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Was Iowa ever American Gothic?

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Listen to the voices of Iowans as they absorb “American Gothic.”

“It brings back a lot of memories,” says Thom Davis, a social studies teacher from Johnston. “It’s neat to think about how it captures the simplicity of the time. I think of my father, who was a farmer. He lived a simple life, yet he was a hard worker. My father died at 65. He could have passed for 80. You think of the stress of farming.”

“It’s wholesome and simple and nice,” says Anne Pederson, a nurse from Des Moines.

“It’s like an olden-time kind of thing, not very modern,” say Keenan Mayhugh, 16, a high school student from Perry.

“I was laughing at the expression of boredom on the daughter’s face,” says Cecilia Benetti, who works in the Iowa Department of Public Safety in Des Moines. “It looks like she’d rather be doing anything but standing next to her father. The father’s expression is, this is as good as it’s going to get. I’m happy. The daughter has a look of, ‘I hope there is more to life than this.’ ”

As you look and listen to Iowans discuss an Iowa icon, you wonder, though, if Wood’s work accurately depicted the Iowa of 1930, in the early years of the Great Depression, let alone the modern state and its people.

The Iowa of 1930 was agricultural and hardscrabble. Some scholars suggest Wood was satirizing a portion of Midwestern life, uptight, close-minded, a buckle in the Bible Belt. He was also looking back, instead of forward, painting the turn-of-the-20th-century Iowa of his youth.

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