When I was in Chicago last month, I was looking at Grant Wood's American Gothic and I realized (as I often do, standing before iconic paintings) that what we think we know about a painting isn't really true. In this instance, what I "think" is of a painting with two very dour old people, when in fact, what I was looking at was kind of a frank and very contemporary assessment of what today could almost be a hipster couple. "If she'd open her mouth and speak," I thought, "if she came to life, she'd be really very pretty, even today." If she'd let her hair down a little.

Which reminded me of what I've long thought about the Mona Lisa: that if the woman who sat for the portrait walked in to the room today, dressed in contemporary styles, we wouldn't even recognize her. "Of course I have eyebrows, that's the major thing," she'd say.

So I had to try it, and see for myself. I'm mostly amazed by how Lisa looked suddenly twenty years younger as soon as the eyebrows went on. She reminds me a little of Anne Frank. Ms. Gothic, above, is perhaps related to Jenna Elfman?


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