MEET THE MAKERS OF NEW YORK MAKERS
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Artist Will Moses’ talent for painting runs in the family in very literal terms: his lineage is directly connected through four generations to Grandma Moses, who perhaps is America’s most celebrated "primitive" folk artist.
Born in New York’s Washington County in 1860, Grandma Moses (originally Anna Mary Robertson) was a self-taught artist. Growing up on her family’s farm, her childhood was a living tableau of the scenes she would paint in later life: raising chickens and other animals, making housewares like candles and soap, knitting and creating other handicrafts. Her interest in drawing developed into a studied practice with exposure to Currier & Ives prints. At age 17 she married, later had five children, and continued her casual hobby of art-making (expressed in various ways, including painting Christmas cards to send to friends and family), until she turned 70.
To distract her from mourning the death of her husband, one of Grandma Moses’ sisters recommended that she take up painting in a more serious way in order to pass the time. Entries in local fairs garnered no prizes, but her luck changed when an art collector from New York City happened upon her paintings as they hung in a Hoosick Falls, N.Y. drug store, priced from $3 to $5. In 1939, she was featured in an exhibition of “contemporary unknown painters” at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and was the star of a one-man show in New York City the next year, later followed by similar shows in Europe. On the occasion of her 100th and 101st birthdays, the latter of which would be her last, the art-loving Governor Nelson Rockefeller declared “Grandma Moses Day” in New York State.
Grandma Moses’ great-grandson, Will, has kept the family tradition alive in the same 200-year-old New York farmhouse where Grandma Moses lived and painted. Will learned to paint from his grandfather, Forrest K. Moses, who was a farmer and an accomplished painter in his own right, and who “had more or less taken up where Grandma Moses left off,” according to Will. The family painted in the winter months and worked the farm in the summer.
Upon the passing of his Grandfather Moses, Will determined to continue the artistic heritage, and to do so in Washington County. “I think [my wife Sharon and I] had an interest and desire to stay here and try to make a life for ourselves,” he said. Will states a refrain uttered by many New York Makers: “The path has been winding and not always easy but our decision to stay here and try to keep some of the traditions alive and maintain the old family farm and land was the right one for us.”
While maintaining tradition, Will has added his own voice with more nuance and sharper imagery to the aesthetic established by Grandma Moses. The hard work has paid off. Will has toured the world with exhibitions of his work, and his paintings can be found in the art collections of the White House, the Smithsonian Institution, the New York State Museum, the Bob Hope collection, the Herrick collection, the Bennington Museum and the J.M. Smucker Collection.