Above: Seward Johnson’s massive sculpture based on Grant Wood’s iconic “American Gothic” painting was transformed by a prankster, March 16, 2020. Photo courtesy of Peoria Riverfront Museum
Such timing! As we release the first-ever issue of Peoria Magazine focused on the retail sector, the vast majority of area shops and small businesses are temporarily closed. The COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to hit Illinois as we go to print… and it will almost certainly get worse before it gets better.
This unprecedented situation has compressed time in an unprecedented way. What one says this morning could be moot by afternoon. Each day comes with a month’s worth of news. A week feels like a lifetime. Because a magazine’s deadline is several weeks ahead of its release, it requires one to think into the future. This has always been the case, but in these hyper-compressed, fast-moving times, it’s more difficult than ever.
Our plans for this issue’s cover were thwarted by the closure of local retail establishments due to the pandemic. But soon, a timely alternative made itself known. On the morning of March 16, a Facebook post from Peoria Riverfront Museum CEO John Morris went viral:
“When staff showed up this morning, we were surprised to see the monumental Seward Johnson sculpture based on Grant Wood’s iconic ‘American Gothic’ painting had been altered by a prank in a statement of our times. This farmer may not have heard the mask will do him no good. (His wife apparently actually read the CDC warnings). He is lucky though. At 25 feet tall, he is certainly maintaining the recommended six-foot distance.”
And so we have our cover image—a stark, nighttime portrait that transforms the familiar in much the same way our lives are being transformed. It conveys the seriousness of a situation that impacts everyone, but does so in a fun and clever way. It’s a bit unsettling, which is why it feels relevant. Indeed, it is a statement of our times. Many thanks to photographer Jeffery Noble for capturing the zeitgeist.
No one knows what will happen in the weeks and months to come. As we navigate the uncertainty, our thoughts are with you: our friends, neighbors and community members. We at Peoria Magazine will continue to highlight your efforts to make our community a great place to live, work and play.
As the Peoria Riverfront Museum goes virtual, its CEO recognizes a deeper meaning behind this prank: “Seward Johnson entitled this piece with a phrase appropriate for these times: ‘God Bless America,’” Morris writes. “And, surely he would add, may God bless the world.” Check out the April 2020 issue of Peoria Magazine. PS
—Jonathan Wright, Editor In Chief