American Gothic -- Aug. 14, 2005

A weekly feature on This Week.


Our voice this week is Thomas Hoving, the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a connoisseur obsessed with an American icon often seen as the epitome of American kitsch -- Grant Wood's "American Gothic." It turns 75 this summer, and Hoving thinks it's gotten a bum rap.

Thomas Hoving: In art history, sometimes a single work by a relatively unknown artist hits it and becomes an emblem, an icon. The heart of [American Gothic] is human beings painted impeccably, and they have character. When you look at the face and the eyes of the farmer, there is a nothing that is ever going to daunt him. It's going to be tough. But with that pitch fork, he's going to stay. He's going to make it. This is straightforward American. Can it be any good? Of course it can be good. And this one really talks. Why this painting has been parodied so much is a slight mystery. But the fact that it has been chosen to be used as a political statement, a parody, always with a sense of humor has broadened its appeal, because people then look at the original and they say, you know, it does have a sense of humor itself. Then it took off, and there has been Paris Hilton and her sidekick in "The Simple Life." And "Desperate Housewives," I don't know why it's in that, but it works. Many paintings, if the parody is vicious enough, it kind of kills the work. This seems to have enhanced it. And guess what? It holds, it grows, and the power is there and gets more intense. It's pretty good."


The Tonight Show with Jay Leno:

Leno: So Congress is on recess. There is nobody left in Washington. The town is empty. And it's so lonely in D.C. right now, the NRA and the oil lobby are just giving money to each other.

Late Show with David Letterman:

Letterman: President Bush, before he went on vacation, he signed a bill that will extend daylight-saving time by another month. He says that it proves we're winning the war on darkness.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno:

Leno: While President Bush was out of town, Hillary Clinton stopped by the White House for an important meeting with her decorator. I don't know what that means. Just kinda measuring things: "Put this over there. …"

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

Stewart: What are the early favorites for '08 doing to position themselves? Well, among Republicans, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, whose name in German means "with Romney," recently tacked to the right by vetoing a measure to expand access to emergency contraception, including the so-called morning-after pills. This was not the kind of position Romney stressed when he ran for governor of the liberal state of Massachusetts. But apparently for him, he has decided life begins not at conception, not at birth, but when you decide to run for president.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno:

Leno: President Bush signed an energy bill in New Mexico this week. He had simple, clear message for all Americans. He said the economy's moving. OK? It's moving to China and Korea and Taiwan. But OK? It's moving. It's on the go.