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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 7, 2005

Wanda Corn Presents Ida Beam Distinguished Lecture At UI Sept. 12

Wanda Corn, the Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History at Stanford University, will present an Ida Beam Distinguished Lecture, "Transatlantic Modernism: Art and the Great American Thing," at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12 in Room E109 of the University of Iowa Art Building.

A reception for Corn will follow the lecture, at the UI Museum of Art.

Corn's visit to the UI is especially timely since she is a principal contributor to two major exhibitions that will be on view in eastern Iowa during the fall: "The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935" at the new Figge Art Museum (formerly the Davenport Art Museum) in Davenport as the debut of the museum's new building; and "Grant Wood at 5 Turner Alley" at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (CRMA), including Wood's iconic "American Gothic," rarely seen outside the Chicago Art Institute.

"The Great American Thing" comprises approximately 90 works of significant early 20th-century American art. Corn is curator of the exhibition and author of the accompanying book of the same name. "The Great American Thing" will be at the Figge Art Museum Sept. 17, 2005-Jan. 1, 2006, before traveling to the Tacoma  (Washington) Art Museum. 

Joni Kinsey, a professor in the UI School of Art and Art History, said, "Corn's treatment of the subject of 'The Great American Thing' is cutting-edge scholarship that is changing the discourse about early modern American art in profound ways. It is a wide ranging examination of the fascination with American culture and identity on both sides of the Atlantic in the first half of the 20th century, and it probes deeply not only into the visual arts but also theater, literature, politics, nationalist ideologies and their interrelationship.

"When Corn speaks on campus, she will have a number of new insights to offer about the material since she will have just installed the exhibition in Davenport."

"Grant Wood at 5 Turner Alley" will be on view at the CRMA Sept. 9-Dec. 4. This is a special exhibition celebrating the CRMA's acquisition of Wood's studio at 5 Turner Alley in what was formerly the hearse garage of the Turner Funeral Home in Cedar Rapids. The studio will be open to the public for tours and the CRMA will exhibit a large array of Grant Wood's work that he produced in the studio, including many of his most famous paintings.

As the leading authority on Grant Wood, Corn has contributed a major essay to the book that accompanies this exhibition. The exhibition and its subject matter are of both regional and national significance and are also relevant to the UI because Wood taught in the School of Art and Art History 1934-42.

An eminent scholar of American art, Corn specializes in early 20th century art of the United States. She has become widely known through her books, including "The Great American Thing: Art and National Identity, 1915-1935," which won the Smithsonian Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art in 2000, and "Grant Wood: The Regionalist Vision," one of only two scholarly monographs on the artist. She has won numerous fellowships and grants and served on many advisory councils, editorial boards and panels. In addition to her several books, many of her other publications have significantly affected the study of American art, most notably her 1989 Art Bulletin article, "Coming of Age: Historical Scholarship in American Art," which has become an essential reference for the field. 

"Corn's scholarship is methodologically wide ranging and emphasizes the historical and cultural context of art," Kinsey said. "She grapples with some of the most important issues in American culture -- national identity, regional character and modernism -- and does so in ways that are highly engaging to diverse audiences. Her writing and lectures are unusually accessible to non-specialists, both for their subject matter, which is often quite interdisciplinary and even popular, and her vivacious manner of presentation. Her presentations will appeal very strongly to students and scholars in art history, American studies, history, and other related fields, as well as the public."

Corn's visit to the UI is co-sponsored by the Ida Beam Distinguished Lecture Program, the School of Art and Art History, the departments of American studies and history, and the UI Museum of Art.

A native of Vinton, Iowa, Beam willed her farm to the UI in 1977. Her only university connection was a relative who graduated from the College of Medicine. Proceeds from the sale of the farm were used to establish the visiting professorships program in her name. Since 1977, hundreds of eminent scholars and scientists have visited the UI campus to give public lectures and to meet with students and faculty.

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