I recently went to an art exhibit in Winston-Salem, NC featuring the work of the artist Grandma Moses. Her art work is best described as American Folk Art with primitive and colorful paintings of rural scenes. When I look at her work it brings me a warm and content feeling, despite its simplicity. Maybe that’s because I have a simple mind.
Grandma Moses was born in 1860 in upstate New York and as some of you may know she lived on a farm here in the Shenandoah Valley in Verona for several years. She lived during the time of the Civil War and 2 World Wars. You’re probably wondering how she did that! She lived to the age of 101. She probably saw one of the first automobiles as well as the first airplanes since they were invented during her lifetime.
You can tell by her paintings that she loved the countryside and did a lot of needlework. Many of the brushstrokes in her artworks resemble stitches that someone sewing would make. She did paintings with the titles of fairy tales like "Mary and Little Lamb" and "Little Boy Blue." She also did paintings that included a favorite seasonal theme like Christmas or Thanksgiving. Her landscapes probably show us much of what she saw from her farms in rural upstate New York and the Valley here. Through her paintings you can almost see the story she would tell you if she were still here.
One time, Grandma Moses was away from home when an art collector came to her home wanting to see her paintings. Remember she was already a Grandma and not famous yet. A female relative told Grandma that she told the gentleman that he could come back the next day and see Grandma’s paintings! She also told him that Grandma had 10 paintings he could look at. Well, not wanting the man to think he had been lied to, that night Grandma cut one of her paintings in half and framed both halves. This gave her the 10 paintings that he had been told she had rather than the 9 she actually had! After he saw Grandma’s paintings she then went on to become the famous painter that we know today.
Grandma did not start painting until she was 67 years old. She did not have her first exhibition in a drugstore until 1938 at the age 78.A small graphic of a piece of her art work is on the top of the page of the sermon outline.
She went on to produce more than 1,000 nostalgic, naively executed scenes of turn-of-the-century rural life. By 1939 her pictures were being exhibited internationally, and from 1946 they were regularly reproduced on holiday greeting cards. Self-taught, a widow and mother of ten (only five of whom survived infancy), Grandma Moses became an American celebrity who was known for her prolific output and kindly, country persona.
Despite her celebrity status, foremost she saw herself as a mother and grandmother. As well she is a great example of a determined person who discovered her God given talent in her senior years. She had that can-do attitude. She began to produce embroidery pictures after her husband died in 1927. When arthritis impaired her embroidering in her senior years, that’s when she turned to painting. She was quoted as saying, “Life is what you make it; always has been; always will be.” What a spirit—no wonder she lived to be 101.