On a recent visit to the Lake George area I came across an article in the local newspaper, The Chronicle, that struck me as worthy of national news. In late November, the Agricultural Stewardship Association, in partnership with Washington County, NY, sought and received funding from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Castanea Foundation to buy development rights to the 171-acre Moses Farm in Eagle Bridge, New York (See April 2008 photo below from the Cambridge Buzz blog). The current owner, Rich Moses, donated the remaining value of the property. It’s interesting that protection for this land came through agencies dedicated to the preservation of farmland rather than through an agency devoted to historic preservation.
Why? Because this tract of land was once owned by Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses, the most famous American folk artist of all time. These hills and woodlands inspired her art and she in turn brought upstate New York’s beauty to the world.
We did a Grandma Moses exhibition in 2006 at the Fenimore Art Museum and it was enormously successful. Throughout the run of the show I enjoyed sharing stories of this legendary personality. Here are two of my favorite quotes from her:
"A primitive artist is an amateur whose work sells."
Of painting, she said, "I don't advise anyone to take it up as a business proposition, unless they really have talent, and are crippled so as to deprive them of physical labor."
There was also the story of Grandma Moses not attending the opening of her first one-person exhibition in New York City, for the reason that she had already seen all the paintings anyway.
My favorite moment of the exhibition season was a visit from Moses’ grandson Carl and his wife Shirley, picturing with me at the top of this post. As I took them through the exhibition, Carl recounted his own stories of his grandmother. One in particular made me chuckle. As a young boy, it was often his duty to bring Grandma’s finished paintings to the train station to ship them to New York. Grandma would hand him the money for the shipping fees and tell him to bring back the change. When he did, she would carefully count it before letting him go. The world-famous artist never stopped being a frugal farm wife.
You can learn more about Grandma Moses on the Galerie St. Etienne website. And now, thanks to the efforts of Carl’s son Rich Moses, you will always be able to see the land she loved just as she saw and painted it seventy years ago.