Grant Wood, the Regional Landscape, and Modernity
Chapter 3 examines the aerialized farmscapes of regionalist artist Grant Wood and the fissure between the old and new iconographies of Midwestern culture that erupted in the 1930s. Wood’s sense of aeriality veered from the bucolic to the vertiginous as his landscapes morphed, over the course of the decade, from mythic agrarian scenes to somewhat otherworldly, yet also strikingly modern, spaces. The chapter interrogates Wood’s adoption and consequent adaptation of a Midwestern aerial sensibility as a means of negotiating the changes that technological and cultural modernity were delivering upon the region. Beginning by identifying Wood’s use of a nineteenth-century bird’s-eye iconography as a means to reinsert traditional form and value into the contemporary regional scene, the chapter extends into a consideration of the growing dynamism and increasingly ambivalent modernity of Wood’s later painting. For Wood, the experience of modern aeriality served not only as a tool of modern agrarian recodification, but also as a source for hybrid integration of old and new modes for envisioning the look and idea of the Midwest.
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