HALLOWEEN with Grandma Moses
As the world once again celebrates my Halloween birthday, this year I decided to spend it with an unlikely personage: the painter Grandma Moses. The fact that she died 59 years ago is not a problem, as this is the time when the veil between the living and the dead is gossamer thin.
For my trip to see the venerable old lady who became the most notable recorder of American visual culture, I travelled to Bennington, Vermont. There one can find the Bennington Museum of Art, a treasure trove of art featuring, among other things, the famous nineteenth century pottery made in the town: unusually fascinating pieces, not just boring old jugs.
The museum’s main attraction, however, is one the largest collection of paintings by Grandma Moses. Around 45 of the finest ones are on permanent display, together with a video interview she did in 1955. It was also in 1955 that she painted Halloween.
This was not only only time Grandma Moses (1860-1961) depicted the great day. She did a variant in 1958 that did not have owls presiding over the mayhem from a tree on the left, as this one in Bennington does. But both feature a striking charcoal grey sky with a golden white Moon casting an appropriately chilling glow over the scene.
The Moon is a key here. It is shown as a Full Moon. Only three 3 times in the last 65 years has Halloween been graced with a Full Moon: 1955, 2001 and 2020. Yes, this will be a very special Halloween! But for art historical interests, her painting of 1955 was quite accurate in depicting the Full Moon.
Like the 1958 painting (which sold at auction in 2018 for $80,000), we also see fun: two figures bobbing for apples. In 1955 these kids are the lower left, but in 1958 at lower right.
The painting is inhabited by the dead as well. Ghosts and goblins can be see frolicking, while an ominous orange light shines from the buildings. Does this light come from pumpkins indoors with candles inside or is there something scarier going on?
For those who can’t acquire an original by Grandma Moses, there is an alternative. Her great grandson Will is also an artist, with a studio in New York near the Vermont border. Carrying on her love of Halloween, Will also creates paintings that capture the fun and terror of All Hallow’s Eve.
If you don’t have a broom for a quick trip to Bennington, a virtual exhibit has been created that showcases the works of Grandma Moses. It is a creative project with the Shelburne Museum, which runs through Dec. 31, and can be seen here:
To purchase art such as the one depicted here directly from Will Moses, visit his site:
For more on Will Moses and Halloween art, visit this website:
Image: The hills seem to come alive and everything may not be what it seems when the spirit of the Halloween hallabaloo is upon us. By Will Moses.