Least Likely to Succeed: P. Buckley Moss

Andréa Fernandes

Readers Melanie & Johnny requested a post on American artist Patricia Buckley Moss (born 1933), who is famous for her paintings of the Amish and Mennonite communities. So today I present some _flossy facts about P. Buckley Moss, "the people's artist."

1. When she was a child, Patricia Buckley was not expected to accomplish much. Due to her dyslexia (which was only diagnosed in adulthood), Buckley was deemed "not proficient in anything" until her artistic abilities were discovered. Later, at Washington Irving High School for the Fine Arts, she was voted "Least Likely to Succeed" by her peers.

2. Today, Moss (who married in the 1950s) is highly successful, selling prints for nearly $1,000 each. She has received numerous awards, including American Mother Artist of the Year in 1976 and one of eight Virginia Women in History in 2008. The P. Buckley Moss Museum, devoted to her work, has been open since 1989 and welcomes approximately 45,000 visitors each year.

3. Moss is outspoken about her own opinions of art. She has said of Pablo Picasso, "I wouldn't hang his work. He wasn't a nice person. He was a bastard, but I admire what he accomplished," and of Michelangelo's work, "I love David's rear end in Florence. He has the best buns." Of her own work, which is often lumped into the "folk art" category, Moss has said, "It's not folk art. It is a realistic form of stylized impressions. It starts with an abstract concept, and I make it more understandable."

4. Many of Moss' paintings feature geese (see "The Lords of the Realm," right), though the geese are usually depicted without feet. The geese are footless partly because they're often depicted in snow or water scenes, when their feet wouldn't be seen anyway, but Moss has another reason for as well. Apparently, the devil was often depicted with webbed feet during the Renaissance, and Moss "didn't want that on her divine creatures," as geese are to her "symbols of divine providence, loyalty, and matrimony."

A larger version of "John and Mary" (left) is available here; a larger version of "The Lords of the Realm" (right) is available here. Fans should check out P. Buckley Moss' web site; these excerpts from "Symbolism and Iconography in the Art of P. Buckley Moss;" and WVPT's documentary "P. Buckley Moss: The Lady Behind the Brush." Current Exhibitions featuring "Feel Art Again" artists:Modern Masters, feat. Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, and Pablo Picasso (Savannah, GA: through September 22, 2008)Pat's Quilts, feat. P. Buckley Moss (Waynesboro, VA: through September 30, 2008)Sol LeWitt (Mountainville, NY: through November 15, 2008)José Clemente Orozco: The Graphic Work (Boca Raton, FL: September 17 through December 7, 2008)Sol LeWitt: Drawing Series... (Beacon, NY: through September 2009) Special thanks to ARTINFO for the exhibition details. "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at feelartagain@gmail.com with artist suggestions or details of current exhibitions. Or join the debate on the definition of art.