Aside from its frequent parodies in the world of advertising, I feel like I have a personal connection to Grant Wood’s American Gothic.
Seventeen years after he posed for American Gothic, Dr. Byron McKeeby sold his Cedar Rapids dental practice to fellow Iowan Dr. Justin Dunn for $1500. As it turns out, Dr. McKeeby ultimately provided more than just a dental practice opportunity. When he learned that Dr. Dunn, his wife and their first child were all living in the single room adjacent to the dental office, a retired Dr. McKeeby lamented that this was no way to live and promptly made a down payment on a home for the Dunns.
Prior to 1959, whenever Dr. Dunn needed someone to fill in for an ailing or vacationing dental assistant, my mother, Leah Westrom usually got the call to Dr. McKeeby’s old office: While my mother stayed home raising four kids she also had her dental assisting certificate and probably appreciated the occasional break from my older siblings. Years later, when we were all in school, my mother served as a full-time dental assistant to Dr. Dunn during the ’70’s and early ’80’s.
Intrigued by the connections that both my mother and dentist shared with American Gothic, I took a cue from Wood and enlisted the help of my sister, Shelley Sullens, and my dentist Dr. Justin Dunn, along with professional photographer Mike Schlotterback, to orchestrate my own parody of the painting in September of 2009. There was no getting around the historic nature of the site as we stood in front of the home in Eldon, IA. I was pleased with the final portrait and the similarities my sister and my dentist had to Wood’s.