Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Models for Grant Wood's American Gothic

Grant Wood, American Gothic (Art Institute of Chicago)

I just finished my chapter, “The Belated Return of the ‘Son’: Thomas Hart Benton’s Prodigal Son" for the book, Painted Portrayals: The Art of Characterizing Biblical Figures, that will be published by the Society of Biblical Literature Press later this year.

In my brief explanation of Benton's Regionalism, I explained that Benton was one of the “regionalist triumvirate”: Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Grant Wood. 

The examples of art from Wood and Curry that I listed were Wood’s iconic American Gothic (at the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the best art museums in the U.S.) and Curry’s Tragic Prelude–John Brown, in the murals Curry created for the Kansas State Capitol (second floor, east corridor, if you get a chance to go there).

I then came across a newspaper photo of the models for Wood's American Gothic. It was so interesting that I had to share it:

  


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Chapter for SBL Press book: Thomas Hart Benton and the Prodigal Son



I've published two "public scholarship" essays this month (for The Washington Post and Salon), but today I'm working on a book chapter that includes an argument that Thomas Hart Benton's "Prodigal Son" portrays an understanding of labor and migration similar to the one in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (Benton also created images for the film based on the book).

I included part of these arguments in The Parables after Jesus, but in this chapter I will be able to go into much more detail about Benton's life and art and the contexts--personal and national/international--in which he created this work. I also argue that, in part, the image is autobiographical, like many other depictions of the prodigal.

The book chapter, “The Belated Return of the ‘Son’: Thomas Hart Benton’s Prodigal Son,” will be included in Painted Portrayals: The Art of Characterizing Biblical Figures. Bible and Its Reception Series. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature Press, forthcoming, 2019.

The book is edited by Heidi J. Hornik, Ian Boxall, and Bobbi Dykema.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

"The Work of Christmas," by Howard Thurman



Howard Thurman’s poem, “The Work of Christmas” provides a vision of a society informed by Jesus’s parable of the Sheep and Goats in the Gospel of Matthew and the biblical principle of hospitality:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.  

Thurman reminds us of how Jesus wants us to respond to the mind-numbing torrent of injustice, cruelty, and bigotry around us. 

Or as Micah, another Jewish prophet many centuries before Jesus, proclaimed Micah 6:8):    


[God] has told you, O mortal, what is good;
   and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God?


My wish for 2019 is that justice, mercy, and humility will make a comeback.

Models for Grant Wood's American Gothic

Grant Wood, American Gothic  (Art Institute of Chicago) I just finished my chapter, “The Belated Return of the ‘Son’: Thomas Hart Bento...