Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Grandma Moses" by Herself (1948)

I must confess to having been entirely ignorant on the subject of Grandma Moses until I found this old treasure in the “stacks” at the Mooresville Town Library. I had heard the name , but for some reason I have always associated it with being a slave narrative, of which I have read several. So, I just never got around to it until last week.

Imagine my surprise to find out that Grandma Moses was an elderly white woman who began to paint landscapes at the age of 80! Born in New York State in 1860, she recalls the Civil War, and her family’s move to Virginia after the war had ended. Her father worked at several different trades, including farming, and the author recalls all the hardships, and rewards, of that bygone era.

Candid in every respect, the manuscript was actually pieced together from several different interviews and magazine articles written by the author over the course of several decades. There is nothing written here which was not proof read by Grandma Moses, and her family, before its release.

What you get is an unpretentious look at a woman who worked hard for many years, raising 5 of the 10 children born to her. The other 5 died. The book serves as a window into a time when you didn’t name your kid right away; you first waited to see if it lived. With her nimble mind, and capable husband, the two forged out a living in Chicago, Upstate New York and even Virginia, which was her first love. Most of her paintings are evocations of life in her beloved Shenandoah Valley.

A very quick read, with full color illustrations of some her best known paintings, this book will introduce you to a unique American woman. That she was unafraid to completely change the course of her life at such a late age, and have such great impact upon the art scene; so far removed from the life she had lived; should serve as an inspiration to us all that it is possible to live your dream. You have only to discover what that dream is…

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