As promised, I've been working through some concepts for my panel discussion at the Society for Utopian Studies conference in Charleston in November 2013. The panel is called "Utopian Place and Image" and will also feature presentations by Dawn Roe (Rollins College) and Erik Waterkotte (UNC Charlotte).
What I'm formulating is based off of Grant Wood's 1936 text called Revolt Against the City, published by a small press in Iowa City, where wood taught for many years. As one of the painters of the Regionalist movement in the 1930's, Wood advocated for living outside of the city and that the "country" was an ideal place to make artwork.
[An issue, right off the bat, is that Regionalism is a term and distinction of art history; though I think Benton, Wood, and others made work within this ideology, I do believe that the term was assigned to them.]
As someone interested in rural culture, I find the notion of Regionalism and its contemporary possibilities incredibly interesting. I think the quick responses to the possibility of contemporary Regionalism are "yes, of course it exists" and "it can't exist because of the internet". I propose that this issue is complicated, and thinking about aesthetics and geographic regions provides an insight into the art market, commodification and value of art, and how these two issues intersect in contemporary art practices.
To be blunt, I'm not so interested in the images of Regionalism; they provided a sort of social moral boost during the Depression and obviously have their historical and cultural significance because of that, but I'm more interested in the ideology of making art outside of the cultural capitols of the world--framed by Benton and Wood in their paintings and spoken of by Wood in Revolt... but recontextualized in the contemporary art world that is constantly looking for the new, international avant-garde and pool of young artists.
I'll post more of my research and process as it develops; I'm excited to start thinking about this notion that I've worked with for some time now. It will also involve an idea of use aesthetics that has also been in the making (and thinking) for some years now. As a side note, I'm talking about the theory of use aesthetics at a Random Night Dinner through the Honors Program here at Drake on Thursday, October 17th. The Random Night Dinners ask professors to plan a menu and give a brief talk regarding some of their research--I, of course, cannot help but cook and prepare some of the food myself; we'll be having meze and I'll be baking pita, and showing off some of my Mideastern cooking skills along with a presentation on use aesthetics.