Art and Healing in the American Body Politic, 1929-1941
Chapter Two: Back to the Garden: Regionalism, Manly Men, and the Madonna of the Meadow 69
• 2 • Back to the Garden: Regionalism, Manly Men, and the Madonna of the Meadow In 1936, the Texas regionalist painter Alexander Hogue created Mother Earth Laid Bare (Figure 30), a painting that captured the ravages of the Dustbowl through the image of a woman violated by predators. “Mother Earth” has the greenish pallor of a corpse, subtly distin- guishing her body from the bone–colored land around; in the fore- ground, the instrument of her violation—the “plow that broke the plains” in Pare Lorentz’s documentary of the same year—lies idle. Fig. 30 Alexandre Hogue, Erosion No.2–Mother Earth Laid Bare, 1936, o/c The empty yoke takes on the aspect of an unbalanced scale, as if to suggest a day of judgment. Nothing lives within the visual frame, where cold, dry skies and windblown trees echo the contorted fur- rows of ruined land. In this and other works on the theme, Hogue wished to describe the “terrifying,” and yet “beautiful,” effects of the drought.1 At the same moment in the Midwest, Grant Wood, a member of the “Holy Trinity” of regionalists that included Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, painted his home state of Iowa very differ- ently. Spring Turning, also from 1936 (Figure 31), depicted a heartland untouched by drought and dust storms. Where Hogue’s image is di- agnostic, brutal in its condemnation of thoughtless farming practices, Wood’s painting is therapeutic. It envisions a restored fecundity, a re- vived embrace of “Mother Earth” signaled in the exaggerated...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.