Our 2021 Road Trip #7: American Nothic

Jimmy Carter Gothic parody.

President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn on the January 1977 cover of Punch shortly before his inauguration. Art by Wally Fawkes, a.k.a. “Trog”.

Sure, you could Google parodies of Grant Wood’s American Gothic and see six million of them online, or you could support the arts by driving hundreds of miles and paying museum admission to see a fraction of them in person. Well, not the original artwork itself, mind you, just old copies of the publications and merchandise that have used some. And one monitor slideshow of countless others, some copied-and-pasted from online and others possibly drawn by local DeviantArt account holders for fun. But that still counts as an art exhibition of sorts, I rationalize.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. We were each raised in a household that couldn’t afford annual out-of-state family vacations. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. Eventually we tired of some of our self-imposed limitations and figured out how to leave the comforts of home for the chance to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

Technically not even 2020 stopped us. We played by the new rules of the interim normal and wandered Indiana in multiple directions as safely as we could. This year the long-awaited vaccines arrived. For 2021 we agreed we had to go big. Our new primary objective was Yellowstone National Park, 1500 miles from Indy…

Masked American Gothic!

The fun began at the front door, where the famous farmers role-modeled the museum’s pandemic mask mandate.

Yes, seeing the original American Gothic live and in person two years ago at the Art Institute of Chicago left a mark on my psyche. As a lifelong aficionado of parody and satire, it might have been inevitable that I’d fixate on Gothic spoofery, of which there’s no short supply in this world. While the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art celebrates Wood’s sincere oeuvre across his decades and changing styles, my primary objective was the separate room for Gothic tributes. Love it or diss it, their exhibit acknowledges its status as one of the most frequently imitated paintings in art history. Pop culture will simply not let it go.

Beverly Hillbillies Gothic.

The Beverly Hillbillies on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, 2/2/1963. Art by Allan Grant.

Working Woman Gothic!

What is it like being a woman in jobs? Find out in the May 1979 issue of Working Woman.

Alfred E. Neumann American Gothic.

A partial answer to my question, “Why no original art in this exhibit whatsoever?”: the original Alfred E. Neumann painting by MAD cover artist Jack Rickard used here was auctioned in 2007 for a five-figure sum.

Listener Polygamy Gothic.

The mind reels at the scenarios implied by this feature in the BBC’s Listener, 8/18/1985.

Farm Aid American Gothic!

A fun nod to the inaugural Farm-Aid held in September 1985. Art by Doug MacGregor.

Dudley Do-Right Canadian Gothic!

This Dudley Do-Right compilation was part 6 of a 6-volume Rocky and Bullwinkle VHS set released in 1991 (with two additional volumes released later). I had the complete set but passed them on to Goodwill once they came to DVD.

Taken together, the lot was good-natured fun but fell short of the original-art gala I’d envisioned. I was particularly disappointed by the lack of attribution or fun trivia in the accompanying info cards. Point of fact, I had to research all the art credits in the above captions myself. While I’m on this self-driven supplemental curation streak, please enjoy three more Gothic examples from my own comics collection:

Not All Robots #1, AWA Upshot.

New in comic shops as of August 2021 is Mark Russell’s latest political satire Not All Robots, with interior art and cover by Mike Deodato, Jr. Off to a great start, highly recommended.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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