Trying to Make Sense of It
I love museums, but sometimes I simply cannot understand them.
More than two decades ago I stepped into a modest Iowa art museum, where I discovered a small room totally dedicated to the nineteen lithographs their native son Grant Wood had created during the last five years of his brief life (1891-1942).
Each of the nineteen 9” x 12” lithographs, printed in editions of 250, captured what Grant Wood believed was a rapidly disappearing aspect of Midwestern life. Some were appropriately titled “Seed Time and Harvest,” “Approaching Storm,” “Fertility,” and “December Afternoon,” and they all proved immensely popular, selling out within weeks of being published by Associated American Artists.
I can still recall being awestruck by the display of all nineteen of Grant Wood’s lithographs lining the four walls of that small room. That experience sent me on a new journey, assembling my own collection of Grant Wood’s lithographs while at the same time gathering every piece of historical information I could find on each one of them.
While my personal collection of his lithographs is not yet complete, my manuscript is, and so my next book, “Grant Wood: The 19 Lithographs,” came out this past week. In addition to putting the finishes touches on the book, I recently created a website dedicated to it, including a sample chapter and information on how to order the book.
Coincidentally, during this, the 125th anniversary year of Grant Wood’s birth, I traveled back to that same Iowa art museum which had first inspired me. Their art collection has since been moved to a new, gleaming three-story building which dwarfs the original art museum. Inside the new museum a room has once again been dedicated to Grant Wood. It contains a self-portrait, at least six of his minor oil paintings, a few sketches, two examples of his early Arts and Crafts metalwork, and a pair of his reading glasses.
But none of his nineteen lithographs.
I was told they are all down in the basement – in storage.
As I stood there, amazed and disappointed over their absence, I looked around at all the available space on the surrounding walls. Two easily measured ten feet in width with literally not a single work of art on them.
Just plain, blank, white walls.
Somehow, someone had decided those two blank walls were more valuable as plain, blank, white walls than as a backdrop for even one of Grant Wood’s classic 9” x 12” lithographs.
I guess someone far brighter than me decided those two empty walls would inspire some curious visitor far better than any of Grant Wood’s nineteen lithographs locked in the basement.
Until next week,
Sometimes I just can’t understand museums.
If you are interested, please check out www.GrantWoodPrints.com.
Lower: “Tree Planting Group”