Grant Wood’s artistry is on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, but when CBS wanted to know more about the man behind “American Gothic,” the network came to Eastern Iowa.
The segment from the heartland will be featured this Sunday on CBS “Sunday Morning,” airing from 8 to 9:30 a.m.
A four-person production crew from New York, Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul, along with reporter Anna Werner from New York, spent more than three hours at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art on April 17. They arrived at 8 a.m., had their equipment set up by 10 a.m., then spent an hour interviewing executive director Sean Ulmer before touring the museum’s Grant Wood Gallery.
They also filmed in Wood’s nearby studio, where he lived and worked from 1924 to 1935, painting the pieces that brought him international acclaim: “American Gothic,” “Woman with Plants,” “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” “Daughters of the Revolution” and “Dinner for Threshers.”
Wood died in 1942, just hours before turning 51.
Ulmer and staff pointed the Midwest crew members to the Grant Wood Scenic Byway through Anamosa and Stone City, as well, so they could see the rolling hills and landscape that inspired the artist’s Regionalist style.
“Most of this will end up on cutting room floor,” Ulmer said by phone from New York on Thursday. He was there with a group of local museum patrons traveling to see the Whitney Museum’s comprehensive Wood exhibition, which includes 27 pieces on loan from the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art’s 400-plus collection.
He’ll be returning late Saturday night but will be up in time to see the Grant Wood segment Sunday morning.
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“I’m just really thrilled that they wanted to come out to Iowa,” he said of the television crew. “They wanted to see where Grant Wood lived and worked, to get a better sense of the man — the side that you may not see in his paintings. ... They wanted to know who Grant Wood was. ...
“We love to see Grant Wood get the attention he deserves.”
The crew also asked about the museum’s role as primary lender for the Whitney exhibition, billed as the largest display of Wood’s work. With 120 pieces, the display features Wood’s paintings, portraiture, murals, illustrations, drawings and decorative arts, spanning his early Impressionist period to the later style for which he is more well-known.
“They asked about the New York critics and their take on the exhibition, and what we thought about that,” Ulmer said, noting that from what he’s read, it’s the same kind of mixed reaction drawn by the Whitney’s 1983 Wood exhibition and the artist’s first solo show in New York in 1935.
“Certain paintings they loved, and others they did not love at all,” he said. “It’s interesting to see what people are picking up on and what they’re responding to. ... It’s interesting to see how people interpret the same works at different points in time.
“I attended the opening, and this exhibition is going to be a revelation to most people who think they know Grant Wood. A lot of viewers think know Grant Wood because they’ve seen ‘American Gothic’ reproductions and parodies, but you can never know an artist from a single piece.”
The scope of the exhibit will open their eyes to the breadth of Wood’s artistic pursuit. The Corn Cob Chandelier from the Cedar Rapids collection “is a hit,” Ulmer said. “People love that piece. Of course, a lot of people gravitate toward ‘American Gothic,’ but when I was there, I saw a lot of people taking pictures of that chandelier. It’s just so playful — it relays a certain sense of humor, a lightheartedness that he has, and creativity, at the same time.”
• What: CBS “Sunday Morning,” featuring the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and Grant Wood
• When: 8 to 9:30 a.m. Sunday
• Where: CBS, Channel 2 in the Corridor
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