Painting a Picture of Her Life, Grandma Moses Takes to the Stage in Bennington [Berkshire on Stage]
Theater Review and Discussion by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray
Larry Murray: Grandma Moses can be considered the ultimate poster child for Yankee ingenuity and thrift. “If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens,” she remarked, and it was only when her arthritis got so bad that she could no longer embroider that she took up painting. She was 75. She had given birth to 10 children, was a farmer’s wife until she was widowed, and made a little money churning butter, selling home-made potato chips and home-canned fruits both in Virginia at the start of her marriage, and in nearby Eagle Bridge, NY, where she became a well-known bit of living Americana.
Gail M. Burns: Born in Greenwich, NY, in 1860, “Grandma” had a memory of the day Lincoln died. At the start of her marriage in 1887 she saw Virginia farmland that still couldn’t be tilled because of the bodies of the Civil War dead lying buried just below the topsoil. Her works were exhibited at MoMA and at Gimbels. She met several presidents, and one of her paintings is on permanent display at the White House. She was friends with Norman Rockwell and is featured in one of his works. Edward R, Murrow interviewed her on television and after she died in 1961, the character of Granny on “The Beverly Hillbillies” was named Daisy Moses in her honor. What a century she lived through!
Larry: The play by Stephen L. Pouliot begins at the beginning, the younger days of Anna Mary Robertson Moses, before she became the famous Grandma Moses we celebrate today. She never aimed to become a great artist, nor to create 3800 paintings, some even done on Masonite. Lots of poor artists resort to Masonite since it is cheaper than canvas. But she went even further. Early on she used house paint and crude brushes, sticks and common pins to fill in the details. “The pins are great for adding little eyes,” she points out. She had no professional training, and when encountering a problem would solve it the Yankee way, with thrift and resourcefulness.