm on Friday, May 24, and, of course, will remain on display indefinitely. It proves to be a compelling—and fun—look into contemporary America using American Gothic as the backdrop.

Beginning with Gordon Park’s photograph of Ella Watson, a cleaning woman employed by the Farm Security Administration in 1942, and traveling forward through time, the exhibit will showcase how the iconic image has been used to bring attention to cultural and societal issues.

Many of the parodies will be familiar, such as the 1963 Saturday Evening Post cover featuring Jed Clampett and Granny—aka Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan—of The Beverly Hillbillies. Some might say this parody, along with the shot in the opening credits of Green Acres of Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor (Oliver Douglas and his wife Lisa in the series), was the seminal moment for parodies of American Gothic. From that point on parody became an art form of its own.

Predictably the parodies on display in the new exhibit will feature celebrity-type characters. However, once in a while local (if not to Eldon, then to the area targeted), people will be the characters in the parody.

Such is the case with one particular parody that should hit home to many local Eldon citizens—Tom and Roseanne Arnold pictured near the site of their planned mansion in Eldon.

As anyone who remembers the story knows, this endeavor of Tom and Roseanne’s didn’t fare so well. Steven Biel, in his book, American Gothic, accurately sums up the outcome of the Arnold’s Eldon peccadillo.

“But this gothic house [Tom and Roseanne’s mansion] was never built. Roseanne and Tom split up, the cornfield was leased to a farmer, the ‘loose meat’ restaurant they had opened in Eldon didn’t survive, and the local community college took over the property.”

In case you are not aware of the story, an article in the April 21, 1997 edition of People magazine provides a good overview. To read the article click here.

Tom and Rosanne’s parody reflects all parodies of American Gothic, as it takes a topical issue and satirizes it to drive home a point. In the case of the Arnold’s their excess (the multi-million dollar mansion and their jet-setting style), was in sharp contrast to the modest ways of a small town—and of the characters in the painting. Such is the nature of parody.

This is a taste of what will be in store for visitors at the American Gothic House Center beginning next Friday. It will be worth the trip.

Also, don’t forget about the other upcoming events at the Center during Eldon’s American Gothic Days, the art contest, the 5K walk/run and the 20-mile bike ride. For details on these events click here.

One more thing:

This morning, while reviewing the National Public Radio website (and my kids say I lead a boring life), I ran across an interview and song that I wanted to share.

It is not upbeat, funny, or soul-lifting, but it is a story that any parent who has lost a child carries with them daily. It is about the aftermath. Specifically, it is the story of a soldier and his dad. If you would, take time to listen to the story and the imbedded song, but be warned, it will cause a tear to drop. In my case, it was a flood. Please click here: A Songwriter And An Army Dad Share One Touching Story.

Take care.
Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center
641-652-3352
wapellocountymediacoordinator@gmail.com

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center’s annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!

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