American Gothic couple comes to Dubuque - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

American Gothic couple comes to Dubuque

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- From Chicago and Indiana, among other places, one larger-than-life traveling sculpture now stands in Dubuque.

One might've mistaken it for a scene from a horror movie. Giant body parts were strewn about the parking lot of the Dubuque Museum of Art Wednesday morning.

The most frightening thing across the street from Dubuque's Washington Park on Wednesday, however, was how scarily close one new piece of art resembled Grant Wood's iconic American Gothic painting.

The museum, in partnership with Woodward Communications, Inc. and the Telegraph Herald, among other sponsors, brought to Dubuque J. Seward Johnson's 2005 sculpture God Bless America.

Its last appearance was at the Indiana State Fair. Previously, the sculpture has spent time on Michigan Avenue in the heart of Chicago; Key West, Florida; Nassau, New York and other places.

Dubuque Museum of Art trustee Randy Lengeling and Grant Wood aficionado said the sculpture "pays homage to American Gothic, which, now, is probably the most recognized visual work of art in American society and now rivaling, I believe, the Mona Lisa on an international scale."

A crowd gathered across the street throughout the day as construction workers erected the sculpture, part by part.

"It's interesting watching how they're putting it together and the different parts," onlooker Sunny Bargmann said.

"It is huge," onlooker Sue Barrett said, "and it's very real to life."

More than simply depicting that famous pitchfork-wielding couple, some say the 25-foot-tall traveling sculpture signifies a greater shift in Dubuque.

"Dubuque's been thinking bigger for many years, and we've had national accolades for that," Lengeling said. "Probably the best example is right over here. This is big blue, or the IBM building. And I don't think it's any coincidence that this sculpture is going to be in the shadow of that building."

Some say this is a symbol of Dubuque's growing art culture, too.

"Dubuque's getting to be the kind of a town where you can walk around and witness some pretty unusual, fun stuff going on in the arts," onlooker Chad Witthoeft said.

Original painting artist Grant Wood was an eastern Iowa native.

Museum executive director Mark Wahlert said the painting "not only captures sort of the spirit of the Midwestern farm family, but also plays on sort of the iconic nature of how much that piece has grown to become world famous in its own right."

He said that makes the sculpture's arrival in Dubuque even more meaningful.

"It's the first time the statue's been to Iowa," Wahlert said.

Finally, the couple stands on eastern Iowa soil at last.

The sculpture will remain in Dubuque until April 4. Those with the museum said they hope it draws people inside, to the world's third-largest Grant Wood collection.

The original American Gothic painting hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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