Judged as painting, out of context, Grant Wood's popular "American Gothic" isn't much of a standout. It's technically great, don't get me wrong. And the simple image of a father and spinster daughter is clever. But looking at the painting the first time in the Chicago Institute of Art I was more overwhelmed by the history. When first viewed, the image (actually of a dentist and his daughter) was a comical critique of small town life and values. As the depression wore on it became symbolic of the simple determination of all Americans in the face of adversity. Now its own ubiquity has meaning and, like Munch's "The Scream" is known more for its repeated parodies. When I asked "What's a working man to drive these days?" it turns out Maximum_Sarge knew of a sturdy piece of American beyond parody.

Amen. BTW, if you're in Chicago and want to see the painting you should call ahead. It's always traveling. Still, worth a trip to the Art Institute without it.