Two members of an artistic area family – photographer Jay Stock and his daughter, artist and teacher Georgette Stock, of Martins Ferry – have engaged in a creative collaboration with self-taught artist Tom Moses, great-grandson of celebrated American primitive artist Grandma Moses.
This past summer, the Stocks had the opportunity to meet Tom Moses and visit his home-studio in upstate New York. While Jay Stock took photographs of Moses in his working space, Georgette Stock joined the artist to work on one of his paintings. She described Moses as “a very interesting character.”
The Stocks’ adventure began with a trip to Vermont to view the Bennington Museum’s collection of artwork by Anna Mary Robertson Moses (1860-1961), who became known as Grandma Moses and was recognized as one of America’s most noted folk artists. The Bennington Museum holds the country’s largest public collection of her paintings. Grandma Moses didn’t begin painting until she was 75 and, over the next quarter-century, produced more than 1,500 works of art before her death at age 101 in 1961.
The Martins Ferry father-and-daughter team learned that Grandma Moses’ great-grandson, Tom, also was a self-taught artist, living and working in Eagle Bridge, N.Y., a farming community where the Moses family has resided for nearly a century. Tom, who was born in 1942 (when his great-grandmother was 82), paints in the same “very primitive” style as his famous forebear, Jay Stock said.
“The work that he does is in the same primitive style as his great-grandmother. It’s quite fascinating,” the photographer remarked.
Earlier in his working life, Tom Moses was a barn builder, framer and stonemason. He told the Stocks, “I have never had any formal training of any kind in art. My grandfather got me and my brothers to try painting, when we would go to his house to visit or stay overnight when my parents would go away, and so it blossomed from there. My grandfather was Forest King Moses, son of Grandma Moses.”
From both an educator’s and an artist’s perspective, Georgette Stock said she was struck by Tom Moses’ passion for art. “His training, very much like his great-grandmother’s, was next to none,” but he possesses “that passion to create, that innate desire that human beings have that they want to express themselves. He certainly has that innate gift and ability,” she commented. Also like his great-grandmother, Moses paints in “a very innocent style,” the art teacher noted.
Regarding the opportunity to work with Tom Moses in his studio, Georgette Stock – who earned a degree in fine arts from Wheeling Jesuit University and has taught art for many years – said, “His approach to art and my approach are obviously very different. He has not had formal academic training. It was a very different experience. It was interesting to see how art can be created from different mindsets.”
She and the New York artist collaborated on one of his paintings at her father’s suggestion.
Of that first-time experience, she said, “It’s kind of an oddity. Most people would have not been receptive to having someone else paint on their work.
“My approach to creating art and teaching art are dramatically different (from Moses’ approach to painting),” she said. “I tried to be very respectful of his approach to art. Out of respect, I knew this is how he paints … I was respective and cognizant of the style and his approach to the work.
“I think Dad thought it would be an interesting opportunity,” she said.
“He (Moses) was very receptive from the beginning. He had several paintings started. He had the background in place. He readied my supplies. He commented on how I hold my brush, which is the way you hold it if you’re trained.”
Observing Moses’ technique and approach, she said, “He is certainly creating his art in the way he knows how.”
Georgette Stock, who taught studio art and art history at the former Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy in Wheeling for many years, has introduced her students to such an approach to art, where the artist has no formal academic training, but develops “the sheer desire and commitment to creating art on a daily basis. There is a drive. I’ve had students who’ve recognized that.”
For a budding artist, “technique comes with practice; technique comes with time,” she said, adding, “Tom (Moses) has had wonderful training from his own family. There is not any less merit. There is that mere fact that there is that love, that passion, to want to create, but also to be able to create in a very tangible way.”
Tom Moses, she commented, exemplifies a belief she instills in students that “artists aren’t just in studios in major cities. Art is found everywhere if you really take the opportunity to open your eyes and look for it.”
Georgette Stock, who now teaches an art history survey course and a three-dimensional design class at Bethany College, two studio classes at the Lyceum Academy in Wheeling and private and semi-private lessons in her own studio, learned more about Grandma Moses during the Northeast visit.
“I also had an opportunity to be able to see her homestead where she lived and worked, as well as the museum where her paintings are displayed. She’s being recognized regionally as well as nationally and internationally,” the art teacher said.
Grandma Moses, whose work was called American primitive in the art world, began painting after abandoning embroidery when arthritis crippled her fingers; she completed her first painting at age 76.
Two years later, New York art collector Louis J. Caldor bought some of her paintings from a drugstore display.
The next year, 1939, she was represented in an exhibition of “contemporary unknown painters” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Her first solo show took place at a New York gallery in 1940.
“Art is a very much part of who these individuals are, and they believe they need to be taken seriously,” Georgette Stock said of the Moses family artists.
Referring to the family’s passion for art, she remarked, “In this day and age, I don’t think enough people have a passion, a drive.”