Arts & Culture

Grant Wood inspiration marks huge homecoming

Giant sculpture depicting 'American Gothic' goes up in Anamosa

Adam Garey of the Seward Johnson Atelier in Hamilton, New Jersey unscrews crane hooks from a monumental-sized American Gothic statue as he works to install it on Main Street in Anamosa on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. The sculpture was made by Hamilton, New Jersey artist Seward Johnson. It most recently spent a year installed in Elkhart, Ind. and will remain in Anamosa through 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Adam Garey of the Seward Johnson Atelier in Hamilton, New Jersey unscrews crane hooks from a monumental-sized American Gothic statue as he works to install it on Main Street in Anamosa on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. The sculpture was made by Hamilton, New Jersey artist Seward Johnson. It most recently spent a year installed in Elkhart, Ind. and will remain in Anamosa through 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

ANAMOSA — The rural residents depicted in Grant Wood’s famed “American Gothic” painting were installed Tuesday morning in the form of an oversized sculpture in Anamosa, the home of the late artist.

Before 9 a.m., trucks carrying separate parts of the sculpture arrived and workers used a crane to lift the figures to their temporary location behind Wapsi Physical Therapy and Fitness Center, 315 E Main St.

Crews completed installation of the 25-foot bronze sculpture, weighing in at 24,000 pounds, before noon.

Passers-by paused to take pictures of the sculpture. After the installation was complete, children climbed on the statue, their heads level with on oversize suitcase sculpted on its base.

Artist Seward Johnson crafted the sculpture, which has appeared at museums in New York, Chicago and Dubuque, according to curator Paula Stoeke with the Seward Johnson Atelier.

Johnson’s “God Bless America” sculpture is part of his Icons Revisited series and pays homage to Wood’s 1930 portrayal of rural America.

For at least the next 10 months, the monumental-sized sculptures will tower over the streets of Anamosa — a homecoming of sorts, as Wood was born and buried here.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Locals attempted to bring Johnson’s sculpture to Anamosa about a decade ago, but the efforts weren’t successful until recently when several groups came together to dedicate $20,000 to bringing the sculpture here, said LeeAnna Boone, executive director of the Anamosa Area Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to other fundraising efforts, Boone said some groups that contributed funding include the city of Anamosa, the Chamber of Commerce and Jones County Tourism.

There is interest in keeping the sculpture in Anamosa permanently, Boone said, though that would mean higher costs.

“A lot of our logos in town … (involve) Grant Wood,” she said. “It’s just kind of synonymous with the town.”

On Monday, the sculpture was dismantled at its previous location in Elkhart, Ind., so truck drivers could begin the trek to Iowa.

The “God Bless America” sculpture was a success in Indiana, said Terry Mark, a spokesman for the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau. There, it was part of the county’s Quilt Gardens public art exhibition, which featured 57 of Johnson’s sculptures throughout 2017.

About 40,000 guides were distributed to all the sculptures, Mark said, though he noted officials are certain a higher number of people — both county residents as well as tourists — viewed the sculptures.

“They loved having it,” he said. “They really enjoyed seeing different sculptures and taking pictures with them. ... If nothing else, I think our community really gained a higher appreciation of public art.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

Boone said officials hope the same attention is drawn to “God Bless America” while it’s in Anamosa, too.

For locals such as Bob Walderbach, 55, a Mount Pleasant resident who was born and raised in Stone City, Wood and his art are deeply rooted in the town’s culture.

Walderbach was one of the people involved in the initial efforts to get Johnson’s sculpture to Anamosa and has previously dressed up as Wood in town plays and parades.

Now, he said, “the next generation has really stepped up” to bring the efforts to fruition.

“It’s small-town nostalgia,” Walderbach said. “People get excited. … Without people working together, you can’t make it happen.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8332; marissa.payne@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.