Monday, May 29, 2006

Grant Wood Visions

Capote’s setting in his book In Cold Blood reminds me of Grant Wood’s artwork. Picture his work stretched—take away the rolling hills—add more yellow, less green and you have Kansas; not his normal subject of Iowa. The black and white lithographs are more my vision, but it did begin with a warped American Gothic scene.

“That Monday, the sixteenth of November, 1959, was still another fine specimen of pheasant weather on the high wheat plains of western Kansas—a day gloriously bright-skied, as glittery as mica.”

“The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.”

“Holcomb, too, can be seen from great distances. Not that there is much to see—simply an aimless congregation of buildings…”

“One of these barns was a mammoth Quonset hut; it brimmed with grain—Westland sorghum—and one of those housed a dark, pungent hill of milo…”

“It was ideal apple-eating weather; the whitest sunlight descended from the purest sky, and an easterly wind rustled, without ripping loose, the last of the leaves on the Chinese elms.”

Mr. Clutter had an insurance man over the afternoon before his family was brutally murdered in the late night hours. To this salesaman he made the first and only “payment on a forty-thousand-dollar policy that in the event of death by accidental means, paid double indemnity.” Creepy, huh? Like the print above, hard working Mr. Clutter was preparing for the foreseeable storm.

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