Monday, June 9, 2008

Iowa Meat Goat Association

Let us get reacquainted with Grant Wood's iconic 1930 portrait of—take your pick—upright Americana, small-minded provincialism, tradition, and/or the urgent need for progress.

The pair has served as a scrim upon which has been projected the American experience. Our foibles and virtues, our past and future—everything we hold dear or would gladly leave behind… It has all been seen within the flinty farmer and his wife. (Wood's sister, the model of the farmer's wife, was aghast at her portrayal as wife to a crusty old man. Consequently, she was the first to suggest that the woman in the painting was meant to be the farmer's daughter.)

Wood's painting has been coopted and satirized innumerable times, and the Iowa Meat Goat Association's offering is particularly rich.

To see livestock cast in the role of Everyman and Everywoman is unsettling. It's the same muddled thinking we've seen so often. The goats are equated with us. They wear clothes. They have jobs. He tends the fields. She keeps the house. Together, they make a life.

They are imbued with all the cultural significance of Wood's farm couple, all the complexity and ambiguity of each of us.

And yet they are livestock, born to die. The "home" they pose in front of isn't a quaint old farmhouse. It's a barn. They represent the Iowa Meat Goat Association, for crying out loud! They are afforded no opportunity even to be goats. No, they are meat. We are meat!

Exactly whom is the IMGA diminishing here?

Addendum: Another example. Perhaps because its style is so cartoonish—miles from Wood's realism—the Johnson's S&SDB logo doesn't offend any more than the average suicide food offends.

(Thanks to Dr. Cathy for the Johnson's Seafood & Steak referral and photo.)


Jana said...

They are classified as "meat" goats to differentiate them from goats raised for their fur or milk.

Ben said...

Thank you for underscoring our point.

Anonymous said...

What the hell is Johnson's? Seafood and steak or a dairy bar? "Hey kids! Get a bucket of lobsters and a Push-Up!"

Anonymous said...

This site is my new favorite appetizer! Keep it comin' baby!

Daaaaaaddy Chowhound

Anonymous said...

Well you also need a bit of perspective. The Grant Wood painting was done in Iowa and recently ('06 I believe) Cedar Rapids Iowa had statuary interpretations of the American Gothic couple on every street corner in the business district.
In short we're used to it by now.

Ben said...

In our defense, when we acknowledged that "Wood's painting has been coopted and satirized innumerable times," what we had in mind was the many times (the innumerable times, even!) that the painting had been interpreted.