Day by Day
Artist’s life spurs thoughts of appreciation
January 16, 2017
By Liz Thompson
As we start a new year, it would serve us well to appreciate what we have.
My son-in-law once jokingly asked if his wife — my daughter — ever did anything wrong. We were recalling funny memories of her youth. I told him, “Sure, but we just choose to remember the good things.”
Memories can haunt us, if we let them, or they can be a catalyst to do something different.
One of my grandmothers had a farm, and I made some of my best memories there. I remember standing on the floor register in winter to warm myself and staring at a painting of a winter farm scene. I loved the colors and simplicity. One of my cousins and I think it was called “Sugaring Off.” (See art below.)
Recently, I read in my daily devotion about this artist’s hardships and I remembered the painting.
Born in 1860, Anna Mary Robertson led a hard life. She grew up as one of 10 children on her parents’ farm in New York. She left home at age 12 to work as a hired girl for a nearby farm until she was 27, marrying a hired hand, Thomas Moses. They ran a farm and raised five children. The couple lost five other children as infants.
Years later, arthritis made it difficult for her to hold a needle to embroider, but she could hold a paintbrush. She began painting to overcome the grief of losing her husband in 1927. She was completely self-taught and, therefore, called an American primitive artist.
By now, you might have guessed that she later became known as Grandma Moses, famous for her nostalgic paintings depicting rural American life.
According to The New York Times, she said, “I’ll get an inspiration and start painting, then I’ll forget everything, everything except how things used to be and how to paint it so people will know how we used to live.”
When I think about her life and how her art was so pleasing to look at, I realize that even during difficult times, we can find a way to celebrate life. There are many ways to look for the good in our memories.
In the mid-1940s, Grandma Moses’ images were reproduced on greeting cards, which introduced her work to many. Even today, with a click of your computer mouse, you can find her artwork in many formats.
When I think of the way of life more than 100 years ago, then look at the relative ease in which I live in today, I count my blessings many times over. We no longer have to grow our own food to eat. My husband and I have a garden, but nothing like days gone by.
When I read about people such as Grandma Moses and think about the few left in what is dubbed the Greatest Generation, I’m reminded of their tenacity. Grandma Moses, like so many people I know and have known, chose to emphasize the good things in life.
When we look for the happiness of simple times with loved ones — a good harvest, a healthy child, freedom and a loving family that sticks together through the difficult times — each day is worthwhile.
In years past, hard work was an expected way of life to provide for families. Calloused hands were a sign of honor, and still should be.
Today, many of us have it so easy we tend to forget the labors that bring food to our stores — the hours spent tilling the earth (albeit with sophisticated machinery most of the time), planting the seed and harvesting the crops.
“I look back on my life like a good day’s work, it was done and I feel satisfied with it,” Grandma Moses said. “I was happy and contented. I knew nothing better and made the best out of what life offered. And life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”
Her obituary said she was survived by one daughter-in-law and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She died at age 101 and apparently outlived all her children, painting memories till her last days. She painted more than 1,500 pieces in her life — 25 of those in her 100th year of life.
We can pick up our figurative paintbrush to share our valuable memories and, in our unique way, be content and persevere.