30 August 2013

Sherman Maxon

I just finished reading Grand Wood: A Life by R. Tripp Evans (Knopf, 2010). It is well-written and I really enjoyed the telling of Wood's story by a gay art historian. It is written in a popular style, that is, footnotes are relegated to the back and mostly give citations for quotations and other facts.

Wood was certainly interested in young men, both in social action and as art subjects. As is probably typical for his day (1891-1942), it is not clear how much he acted on his homosexuality. After his mother's death and not so long before his own, he married Sara Sherman Maxon. She was a powerful woman and the marriage lasted only a few years and was not happy. Her son, Sherman Maxon, and his wife, Dorothy, came to live with the Woods in Iowa City where they had moved from Cedar Rapids and renovated a fine brick house on East Court Street.

Sherman and Dorothy modeled in 1936 for illustrations from Main Street by Upton Sinclair. "In The Radical, Wood's illustration for the character Miles Bjornstrom, Sherman appears not as Lewis's ragged, disaffected intellectual, but as a caricature of rugged masculinity. Wearing a heavy sheepskin-lined coat and hunting cap, he stands in a toolshed and brandishes a rather phallic-looking wooden baton. With his broad shoulders, muscular neck, and exaggerated mustache -- a feature neither Lewis's character nor Sherman shared -- this über-masculine figure is more Tom of Finland than the bookish Scandinavian of Lewis's novel." (Tripp, p. 223; illustration from ebay)

Sherman and Dorothy continued to live with Grant Wood after Sara left him and moved to New York City. I am not especially pleased that Sherman was a scrounger.