American Gothic on Skid Row

In decades past, it was a common dig at the middle-brow culture of Los Angeles to snipe that the town was chock full of Iowans–dishwater dull, prudish and constantly picnicking.

It’s true enough that many a midwestern retiree was convinced by California’s “land of sunshine” reputation to spend their last years here. But you might not know that there’s a very special connection that exists between rural Iowa and L.A.’s Skid Row–a bond that’s put food into hungry mouths for more than two decades. 

Nan Wood Graham, the sister of painter Grant Wood, was the tight-lipped female subject of his 1930 painting American Gothic. The house behind her still stands in tiny Eldon, Iowa

And since Nan’s death, every licensing fee for reproduction of her brother’s masterpiece has been split between the Union Rescue Mission and the Riverside County Coalition for Alternatives to Domestic Violence. Our friends at the URM tell us that this income is not inconsiderable. 

So think of Nan’s kindness next time you see American Gothic reproduced or parodied. We surely will.