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Holiday Gift and Event Guide The Altamont Enterprise, November 20, 2008
Moses lives the quintessential small-town American life he captures in his art
By Jo E. Prout
Artist Will Moses will spend Christmas Eve working a shift on the local rescue squad.
“There’s something kind of unique about going to people’s homes in a time of need for them,” he said.
His books and artwork are a part of many people’s homes, all year long. They capture the essence of small-town America, much like the work of his famous great-grandmother, Anna Mary Robertson, known far and wide as Grandma Moses.
His art, like hers, is usually described as primitive art or folk art. He defined the term as “any art form that is from the ‘unschooled’ school.”
“That’s where I come from,” said Moses.
He’ll be using the “Grandma Moses connection,” he said, as a springboard for discussion when he speaks at the Guilderland Public Library on Dec. 12. The author and illustrator of eight children’s books, Moses will be featured at a Carol J. Hamblin Notable Author Speakers event, which is part of the library’s “Explore New York’s Roots & Rhythms” series. His paintings are displayed in the White House, the Smithsonian, and the New York State Museum.
Folk art has been passed from one generation to the next in his family. Will Moses attributes the encouragement of his art to his grandfather, Forrest K. Moses, who was also a folk artist.
“I grew up doing this. I fell into it that way. It’s something I’ve always done,” Moses said.
“I like to have a free-wheeling discussion,” he said about the author’s talk. “I do better with questions and answers than with a talk.”
His book Will Moses Raining Cats and Dogs will be for sale, with proceeds benefiting the library foundation.
The paintings shown in Raining Cats and Dogs are a good example of the way his art has evolved over time, Moses said.
“The art in there is not what you’d think of as Will Moses art,” he said. “It’s almost more of a New Yorker magazine style,” he said, noting that others have described the cover art that way. He is not sure that the description fits, he said. “It’s hard to put a label on it, at least, it is for me,” he said.
Moses lives on his family’s 200-year-old farmstead in the tiny Rensselaer County hamlet of Eagle Bridge with his wife, Sharon. They have three children. Two of them are volunteer firefighters, following in their father’s footsteps as an emergency volunteer.
Moses is an emergency medical technician with expertise in critical care; he serves with the Cambridge Valley Rescue Squad, where he is an assistant captain.
“That takes a large portion of my week. Fortunately, it fits in with what I do,” he said.
“I don’t see myself moving any place,” he said. “This is home for us for the foreseeable future. I like my space and having land around me and woods to go to. [We have] a few cows, and a few pigs, and a few chickens and a cat and dog.”
Moses said that his appreciation for the countryside and the people who live there affect the way he approaches his art.
“It more or less chose me,” he said.
Moses’s paintings can be purchased as originals or prints, and on greeting cards or jigsaw puzzles.
“The books do sell very well. [They are] a nice addition to what I do,” he said. His children’s books “are where my artwork does work best colorful, with a lot of little details.”
Glimpses of small-town life can be seen in many of his illustrations. In his book Will Moses Mother Goose, for instance, the painting of the small village hosting some of the nursery rhymes features a tiny Battenkill Bookstore. The Battenkill River runs near Eagle Bridge.
His Mt. Nebo Gallery is named after the nickname Grandma Moses used for their farmhouse. The home is on a hill, and she called it Mt. Nebo because Moses was on Mt. Nebo when he saw the Promised Land, said Sharon Moses. The gallery, in Eagle Bridge, is geared more toward Moses’s artwork than the books, he said.
“I do sell the original paintings,” he said. “There is original artwork for sale for under $1,000 to over $20,000.”
Moses said that he is always amazed when people want to discuss the production of his books or paintings, which, he said, moves at a glacial pace. He likened the process to watching cement dry.
“I get a kick out of it when [people] want to hear the Moses stories,” he said. “That’s the way I grew up.”
Noting that Grandma Moses was his great-grandmother, he said, “She seemed like anybody else’s grandmother to me. People seem to enjoy hearing about it. I’m happy to go out and talk about it.”
Moses will spend Christmas Day with his family.
“I kind of like a more low-key Christmas,” he said.
The Mt. Nebo Gallery has a perpetual open house from Thanksgiving to Christmas, with coffee, cookies, and a Christmas tree for those browsing to enjoy. His staff works very hard during the holiday season, but, he said, “My job is done.”
Will Moses will speak at the Guilderland Public Library on Friday, Dec. 12, at 7:30 p.m. The talk is free to the public, with a limit of four free tickets per person. Tickets are available at the library’s information desk. A private dessert reception with Will Moses, with ticket proceeds benefiting the Guilderland Library Foundation, will begin prior to the talk at 6:45 p.m. Tickets for the reception are $25 per person. Call 456-2400, ext. 12 to order tickets.