Award-winning author Donna Baier Stein discusses the role of visual art in literature and her use of lithographs by famed painter Thomas Hart Benton in the creation of her latest book, Scenes from the Heartland. Benton was one of the most popular modern artists and arguably the best Regionalist painter of the 20th century. He was the first American artist to appear on the cover of Time magazine and his art illustrated the cover of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. He gained artistic fame portraying the people and culture of the American Midwest, particularly in his home state of Missouri. Through his art, he made bold statements about politics, society, and culture and he broadened both the scope of what was considered artistic subject matter and who might appreciate it. His portrayal of ordinary Americans — steelworkers, dance hall girls, preachers, farmers, and more — provided rich inspiration for Baier Stein’s stories. Her new collection, consisting of nine tales inspired by the lithographs of Benton, bring to vivid life the early decades of the 20th century. While his lithographs depict the past, the real-life people he portrayed face issues that are front and center today: corruption, women’s rights, racial inequality.
In addition to Scenes from the Heartland, Donna is the author of The Silver Baron’s Wife, Sympathetic People, Sometimes You Sense the Difference, and Letting Rain Have Its Say and her writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. [donnabaierstein.com]
4 Bd | 2Full, 1 Half Ba