This Above All

Ma-Barlow-on-Minister-Hillweb

Thing1 is on record as detesting visits to art musuem.  Most of them don’t involve Skyping about the latest fart joke, so, to  a thirteen-year-old they are of little interest.  That’s why we decided to spend one of the Saturdays he was away at summer camp trolling the Bennington Museum with Thing2.

Thing2 is showing the first signs of intellectual independence, but, so far, he’s still happy to be dragged through an art exhibit, copying pictures and writing blog posts in his journal as he goes.  Sunday’s journey through the Grandma Moses wing of the museum was no different.  Once a resident of neighboring Hoosick Falls, Grandma Moses’s depictions of rural life at the turn of the last century captivated Thing2.  Some of the landmarks were familiar as were some of the rituals of haying and sugaring off, and, for him they were as relevant as if they had been photographs of last weekends hay wagons.

The relevance of the paintings were captivating for me as well but for other reasons in addition to their color and life.  Even though we’re both self-taught/directed in our art education and each of our styles could be considered primitive, I don’t identify with Grandma Moses.

She was a tireless worker (i.e., good at the work of housework while learning to see), and my house looks like it’s auditioning for a season of hoarders).  We’re both artists, but (as we learned from a bio-pic play and the introductory blurb at the musuem) she never seemed to worry if she was good enough to be painting.  She just painted Washington County, NY as she saw and felt it.

It’s a style that’s often imitated, often with great skill, and until Saturday, I had thought of trying to copy that style to legitimize my own amateur technique.  It was only as we studied the colors and brush strokes of the Sugaring Off painting that I realized that what makes her style impossible to imitate is that no artist can true to Grandma’s vision.  They can only be true to their own, even if they have to stumble through most of their journey.

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