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P. Buckley Moss
P. Buckley Moss
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Moss as a girl. Moss’s mother sent her to the Washington Irving High School
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Early Moss project. School projects included illustrating a children’s book.
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Early inspiration. Moss’s portrait of her late mother shows the contemporary style not as familiar to her admirers.
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P. Buckley Moss Museum.
WAYNESBORO, VA., AUGUST 18, 2006
P. Buckley MossThis is P. Buckley Moss – Pat – from the Shenandoah Valley, Waynesboro.
Never mind that she grew up in New York. The Shenandoah Valley claims Pat Moss, and Pat Moss claims the Shenandoah Valley.She moved there between her fifth and sixth child, and her paintings, now known around the world, reflect the simple, quiet living of the mountain Mennonites and Amish.
It wasn’t until she was an adult that Moss realized she was dyslexic, and perhaps if she had known as a student her life would have been different. As it was, her mother, also an artist, sent her to art school, where Moss was able to develop her talent.
Today, a museum houses her work in Waynesboro, Va., and docents tell her life story to visitors who walk past the piano her mother used to come and play.
Seventy-three years old, Moss still has the energy of a woman half her age, working to reach children through arts education in concert with the 15,000-member P. Buckley Moss Society and its charitable branch, the P.Buckley Moss Foundation.
She’s been the subject of documentaries, recognized by the White House and her work is collected across the globe.
I was just noticing a painting over the door in here which I didn’t think was yours – it’s so different from what I normally see, but you say that it’s very similar in some ways.
It’s similar in some ways, yes. You really should take a tour of our museum with one of our docents because they will explain to you where things come from, I think, they’re pretty good at that.
If you look at this, it’s a cat, and and he has a red blanket sort of top and a white bottom, yellowy-white bottom – it looks sort of, very contemporary. Actually, the basis for all my work is contemporary, and you can bring it into a realistic view, or you can leave it in the very contemporary.
And I guess most people are more familiar with your more realistic view.
I think more people live with that, with the realistic view – it doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate the lines in the other things, so, it’s fun to bring things back and forth, and when I draw, I’ll do something very realistic, and then I’ll do something that’s moderately realistic, of the same subject, and then I’ll do something very contemporary of the same subject. For instance, a crucifixion, or a Madonna, I will bring those back and forth, and I love it, so to me it’s all part of my thinking and my work.
How do people respond, then, to pieces that maybe they aren’t expecting from you?
Well, the same way you did – “Wow, that’s not yours, is it?” [laughs] But then if you really look at them, and if you live with them in a room, for instance, those flowers over there, the red flowers – if you look at those long enough, and then you see other things, you’ll see them, or a similar thing of that subject, in a painting – perhaps a painting of a little girl sitting in a chair, but the flowers next to her will be that sort of thing, and it won’t bother you at all, and you’ll get used to it, and you’ll understand it more and more as you look at my things.
So there’s a similar vocabulary between them?
I think so. I think you could say that, yes.
Do you remember the first time you ever picked up a pencil or a paintbrush to create something?
Probably the first day of school, because I didn’t really like school. I liked – I loved going to school, and being with everybody, but I could not read, and I did not do well in school at all. I failed my way through the whole eight years of grammar school.
And that was before your mother placed you in another school.
Well, yeah, it was. When I was ready to go to a high school, we decided that I should go to an art school, and the art school was in New York City and I lived in Staten Island. So I commuted to New York every day of my high school life, and it was wonderful. It was great seeing things and observing people, because that’s what I did – I didn’t read on the ferry boat and I didn’t read on the train or the subway – I observed people, and so in my mind, I’m drawing all the time.
That’s wonderful. Well, what were your first subjects, when you were in grammar school?
I think my first subjects probably were trees, because I couldn’t read, and we had these big, tall windows in our school, and I would look out and there would be the trees. So I would draw the trees, and I would draw the window, and maybe the flower pot that was on the window, but more than likely the trees.
And would you – you say you drew in your mind all the time – did you physically draw while you were on those commutes in high school?
I think you’re thinking of that all the time. I think you’re thinking of design, I think you’re thinking of the way a person sits, or the way a building stands, or the way a boat moves or the way … you know, things are arranged in the ocean, boatwise. You might see a ferry boat and you might see a sailboat and you might see a great big cruiser, you might see a freighter – but I think that your mind is working all the time on those things. I know that we were driving yesterday and my daughter said, “My God, you’re always planning and thinking, aren’t you?” I said, “Yeah. That’s my… my life, planning and thinking.” So, I think you do. I think that if you were a musician you’d have music in your brain and your heart all the time and you would be thinking of arrangements of music and arrangements of tones and things, or instruments. I think that if you’re a writer you’re thinking of words all the time, and what best word to use to explain or describe.
I’m sure that artists, like musicians and like writers, are inspired by different elements – color, light – it sounds like your first inspiration comes almost from form. Am I hitting on something there?
I think probably my inspiration does come from form, whether it’s a mountain or a building or whatever… I think – I love black and white, and I think that I love black and white photographs – I think they are absolutely gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. So you can get a good black and white photograph – color is easy, by comparison. And I think that if you’re going to go into color, then you’re going to have to think, you have to think of that kind of music, and those words. But I think black and white probably is… and design – that’s probably where I come from.
Are you drawn to sculpture or architecture?
Oh, yeah. My house in Florida’s full of sculpture. [laughs] And it’s very architectural. It’s very – I think if you look at my house on the Chesapeake Bay, you’ll say, “oh, my goodness, it’s a Chesapeake Bay house, with the wicker and the, you know, very comfortable, big windows that are looking out at the water and the birds. And then if you look at my house in Florida, you’ll say, “oh my goodness, it’s very contemporary.” You know, you’ll think, it’s very, very… simple. very plain, minimal, space, and I think that the placement is all for art, for sculpture and paintings. My paintings, other people’s sculptures.
They sound like, a little bit facets of your own personality and your own subjects – I mean, you say that you, that your style is contemporary as well as more realistic, your subjects are contemporary and traditional, old…
I think so. I think when you open the door to my house… I love to open the door, walk out, and then walk back in again… it’s just so pretty. And you’ll see a Madonna sculpture, and it’s a marble Madonna holding a child, and the child is lifting its hands to the mama, and the mama’s face, and it’s very – it’s very beautiful. And I did not do it of course. A very beautiful thing. Um, if you look straight ahead you’ll see a very contemporary bouquet of flowers, and it stands about six feet tall, so that is a knockout – it’s just… it’s a big, bold statement and I love it.
Now have you tried sculpting?
Yes, I have. It takes too much time. And I’m not that patient a person. So.
I love – you mean what media did I use in the sculpture?
I used wood and clay, and… just wood and clay. Yeah. Sculpted with wood tools and clay tools and I just found that it was too time-consuming. It’s like quilting – I love quilts, but I’m not going to sit and make a quilt. I did a lot of squares, but I’m not going to put them together.
Tell me about your workspaces. Do you need a clean space, or are they busy?
My spaces I would not even show you. Because [laughs]… anyone that comes to the house is not allowed to go upstairs in the Chesapeake Bay because I have things everywhere, everywhere. The cleaning lady throws her hands up in horror. She does my bedroom and the other guestrooms and the downstairs, but never the studio.
What is thrown about?
All kinds of work. And yet, my cleaning lady in Florida knows just where to put everything. She’s been with me, oh, almost 20 years, and she’s just – she knows where everything belongs, and I know where I’m going to find everything – I don’t even have to call Jan to say, “hey, Jan, where is this?” It’s because I know where I’ll find it. I want to steal her and take her to the Chesapeake Bay and have her organize all that, too.
She won’t let you?
No, she’ll stay in Florida.
You lived in Waynesboro for how long?
I lived in um… my, my youngest child, Christopher, was born in Waynesboro, and he is – I think he’s about – I don’t know how old he is. Forty? Maybe? Maybe he’s 40. I was going to say he’s 30, but I think he’s 40.
But now, you don’t still have a home in Waynesboro, do you?
Yes, I do – I have the barn home, and I have the cottage next door, and friends come and stay there, and the children come and stay there. The barn I only let certain people stay there because it’s too much there. I don’t even want the children in there when I’m not around [laughing] because there’s so much for a child to get into. My son’s children came last Christmas and oh my… that’s the last time they’re gonna be let loose in there when I’m not around! So…
Oh, things were broken, things were hidden, things were – everything was everywhere. They were into ever-y-thing.
These are your grandchildren?
These are my grandchildren. I left for Florida and I had no idea he’d let them loose in there [still laughing]!
There are three. Three little girls.
The two little ones are… mmm… that middle one is just like I was. I was into everything when I was a child. There was nothing that was sacred.
What were some of your mother’s worst horror stories?
I think um… they used to really have horror stories. My mother used to sit me at the top of the stairs with my suitcase packed and said, “you’re going to the home. You’re not my child. And when your father comes, you’re going to the home.” And my father would come home and find me sitting on the suitcase and waiting for him to come, and I don’t even remember what I did, because I thought everything was fine. I would go off and not come back until after dark, and I would be in the woods, I’d be ice skating in the woods, just take my skates and go and skate in the swamps. You know, there’s just – I’d go swimming miles away on my bike, miles and miles and miles. And you wouldn’t let a child do that now, because it would be too dangerous.
Well, how did that impact your own mothering?
Hm… how did it impact my mothering. I think I warned the children about what could happen, but I think I was pretty lenient with them. I think I was a very lenient mother. I trusted them [laughing] when I shouldn’t have, but I trusted them! They were doing all the things that all the other kids were doing, and I thought, “not my kids.” [laughing] But as they got older they told me that they were the ones doing all those things – throwing the chairs in the pool at the country club, and, you know – swimming at night, and all that sort of thing – “not my children.” But children are children.
And you have six of them.
Yes, I have six of them. And they’re great. Six children – and I love the people that they married, and I love the way they bring up – they all bring up their children differently. Some of them are very strict, and some of them are, are – nah, they’re all strict. Because I guess I wasn’t strict. So they were, they were all pretty strict. But they are all terrific with their children. They’re all different, and I don’t know that any one of them approves of the other ones’ bringing up of the children, but I think it’s all wonderful. They’re great kids, great parents.
Do any of them paint?
My daughter Becky teaches art in Italy. She lives there and she works for the University of Georgia in Athens. But she doesn’t work in Athens, um, in the United States; she works at their program over in Cortona, in Italy, and she teaches there, and she also has my big etching press over there and does all the editions of my etching prints. I talked to her this morning about them, and what she’s working on, and I just finished signing an edition of a little child with a lamb.
You’ve lived in New York City, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Florida, Chesapeake Bay area – all very different landscapes – and I wondered two things. What do you love about each one and where do you feel the most at home?
I feel at home everywhere. I love the Shenandoah Valley. I love the valley. I love the mountains – I’m a mountain person – I like the mountains. But I love my Chesapeake Bay house, I love sitting, having my coffee, looking out at the water and the boats and – I don’t… I have a dock. I have a couple of docks because I have a couple of houses, and my daughter is going to live in one – she’s buying one of the houses, The Point, and they have a dock. We both have neighbors that don’t have docks, so they park their boats at our house. So we have boats floating out there in the water, and they look so beautiful. And they’re well-cared-for boats, and they’re nice people. Chesapeake Bay has some awfully nice people.
What about Florida and New York?
Florida I adore, because it’s quiet and private – my house is like a fortress and nobody knows it’s a house even. So nobody knocks on the door and besides, I disconnected the bell, so even if they do knock on the door I won’t hear them because I’m way upstairs. So it’s just very peaceful – I see people if I want to and I don’t have to see people if I don’t want to – I can just work at my own pace, you know. I usually get up early in the morning, um… this morning I slept in, but I was awake yesterday at 1:00 because I had so much work to do. So I worked until 7:30 when we left the Chesapeake Bay and went up into the mountains to visit my son John, who is a chef at a restaurant in Luray, and we had lunch with him and then we came down to Waynesboro. But usually I’m up at about three or four in the morning at the latest, and I work, and usually I walk about 7:30, and then I come back and work, and take a bath, and take a nap and you, know, go on. My day is my own, you know, and I work.
You’re always going, it sounds like. Do you get tired?
Oh, of course I get tired [laughs]. And if I get tired, I just go to sleep! But when I come back from a show – I was out in Iowa, northern Iowa, last week – not Iowa. Ohio. I go to Iowa next week. But I’m going out every single weekend now, except the weekend in September, the holiday weekend. I’ll be staying home then. But I will be going every weekend until, um, the second weekend in December, now. Every weekend, and it’ll be – it’s fun. You have a lot of friends and you have – you always wish you were home working, but it’s great to meet the people who are collecting your work, and it’s great to be with the dealers. Our dealers are coming in this weekend, and they’re just a great bunch of friends, so… to be with them is easy and lovely and it’s – it, it encourages you to, it encourages you – you talk about what they are doing well with, and what they like, and they’re very grateful that you’re showing with them, and it’s very, very nice.
New York – if you had never left New York, how do you think your work would be different?
Well, I would not have lived in the Shenandoah Valley, so I would not have had the Shenandoah Valley. I would not have become familiar with the Amish and the Mennonites, so they would not appear in my work. Something else would have been influencing there, I’m sure. I was always influenced by religion, so – and I have a home in Italy, so, in Cortona in Italy, so it’s very, very – they’re very involved in religion and very involved in you know, pageantry and that sort of thing is wonderful, it’s really great thing – the whole town participates in everything including football. When they win at football, the whole town is in an uproar. My children called me at 11:30 at night from the center of town and it was total uproar because the Italians – I guess it was a soccer match, not football. Right? It was soccer?
Right, same – yeah, I guess they call it football.
Yeah. But the whole town. The town, the cars were honking, and the people were screaming. But then comes Christmas and they have wonderful pageantry there, and they have – their religious holidays are beautiful. They have music that’s beautiful. The exhibits that we go to when I go to Italy – my daughter will say, “oh, there’s a good exhibit over here,” we’ll go over, and you know – one exhibit was absolutely marvelous. They had borrowed wooden carvings from churches and you know, where our statues are plaster, theirs are carved and they’re beautiful, beautiful, beautiful things, beautiful hands, beautiful feet, just very aesthetic. Very, very – oo – very, very beautiful. Beautiful. If it was a book, you would say the most beautiful words, and if it was music, you would say, “oh! what music!” But you would say, “what beautiful carving. What a beautiful mind and ability these people had, to do this.”
Is Catholicism your background, then?
Catholicism is my background, however, although it will always be my religion, all religions are your religion – are my religion. I mean, the thing that you can’t believe is that all of this fighting and hatred goes on in the name of religion. That is, that is the thing that you cannot believe, how people destroy what could be so good.
Such as what’s going on now in the Middle East?
Mhm. What’s going on in the Middle East. What’s going on in Jerusalem and Palestine, all over the world, you know. We’re all brothers and sisters and we all, we all need to embrace one another, not kill one another and not hate one another, not say, “I’m going to get you and destroy you all” – why? You know. I don’t think the Lord had that in mind.
Coming from your background – your emphasis on family, and I know that’s very important to you and your work. You had six children – were there ever conflicts? You were also very independent – you had to have been – to have gotten where you are. You are a professional artist. Were there ever – was it ever hard to reconcile family and career – were there obstacles to that?
I don’t think so. I don’t think there were ever any obstacles to the family and the career. I don’t think – the children really didn’t know that I had a career, so to speak. It was something I loved and something I did – I don’t think they knew that until they went to college. I remember Mary took some paintings with her for her room, and someone walked in and said, “oo – you collect P. Buckley Moss” and she said, “that’s my mother,” you know. And she said, “oh, my Lord, your mother,” you know, so she never thought – the kids never thought about that, because they took it for granted that that was what I liked to do and I worked. And so it would be the same if you wrote, again, and if you sang – the children all sang, and they all played the piano and other instruments, and so our life was listening to them, and going to their concerts and you know, supporting them in that. And so it was very good. Their father also sang and so they heard him singing – you know, it’s just – it was part of life. It wasn’t just that Mom is the artist, wow – everybody was an artist, and everybody did their thing, and that’s – you respect everyone for what they can do.
Would you have ever been surprised to learn that one day people would be collecting your work, that there would be organizations set up surrounding what you do as an artist?
I think that – I think that – I think that my religion has more to do with it than I even know it has to do with it. And I think that you work together towards things, so the organization that is set up in my name is not just me, it is a whole group of people. I just came from a chapter training where chapters from all over the country came in and we talked about what we’re doing and what we’re working on, and while we were there we did a big charity dinner and it was absolutely wonderful, the support and what is in people to work with children who have been oxygen-deprived, and they can’t move their bodies but their beautiful minds are there, and to want to help them and what they’re doing to help them, and what the future could hold for them. It’s very, very exciting to see people with those energies that you don’t have, but they are very special energies and very special caring, and skills that are just so wonderful, so it’s very wonderful to be part of that support group for those people. If you can’t be a doctor, if you can’t be a therapist – you can’t be all of these things that you so much admire – you can support them in what they do. And I think that if we spend our energies more doing those things and less on hate and worrying about someone else’s religion, and someone else’s income, and someone else’s talent, and whatever someone else has, worry about what you have, and work with what you have, and help people in that way.
Can you tell me about maybe one or two particularly inspiring stories that you’ve come across in your work in those realms?
Oh, my, oh, heavens…
There are so many, ‘cause you’ve been all over the country. Heavens, there are so many things. There are children in northern Virginia who go to a very rough school – not a rough school, but they come from rough neighborhoods where their brothers and sisters have been killed, and parents have been killed or are on drugs or whatever, and those… I went into that early in the morning after flying in from California the night before, and I went to talk to that, and it was a whole big audience, and I thought, oh wow, I’m tired. But… ah, when we got through, the principal said, “I can’t believe that she kept these kids in order, because usually we’re pulling them out and putting them in prison, you know, and doing that sort of thing,” and it was a wonderful thing, ‘cause these kids know that you’re sincere about what you’re doing, and what you’re talking about, and you’re talking about your children’s experiences, and what is ahead in life, and how you really have to believe in yourself and work hard at what you really believe in, and you can be successful doing that. You don’t have to go the bad road. And I think the more you hear that message, the better off you are, you know, and I think the better off we all are, and the better off kids are. Kids who get in trouble or who have learning differences and don’t know how – and they’ve always heard that they’re bad kids, um, but aren’t bad kids, they’re pretty bright – they’ll find a way, because they are bright, to get even with you. And they’ll get even with you by being the Hitlers and things in the world, so you really want to help them in the right direction – you really want to help them go the right path.
And so often, I mean, in terms of arts programs – first of all, that’s usually the first thing they cut in schools – and I’ve noticed in schools if a child is causing problems one of the first things they’ll do is say, “no extracurriculars for you,” which seems to me –
Sinful. It’s absolutely sinful to punish children for not being straight-A students or not being in the progressive class, or not being best, or being the bad kids. I neglected to say that my daughter Jenny helped start the art program here in town in the grammar school ‘cause they didn’t have one. And she said there are so many kids that they say are bad kids, and when you put your arm around that kid and read with them, and they’re absolutely wonderful – they’re just great kids – but they don’t have the support group at home. And it’s not because the parents don’t love them, it’s because the parents probably don’t have the money, and they have to work and work and work, and they’re exhausted when they come home, and maybe they don’t have the skills. But, you know, if you give these kids the art program – and it’s been proven, it’s been proven by… our federal government will tell you that they have done studies that prove that children who are introduced to the arts – all children, even the straight-A kids – will do so much better in their life and in school because they have the arts in their life. So the arts help a child relax and perform and they don’t have to exactly this or exactly that or exactly like everybody else, but they can do it their way, and you can say, “oh, how great this is. Look at this – it’s wonderful.” I remember when Jenny did her first art show for all those kids, they were so proud of the work that they did, it was just really great. It’s really important that children succeed in something, and be accepted in something, and have people supporting them in these things. So the art program is very important. Not everyone can play baseball, not everyone can play, but they can sing, and they can… I went to a performance here last year over at the grammar school, and the performance was absolutely wonderful. It was “Annie,” and it was just so adorable. They – the director just gave those kids all the confidence in the world and they were out there enjoying themselves. These are grammar school kids – they go only go up to what, the fifth grade, or sixth grade, or something? Really fantastic, it was absolutely fantastic. I didn’t even recognize some of the children who are children of people I know, you know – they were friends of my daughter’s, but children I know.
When you talk to artists in other disciplines – musicians, writers, dancers, actors – do you hear commonalities in the way you think, in the way you create? Where do you see the connections?
The connection that you see with other artists, other musicians, other writers, is the energy. An energy. You have to have an energy. You can have the ability to write, but unless you have the energy to write, you’re not gonna write. Um, I know people who could write if they just – but they’ve put their mind to maybe feeling sorry for themselves, maybe going out and just having a good time all the time… um, or what they think is a good time all the time – you don’t know the good time that you can have when you are succeeding and developing music or writing or painting. When you’re developing a painting, it is the biggest thrill in your life. Once I said, well, I better not say that – I better not say that – no.
Oh – are you sure?
[both laughing] Once I said that etching was better than sex, and um, then I saw my husband walking out of the auditorium, and I thought, “oh, he took that literally. Pish.” You know.
He actually walked out?
He actually walked out. With somebody else. [laughs]
What – oh, dear!
No, I’m kidding [laughing].
Ok, that’s good!
It did happen.
That was your first husband?
No, that was the second.
Now, how many times have you been married?
Well, two. Period. And I’m almost divorced.
Oh, I didn’t realize. I’m sorry, I think…
No, don’t be sorry. Everything happens – everything is an experience in your life. Everything is – your life develops and you must appreciate every experience, really. You really, really have to. And you don’t know what’s going to happen to you in your life. You can always say – you can always think – I was this, this little Catholic girl who always thought that I was going to get married and I was going to live in that little house and I was going to have those children and I was going to have that fence and my garden was going to be wonderful, and everything was going to be perfect and that’s the way I would be ‘til the end of the world – it’s not the way it is. So, you have to accept that, that’s all.
What gets in the way, if you don’t mind my asking?
Um – I think, I think that perhaps our values get in our way. If you have a work ethic, or if you have ethics period, I think those things will get in your way. And it might not look that way – people might say, “well, you have ethics and you are divorced?” Keep thinking about it, you know. Just keep thinking about it. It’s – you do the best you can with what you’ve got.
[interrupted by entrance of museum manager, Pat’s son-in-law]
You’ve had to be a very savvy businesswoman, I would expect, to, um – not all – painting is not known to be a field that it’s easy to succeed in, financially.
My children say that I’m very savvy businesswoman, but I think it’s logic. I think everything is logic and everything is, again, honesty and practicality. If you present yourself in an honest way, and you have an honest business and you say that “I want everything in my business to be up and up, on the level, I want my things to be affordable, I don’t want to outprice the people who collect my work, I want…” You have to know what you want. And I think that if that’s the way it is, I know what I want.
And that is?
Yeah, that is… I want, I want things to be that way.
Accessible. Yeah, yeah.
What is your response to people who say, “you’re a commercial artist,” or “you’re compromising your work by being this way”?
Usually they’re not successful. And usually people who will criticize are wasting their energy. They should take that energy that they criticize with and build their own business and find out what is going wrong in theirs, or what is going right in theirs, and enjoy what is going right in theirs, and develop it. That’s – developing what you do is the name of the game, and I just love what I do, so I don’t really – I know people are going to criticize me because that’s the way life is. People criticize everybody for everything. So, you know, if you’ve got the time to criticize, God help you. I don’t have the time, so. My life is busy every minute, and when I’m not busy, I’m busy, so – and I like it that way.
And on that, in terms of focus, and in terms of being able to compartmentalize, I guess, how are you – what do you do to keep your painting, to keep focused on that when you do have all these other things going on?
Um, I listen to books on tape and they totally relax me.
While you’re painting.
While I am painting, I love to listen to books on tape, because I don’t have the reading skills that other people have – I can’t get through a book in a week, or a couple of days – it takes me months to get through a book. And I don’t mind taking the months, but I don’t have time – I’m flying a lot, so I’m reading on the plane, and that’s great. I read until my eyes won’t see any more. But I work, and when I’m not working, I’m down with the dogs, I’ll take the dogs out for a walk, I’ll cook, I’ll go out in the garden for a few minutes, you know. I’m not – I just feel like every minute of every day is precious, and the minutes that we don’t – that we waste are wasted minutes. When you have an idea and you’re a writer, you have to write those words down. If you don’t, you’ll have other words, but you won’t have that grouping of words. If you are going to write a song, if you don’t put the music down and the words, you’ll have different music – you won’t have that music. And if you are an artist, a painter, or if you draw, you’ve got to put it down on paper, and then you’ll have it, and then you’re so pleased that you have it. I have books of drawings, books and books of drawings, because I draw constantly, and I love what happens when I draw constantly. I am so familiar with what I’m doing, and I’m so in control of what I’m doing, I love it. It’s just – it’s very exciting. It’s a thrill.
Are you of the mind that you can be creative in any way, even if you’re not a painter or a musician or a dancer? Are there ways to be creative just in everyday life?
Oh, there are ways to be creative everywhere. I mean, an artist isn’t a god, or a musician isn’t a god – nobody’s God. You watch someone cook – I used to watch my mother cook, and now I watch my daughter’s partner cook, and she’s – she’s an artist with her cooking. She’s just great. Um, I – I just love, I love it when people love what they do. If you love what you do, you’re getting the thrill of being an artist, and that is an artist, I guess. You know, I suppose it is. There are people like Jo downstairs who decorates our sales place – she’s an artist. Bonnie is an artist – Bonnie hangs the main floor and she arranges the talks for the floor, and she talks about the different pieces. She’s an artist. And she came out to chapter training and people loved listening to her, because she speaks to you and I, and she will tell you in simple language – and I like the simplest language. I like people to understand what they’re hearing, and so she’s an artist at what she does. We all have our abilities, and if you make a quilt, if you cook, if you arrange a house, if you put yourself together – you know, there are people who put themselves together in very artistic ways. And people who can really look like slobs, but they can really cut a lawn! [laughs]…
Well, at the opposite end, what do you think is the future of fine art? Everything’s become so multimedia these days.
Well, I’m not the kind of people that want the machine to do it for me. I do want to work with an etching press, if that’s it, but I don’t want a computer to do my work. I think it’s great for advertising, but um… I still want people to put themselves into it more than having the computer put it in. And you can go to a computer and change your paintings and you can have a print done, but the technician can change your painting – I don’t want him to change my paintings. I don’t want anyone to touch my paintings – I don’t want anyone to paint on my paintings, I don’t want them to put drawings on my paintings. There’s an artist who advertises that he has people highlighting his paintings – I wouldn’t want anyone to highlight my paintings. Don’t touch them – this is my statement! You know, if you want to make a statement, make it! And that’s you, and you’re sharing yourself with someone, but if I’m sharing myself with you I want you to know who I am.
Do you ever create something and then put it out there and feel, ah – I mean, I’ve felt this way with writing sometimes, you feel like, wow, I’m not sure I meant to be that intimate with everybody who’s looking at this.
Oh sure. I’ve got a big mouth, and I’ll tell you everything and … because that’s the way I feel, and I will just tell you everything. Because I think that again, that is part of your upbringing – always tell the truth. So, I mean I don’t have the sense not to.
Does that come through in your painting as well, though?
I think so. I think it comes through in your painting that you have this always-tell-the-truth sort of thing, get to where you really want to be. And if you have things out there that you really – I thought you were going to say, not be finished. You can always bring them back and finish them. But it always pays to start some new things rather than bring them back and finish them. Leave them where they are and start something new, you know. And then you have two statements. Sometimes you have three. I’m doing something for Graphics in Roanoke, and it’s the Catholic church up on the hill there…
St. Andrew’s, yeah. And so I started one in the shape that she wanted, and then I thought, oh, what fun, you know, to do it as a very long thin piece, so I’m having them shrink-wrap the pieces now and I’m going to show them to her when she comes and I’ll say, “which one do you want me to develop?” you know. And I will ask her which one… and I just did five of the churches in Salem, and I’ll have those for one of my dealers to see. He’s down in Salem, Va. and he’ll be here for the meeting and I will show him that and then we’ll print it and I’ll have it for his showpiece. But it’s fun.
Do you ever plan on retiring?
No – I think I will die before I retire. What’s the sense… you know, when you retire, when I retire, or when you retire from painting and you have no more ideas, you’re dead. So you might as well die. And that’s what will happen. I’m sure that’s what will happen.
Of many artists I’ve met, you seem to have just no shortage of ideas – they’re always there, I guess.
You have no shortage of ideas. I think as you get older you have more of a shortage with energy, because you perhaps need more rest, you need – be sure you keep exercising, you need to keep your body in good shape so that you have that energy.
Anything else you’d like to say?
No. [laughing] I think I’ve said quite enough!
I think I’ve asked you everything I meant to, so thank you very much.
Oh, thank you. It was good. Good fun.
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