The “Woody is Just Woody” exhibit is created around the novel, The Grapes of Wrath, but more, the relationships between key people in Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck’s creative lives. John Steinbeck was a master painter of words, and a true artist of fiction. His stories give a voice to the dignity of common men and women. For his efforts in writing about social justice issues, including those forced to leave their homes in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas for a new life out west, Steinbeck was awarded the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath. He was also awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962, and the U.S. Medal of Freedom in 1964. And if that’s not enough for history, he is recognized as the most read author of the 20th Century.
Woody Guthrie is the founder of modern-day folk music in America and, alongside Steinbeck, the key individual in this exhibit. The installation chronologically tracks important professional and personal events in Guthrie’s life, which culminated in 1939 when Guthrie meets Steinbeck. This encounter is the gateway to the crux of this exhibit – Guthrie was so captivated by Steinbeck and Grapes that he began composing songs directly inspired by the novel. This narrative argues that while Steinbeck intended Grapes to be as successful and popular as it was, he did not expect Guthrie to take his material and reproduce it in musical form. Furthermore, Steinbeck in no way intended for Guthrie’s songs, based on his novel, to set a precedent as the standard of folk music and ultimately trigger an American culture revolution.
This exhibit will be on display in the Woody Guthrie Center® beginning April 27 and features Steinbeck-inspired art from the following artists:
- Lew Aytes, Sculptor
- Susan Brown, Photographer
- Leigh Wallace, Ink wash and Pen Drawings
- Mike Brown, Wood Sculptor (Woody Tree)