Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New American Gothic

Most of you, I'm sure, are familiar with Grant Wood's famous painting titled, "American Gothic".
What many of you probably don't know (and I certainly didn't), is how that painting came to be. The story goes that in 1930, Grant Wood saw a house in Iowa that was built in the "Carpenter Gothic" style and decided to paint a picture of "the kind of people [he] fancied should live in that house" with the house itself as a backdrop. The man was modeled after his dentist and the woman after his sister. Although the painting was not necessarily intended to depict a married couple (Wood's sister often told people it depicted a father and daughter, perhaps to avoid the unflattering intimation that she would have married a man twice her age), it has become an iconic image of the American pioneer family.

There are many other iconic images of the American family found in art. The work of Norman Rockwell is rife with familiar family images, such as his beautiful Thanksgiving-themed "Freedom From Want".

And any child who grew up reading the "Little House on the Prairie" series is familiar with Garth Williams' lovely depictions of frontier life.

If these charming images depict life from years ago, what images of American family life of today will become iconic in the coming years and decades? To me, what makes these images iconic is their timelessness: little girls will always play with dolls and climb on their daddies' backs, mothers will always snuggle babies while watching older children play, families will always gather together for the holidays, and people will always soldier on through whatever hardships come their way.

So what images of my own family will last for years in my mind? Perhaps these:
because families dressing alike will always be cute,

because multiple generations of family will always gather together for photos on the couch,

because tiny, sleeping babies will always be precious, and

because, like the original American Gothic, there's just something timeless and wonderful about the whole family gathering on the front porch for a family portrait.

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