about Pat and Art
following articles about the life and art of P. Buckely Moss have been
extracted from recent issues of "The Moss Museum Messenger,"
an offical publication of the P. Buckley Moss Museum. The Museum exhibits
and interprets primary examples from the extensive body of water colors,
oil paintings, drawings and prints created by the living American artist,
P. Buckley Moss (b. 1933). To read an article, please click on the title
"Rediscover Art" is the Moss Museum's motto. This reflects
the Museum's overall goal to present original art in a friendly forum
capable of bringing the public's attention back to a true sense of aesthetic
joy. The art of P. Buckley Moss is especially suited to this purpose.
Peter Rippe, the author of these articles, was the Director of the P.
Buckley Moss Museum since it opened in 1989 until 1999. A fellow of
the Henry Francis du Pont Winterhtur Museum in Delaware, he has been
director of museums in Richmond and Roanoke, Virginia and in Houston,
Texas. He is a past president of both Texas' and Virginia's museum association
and has served on the governing council of the American Association
Blue Madonna | The
Iconography of the Goose in the Art of P. Buckley Moss | Moss
Plain People in the Art of P. Buckley Moss | The
Art of Pat Moss from her Collectors' Point-of-View
Cats (Drolleries) by Moss | Accentuating the
Positive: Patricia Buckley Moss, Quintessential Optimist
in the Music of Art: The Still Life Paintings of P. Buckley Moss
| The Question of Remarques
Moss: Her Personal Point-of-View | A Balance
of Artistic Creation and Printing Technology
ca 1960, oil
The Virgin Mary, often referred to as the "Madonna" (Italian,
my lady), is one of the most common subjects in Christian art. Depicted
both with and without the Christ Child, St. Mary appears on the walls
of ancient Roman catacombs, as an enthroned queen or protectress in
Medieval art, as a sweet/suffering mother or a stunning carefree beauty
in Renaissance art, and as a variety of feminine types during all other
periods even to our own day. Religious and non-religious, the attributes
of the Madonna as shown in Western art are as broad and as mixed as
the name "woman" and all of its implications can possibly
P. Buckley Moss in her Blue Madonna captures
many aspects of this usually saintly and always feminine archetype.
Theologically speaking, Moss' Madonna can be best understood as a pictorial
image of the ancient dogmatic concept of the Divine Mother. It is related
to the many paintings of the Virgin which can be loosely termed as "devotional"
rather than Biblical, historical, or social. Consequently, the Blue
Madonna is neither a teaching piece nor a portrait piece, but rather
a traditional "icon" through which the viewer is asked to
transcend his/her physical existence into a new emotionally and spiritually
centered world. This can be a somewhat difficult concept for many people
who were brought up with the artistic expectations of Renaissance reality,
anatomical correctness, and even self-centered abstraction. Moss' world
of mystical insights, if one stops to consider, can often be a rather
The Blue Madonna exists primarily because
the artist wanted to share her own reaction to the woman who is known,
theologically, as "The God Bearer." To begin with, this is
no real woman of flesh, blood, passion, and desire. In contrast to many
other artistic renditions of this basic Christian theme, Moss does not
intend her Madonna to remind its viewers of some regal queen, or an
old love, or even of one's long suffering mother. The falling shoulders
and the extremely long neck, as well as the gentle tilt of the head,
are meant to discourage such associations. This is a new creation that
the viewer's eyes are allowed to enter wherein they are expertly directed
by the artist's use of lines of composition, contrasting colors, and
obvious textural effects finally to the brilliant deep green eyes of
the piece itself. It is in the very depths of these unusual eyes, that
the viewer's gaze comes to rest, caught in the loving reflection of
a holy woman's maternal, ageless, and unconditional concern for all
To illustrate the power of the Blue Madonna,
quite recently, a little girl about two years old came into the Museum's
exhibition with her family and began the gallery tour. The guide, as
usual, told the family about Pat Moss' early years and about her) training
as an artist. As the guide talked, the little girl moved ahead to the
Blue Madonna where she stood on her somewhat wobbly little legs
just below the painting and stared innocently upwards into the Madonna's
eyes. Finally, the tour moved on past the painting and into the section
that shows how Pat Moss developed her distinctive Valley style. Still,
despite her mother's admonitions, the little girl kept going back to
the Madonna painting where she would stand transfixed ... or pointing
and saying "donna, donna," remembering at least the best part
of the "pretty lady's" name as learned from the guide. This
little girl had caught the spirit of the Blue Madonna and was basking,
so to speak, in this icon's inner radiance. The same thing can happen
to an adult who is drawn emotionally and intellectually into the spiritual
reality of this powerful work and finds there a new wonder of discovery.
The Blue Madonna by P. Buckley Moss is one of the pieces most
favored by the public in the entire Moss Museum collection.
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Iconography of the Goose in the Art of P. Buckley Moss
Seeing the image of a goose, whether drawn by P. Buckley Moss or somebody
else, can be the beginning of a complex series of thoughts. Contemporary
scholars have named this process "the stream of consciousness."
Of course, as much depends upon the maturity of the viewer as on the
artist who has produced the image. A small child, for example, will
see a two legged, long-necked, bird where a scholar of Medieval art
might see a divine presence. Interpretations will vary, but behind them
all will be those elements of meaning which are common to cultures,
religions, as well as intellectual levels of understanding.
For the inquisitive viewer, a goose image in
a popular work by P. Buckley Moss provides an opportunity to explore
the entire history of cultural, religious, and psychological imagery.
From its prehistoric beginnings, art has been experienced and practiced
primarily as a means of communicating important ideas. Accordingly,
in most western art the meaning, or the story, behind what is actually
portrayed is often more important both to the artist and to the viewer
than the reality of the portrayal. A goose in art is only a goose at
its most basic level of existence. Beyond its feathers and its distinctive
shape, this bird in the hands of an accomplished artist such as Pat
Moss becomes an opening for an entire range of nuances, interpretations,
and symbolic references; a beginning for what is rightly called "the
Before continuing this dissertation on Moss geese
and their possible meanings, a related question must be addressed: does
the artist actually intend her viewers to see beyond the reality of
her images and, secondly, is she aware of what she is doing? Interestingly,
this is the kind of question which doesn't usually concern serious art
historians since many of them tend to see artists as mirrors rather
than creators of culture. Accordingly, they generally have concluded
that when a great artist paints or draws the results are so far beyond
the limitations of one human life that even the suggestion of total
artistic planning and, for that matter, understanding is ludicrous.
The making of art is not an exact science and an artist like Pat Moss
must be free to wander, so to speak, into the world of her subconscious
where the creative process is unfettered by everyday concerns. Likewise,
viewers of her art should also feel free to wander their own subconscious
where memory, hope, despair, frustration, happiness, joy, etc., exist
as common human denominators. Probably this is why her art is so popular
and why she strikes so many common chords in so many different collectors.
Pat's geese, like many other symbols which she uses (including the Plain
People, children, horses, trees, etc.) are like doors provided by the
artist through which viewers can pass into new worlds of understanding
and insight, perhaps even beyond the conscious understanding and the
intended insights of the artist.
Returning to the imagery of the Moss goose, let
us explore some of the "feelings" engendered by this animal.
Imagine settling one's head into the elegant softness of a goose down
pillow. Or, remember again the feeling of warmth and security which
came with being swallowed up in a goose feather bed. Annual catalogs
remind us that goose down comforters and down filled winter coats are
still the standard against which the various "imitation" fillers
are measured. In these illustrations, the goose becomes synonymous with
softness, comfort, warmth, security ... all downright sensual images
which are possible and legitimate meanings for this important Moss image.
But like any good pictorial image (icon), the
goose's iconography is usually much more than just sensual. Other possible
meanings could be related to the sounds that geese make which are impressed
on the human memory. For example, the contented and rhythmic low honks
of a family of feeding geese are soft, regular, friendly, and reassuring.
Then think of the noises made by an alarmed goose, especially one protecting
a family of its goslings. Its honks and hisses have the potential of
rising to the heights of avian warfare. Finally, think of the distantly
haunting sounds, usually only faintly heard, of a flock of wild geese
on the wing following their leader in a pattern across the evening sky.
These sounds have produced banks of visual images which are common to
most of us, sources of inspiration from which Pat Moss has drawn many
Though sounds do influence how we think about
certain subjects in the visual arts (especially geese), usually shapes
and colors area greater concern. Pat Moss loves to draw geese! She finds
them artistically interesting combinations of swerving curves, contrasting
masses, elongated shapes, and restful colors of brown to gold and gray
to silver. Using their lines and outlines she is able to express a whole
vocabulary of moods, from rigid dignity through humorist contradictions
to streamlined grace. For Pat, the "expressions" of well-drawn
geese are the dignity, the determination, the sincerity, and even the
contented happiness of many of her most important works.
However, beyond the presence of its remarkably expressive shape, the
goose has inherited an age-old accumulation of literary, cultural, and
religious identities. Many artists have been influenced by the goose
image found in traditional stories and songs beginning with "Mother
Goose" of nursery rhyme fame, through the fabled "goose that
laid the golden egg," to the "silly goose," simpleton,
image of old folk tales. But these are not Moss geese, either because
they're too child oriented or too derogatory. Over and over again, Pat
either has focused on universal cultural images for her geese or on
their religious significance. To her way of thinking, the goose is too
noble an animal to be the brunt of a joke or the subject of a fable.
Usually, Pat's geese are very serious with meanings that transcend the
mundane and the commonplace. In this way a Moss goose is like its cousin,
the swan, whose awkward and ugly you this forgotten in its splendid
It is, finally, as a religious or ethical icon
that the goose is most important to the art of P. Buckley Moss. The
legend of the Capitoline geese who saved Rome from invasion of the Gauls
is well-known and accounts for its role in art as a symbol of vigilance.
Later, in Christian iconography geese became artistic and theological
symbols for providence (Divine), and loyalty (usually matrimonial).
Western Europeans considered the goose, or more correctly flocks of
wild geese, as messengers and gifts from God who in their migratory
flights foretold seasons and predicted the weather. At the same time,
they provided a source of rich and some say greasy meat to what was
otherwise a limited diet, as well as feathers and down for warmth and
comfort. Finally, vigilance and providence were joined by loyalty when
people noticed that geese mated for life and that both sexes of the
specie assisted in nest building, the incubation of eggs, and in the
feeding and raising of young birds. With her geese, Moss draws on the
accumulation of over two thousand years of symbolic evolution.
An interesting theological sidelight on the goose
is the ever popular story of its feet. Considering the almost divine
reputation of the Medieval goose, it's not surprising that some theologians
began to worry about its "goodness." It is then that its feet,
along with numerous other birds' feet, became symbols in themselves
of a sort of curse or sin. What with scales, webs, claws, and the fact
that feet obviously mixed with the dirt of the earth, geese feet were
seen as evidence of a character flaw which was immediately associated
with the devil, who, as everyone knew, had similar appendages. Possibly
this is where Pat Moss inherited her prejudice to geese feet and why,
either consciously or subconsciously, except in rare instances, she
never shows their feet, cursed or otherwise!
Despite this "flaw," the goose has
been unofficially "canonized" by the church as the official
symbol in art of St. Martin of Tours. Here the anti-feet theologians
have allowed the goose the honor of "speaking with the authority
of God" since it was by its prophetic honks that the people of
Tours were led to the place where their modest saint was hiding. These
people, it seems, had selected Martin as their bishop and the noisy
goose made it impossible for him to refuse their honor. St. Martin became
a great crusading bishop who extended Christian orthodoxy across most
of Western Europe by suppressing heretical sects. As the hero of the
day, the goose of St. Martin was often used on the banners, and later
on the coats-of-arms, of enthusiastic Christian knights who remembered
that Martin himself had once been a knight and that it took a lowly
goose to bring him to his destiny.
Like St. Martin's goose of old, the footless
geese of P. Buckley Moss tell their own story. This is what is called
"iconology" through which we can come to a fuller understanding
of Moss' art and, possibly, of ourselves.
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Pat Moss is in every way a serious artist. This said, one can go on
to state that she also has a keen wit and a definite sense of humor
which are often expressed in her art.
This is not to imply that every painting or print
by P. Buckley Moss necessarily has a funny side. There are many times
when her work is deadly serious; when, for example, it's treating deeply
religious or philosophical subjects. Notwithstanding, even in many of
these works Pat will have added some small detail which will bring what
could easily become an overly pompous concept back to the reality of
everyday life. For instance, the otherwise atmospheric and semi-religious
mood of pieces like Tintern Abbey and Wisconsin is "humanized"
by the subtle introduction by the artist of a single milk cow, just
to the side of the main subject, as a reminder that even the holy and
the grandiose is ultimately subject to the common commodities of life.
Moss' artistic humor is quiet and delightful,
not loud and boisterous. She finds pleasure in depicting the Plain People
engaged in recreational pastimes, or children at play, or professional
people enjoying themselves accomplishing their own special vocation.
These are not the sort of pictures that are going to bring on gales
of laughter; but they are just the thing to make a person smile and
perhaps begin to remember a time when a similar event or activity brought
the kind of joy that Moss' talent has recreated
Accordingly, it's exactly Moss' quiet humor that recently appeared once
again in a small watercolor entitled Family Portrait which has
been reproduced as an offset print (York Graphics, 1991). Regular readers
of the Moss Messenger realize that geese are extremely important symbols
in the works of P. Buckley Moss (see "The Iconography of the Goose
in the Art of P. Buckley Moss). Even so, geese are not exempt from Moss'
humor. Family Portrait, is, in fact, a goose's eye view of six
other geese; necks extended and beaks pointed all in the same direction.
It's as if the viewer of the piece of art has invaded the mind of a
goose who is, in turn, trying to figure out what his/her brother/sister
geese are so intently observing. Funny?... not ha ha; but certainly
humorous and far from the ostentatious world of what some people wrongly
think of as "the fine arts". One must only remember that,
primarily, art is meant to communicate all sorts of ideas and emotions,
and Pat Moss, fortunately, just likes to communicate smiles.
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Plain People in the Art of P. Buckley Moss
Who are the Plain People? Where did they originate and where do they
live today? Why do they live as they do? What is the place of the Plain
People in the art of P. Buckley Moss?
The "who, where, why, and what" of
the Plain People are questions often heard at the Moss Museum. Almost
everybody who knows the work of Pat Moss knows that the Amish and Mennonite
peoples, the "Plain People" as they are commonly called, are
among her favorite subjects. Her stylized versions of these people appear
in many of Moss' most popular paintings and prints where their elongated
bodies dressed in distinctively simple clothing practically have become
her trademark. And while many people can identify the Plain People as
"those old-fashioned, religious folk with their quaint looks and
buggies, who live without electricity and plumbing..," very few
people who don't actually live among them have a clear idea as to their
real identity and history.
Quite recently a nice lady who had just attended
her first Moss Convention told me that she had purchased a clock from
the "Amish" at a place in Kentucky. She continued to talk
about the place with its simple architecture, its handmade furniture,
and its curiously dressed inhabitants. Suddenly I became aware that
she was not talking about a living Amish community, but about an historical
Shaker museum restoration called Pleasant Hill. After all, she must
have thought, Pat Moss' Plain People with their strange dress and their
seemingly foreign beliefs must be one and the same with the now almost
extinct Shakers. She had simply confused one communal group with another,
the aesthetic English/American Shakers with the Germanic and Swiss Anabaptists;
the Amish, and the Mennonites.
Unfortunately, this seemingly harmless mistake
robbed its misinformed enthusiast from ever hearing and knowing the
completely different messages which these two unlike religious groups
have held out to the world. Shakerism, based on celibacy, a female redeemer,
and a lifestyle that stressed eternal virtues which were reflected in
divinely ordained styles and designs is considerably removed from the
Anabaptist philosophy of strict Christian morality, ethical community
behavior, extreme group loyalties, adult baptism, and a distinctive
lifestyle marked by an obvious separation from the world.
In her art, Pat Moss uses highly personalized
representations of the Amish and the Mennonites primarily for their
archetypal value. These images are not meant to be accurate depictions
either of a people, a lifestyle, or a style of dress. Moss is interested
in the Plain people because of what they represent. For her, the Amish
and the Mennonites are living saints, similar to her Catholic saints
of old, whose lives had the power to inspire and to regenerate others.
They became for her symbols with a strong iconographic meaning. They
were a very special people whose lifestyle and appearance had evolved
over centuries due, at least in part, to their survival despite almost
universal persecution, their faith in God, their belief in a unique
Christian community, and their insistence on a distinctively different
style of dress and life.
Historically, both the Amish and the Mennonites
are part of a religious tradition that goes back to what is called the
"Radical Reformation" of the mid-16th century. Originally
called Anabaptists by their enemies, because they chose to re-baptize
previously baptized Christians, these people sought to recapture the
life of the earliest Christian communities. They especially emulated
their religious ancestors' disassociation from the State and, most emphatically,
from the State's religion. While this action placed them at odds with
their Roman Catholic and Lutheran neighbors, they also alienated other
Reformation Protestants by encouraging what were called "works"
of mercy and charity, by baptizing only "consenting" and "understanding"
adults, and by preaching theological tolerance and religious freedom.
Martin Luther accused the Anabaptists of "works justification"
(working for their salvation rather than believing in it) and baptismal
sacrilege, while Zwingli and later Calvin found their ideas of religious
tolerance and freedom to be odious. Sooner or later just about everybody,
except possibly the Reformed Church in Holland (which didn't welcome
them, but was willing to try forced conversions) persecuted the Anabaptists,
killed their leaders, drove them out of their homes (usually into areas
controlled by the Reformed churches), and seized their properties. If
the blood of martyrs ever fed a religious movement, Anabaptism was such
In the late seventeenth century groups of Anabaptists,
by then called Mennonites after an early leader named Menno Simons,
were invited to settle in the American English colony of Pennsylvania
by its tolerant Quaker Proprietor, William Penn. These first Mennonites
from Holland came as farmers into areas where their descendants remain
to this day. Meanwhile, back in Europe, those Anabaptist/Mennonite groups
who had escaped annihilation were beginning to settle down to a more
peaceful and accommodating life. One such group in Switzerland broke
with its Mennonite leadership over the very issue of accommodation with
the world. They wished to follow "the old ways." These people
were the ancestors of the Amish who immigrated, like their predecessors,
to the Pennsylvania frontier (especially Lancaster County). Interestingly,
despite the success of these hard-working people in America, today there
is not an Anabaptist community left in all of Europe. Even in this country
since the 18th century, various groups within both the Amish and the
Mennonite communities have evolved in varying degrees into more modern
modes of life. Still, there are healthy and growing communities of both
Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites in many areas of North America.
P. Buckley Moss first became acquainted with
the Amish and the Mennonites when she moved to Waynesboro, Virginia.
Both groups had communities near her new Shenandoah Valley home and
their buggies were common sights on nearby roads. Soon she began to
meet these Plain People at local auctions. There she had an opportunity
to talk to them and to observe their ways. As she wrote in her autobiography:
"that afternoon [at an auction] I sat with a group of Mennonites
and so started an association that has lasted for nearly twenty-five
years and that has had a profound effect on my life and philosophy."
Over the years, the presence of the Plain People
in Moss' art has become one of the principle means which she uses to
communicate some of her most important ideas. These people, for Moss,
represent the good life, the full life, and the life well-lived in harmony
with nature and in peace with all creation. Through her art and her
genius, she has developed a way to depict a very serious religious movement
in a universally appealing and friendly manner. In Moss' works the Plain
People are seen to celebrate their own existence in such simple delights
as skating, sledding, picking apples, riding horses, etc. For Pat Moss,
these people and their old ways are memorable icons of strength and
beauty. Moss has become a messenger and her art is the message. Her
Plain People are one of the many, though one of the most important,
subtle instruments of that message.
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Art of P. Buckley Moss from the View Point of the Collectors
The first thing that many of her collectors declare is that the art
of P. Buckley Moss is not like most contemporary art. Pat Moss' quest
is to create a "friendly and rhythmic dance" in her art that
can be enjoyed without having to have any specialized arts education.
Her art is not erudite. She doesn't ask her viewers to exchange any
of their own feelings or emotions for her own preconceived ideas. Moss
emphasizes the positive aspects of things that only rare individuals
seem to see, bringing joy and happiness into focus in a world accustomed
to artistic cynicism.
Popular printed examples of Moss' optimism can be seen and appreciated
in such recent (1996) watercolors as Dancing Joy and Me, Too.
These uncomplicated pieces successfully employ the basic artistic elements
of line, color, and subject matter to create an upbeat mood that can
bring a smile to the face of almost any viewer. In Dancing Joyit's
the oval formed by the girls' arms as they spin around inside their
flat plain that instantly command one's attention. These girls, like
the bird in Me, Too, are highly stylized symbols of reality.
Yet the initial recognition of their exuberance captures the imagination
of even the most uninformed viewer. They radiate a spirit that immediately
convinces viewers of their affirmative and happy message.
Other recent printed watercolors that are a little
more complicated than the above, but carry the same central idea, are
Almost Finished, Apple Blossom Love, and Flowers for
a Lady. Into these pieces Moss has added elements of promise - promise
of completing a difficult task; promise of love; and promise of beauty
Moss' rich symbolism is rooted in the traditions and piety of Western/Christian
society and in her own warm feelings for life. Unlike most of her artistic
contemporaries, she is faced with neither the problem of "the void"
(nothingness) nor the death of traditional values. Pat is an optimist
by disposition and a spiritual person by conviction, and neither voids
nor permanent losses seem to be in her vocabulary.
Some critics have said that the popular Moss
never quite crosses the threshold into the hidden psyche of art, the
unconscious. Frankly, Pat usually doesn't worry about "mysterious
agendas". In her defense, it can be mentioned that the great pioneer
of modern psychoanalysis Carl Jung wrote that such a present world emphasis
"is exactly the 'right' relation to the unconscious."
Pat Moss essentially wants to keep her art "readable" and
thoroughly understandable, albeit that her style is very individual.
The "operative" words for many people are "pretty"
("it goes with my decor") and "cute" ("I see
myself or my children in its images"), but these are only elemental
concepts. Beyond its immediate appeal, Moss art deals with serious relationships:
to society, to the future and the past, and to the conscious and subconscious
emotions of love, faith, and fulfillment.
Finally, it should be said that P. Buckley Moss is an artist who pleases
herself and her collectors with her outpouring of aesthetic joy. She
obviously loves what she does and people seem to love her all the more
for doing it.
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Cats (Drolleries) by Moss
DROLLERY \drol-e-re\ pl -eries (Webster's New
Collegiate Dictionary). Fanciful designs of a playful character... historically
used in the margins of medieval manuscripts: whimsical humor. Also French
spelling: "DROLERIES" (Handbook of Art History, key to Janson).
People frequently notice and are curious about
the crisply drawn, stylized, images of black cats included by Pat Moss
in many of her recent paintings and prints. Usually, these images are
so imaginatively integrated into a work that they don't disturb either
its aesthetic rhythm or its color impact. They're apparently meant to
be subtle presences rather than primary subjects. So subtle, in fact,
that to many casual viewers their visual existence becomes apparent
only upon close examination.
Cats in the history of art are ambivalent, usually
female, animals who at different times have symbolized both good and
evil. Ancient Egyptians associated cats with the protection of homes,
mothers, and children. Painted and carved cats along with their mummified
remains have been found in numerous tombs. During the Middle Ages, cats
were taken as signs of the devil and his evil ways and were believed
to be witches' animals. Luckily for the species, its reputation was
redeemed when it was noticed that in towns or homes with cats residents
were less likely to suffer the consequences of the Black Death, a disease
carried by flea-infested rats. Religious art of the time, with its many
cat-like drolleries, likely reflects the notion that the presence of
cats - rat-killers - was a good omen.
In the art of P. Buckley Moss, these black cats
are intended to be positive manifestations. Perhaps their presence was
inspired by the Medieval cat images that Pat saw cavorting through and
along the margins of old manuscripts that she may have studied at the
Cooper Union. It was through such manuscripts that she became familiar
with Romanesque calligraphy (fancy writing), Scholastic ideas, and vivid
religious illuminations (pictures).
Perhaps Moss was familiar with the early Christian
legend about the "cat of the Madonna". It tells the story
of a mother cat who gave birth to kittens in the same stable at the
same time as Christ was born. In this popular tale, a feline symbol
is used to represent a presence observing a memorable event.
Naturally, there's always the possibility that
cats in Moss paintings simply mean that there were lots of cats around
when Pat was painting, especially in a household with six growing children.
This scenario is suggested as a comfort to those who are hesitant to
look for meaning in art beyond whatever is obvious. A cat, after all,
can be just a cat.
But if one looks carefully and thoughtfully,
Moss' curious black-cat-drolleries can hardly be considered to represent
flesh and blood animals. They're just too stylized. Notice how their
eyes are always staring out of the plain of the picture, looking at
the looker. These are not portraits based on living cat models, either
past or present. They're drolleries: "...fanciful ...playful ...whimsical
humorous.." - symbols of a presence. Butwhose?
A reasonable conclusion is that these highly
stylized animals represent the spirit of the artist herself. Perhaps
it's of Moss' way of not intruding into her art, but still being therefor
time immemorial... to observe, to enjoy, and to be a part ofthe action
that she created? I believe that her spirit is the drollery - cat-like
- presence. It's Pat Moss watching those who are watching the art of
P. Buckley Moss!
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the Positive: Patricia Buckley Moss, Quintessential Optimist
Known worldwide as the "People's Artist", P. Buckley Moss
has an almost uncanny ability to communicate a sense of optimism through
her art. Positive thinking seems to be the key to Moss' entire philosophy,
a fact that comes out through her art as well as through her life.
Considering her own struggle with dyslexia, it
is not surprising that Moss has become the unofficial spokesperson for
people affected by learning disabilities.
In her role as an artist, Moss has been able
to say "yes" to many people who had previously thought that
"no" or "hopeless" were the only messages of art
- and perhaps the only messages of life - in the late 20th century.
These were often people who didn't understand why contemporary art wasn't
speaking to them and to their situation. They felt disenfranchised...
separated... and confused by the whole art scene. Then along comes Pat
Moss with an art that tells the stories of good people leading inspiring
lives who are protected by a beneficent creator. Though it's a message
that some of her detractors have called overly simplistic, out-of-touch,
and sugary, she has remained untroubled in her continuing effort to
communicate hope, love, and happiness.
Using "plain symbols" of encouragement,
Moss has been joined over the years by what is, literally, an army of
admirers who see this talented and extraordinary person as an artistic
heroine fighting and winning against an art world that often appears
to be choking on its own negative "relevance".
While Moss' art might indeed be uncomplicated
according to today's confusing artistic standards, her position comes
out of a thorough familiarity of traditional art history. She knows
all about the power of symbols and the effects of media and she understands
how artists have always communicated emotional stimuli through the power
of their art. Some of Moss' most constant themes, in reality, have become
so rich and so profound that their meanings touch on the mystical, where
they often take on double and even triple meanings. What one first sees
in atypical Moss painting is not necessarily its primary message; possibly
it's only a beginning, a mere "surface reality".
Examples of these surface realities are the happy
Amish people, the attractive children, the beautiful geese, the undulating
trees, and the splendid snow scenes. Accordingly, just below or beyond
these immediately recognizable images are a host of incredibly rich
meanings waiting to be found and appreciated. Here, within a field of
critical studies called "iconography" - the pithy substance
behind common symbols - is where Moss particularly utilizes her knowledge
of artistic tradition, orthodox theology, and cultural awareness. Using
the age-old meanings of established symbols, she brilliantly binds together
and communicates through art some of her most profound affirmations
Moss' reputation rests on her success, first
as an artist and, secondly, as a teacher. As a successful artist she
has been able to become a great philanthropist who supports many worthwhile
causes, especially those that are dedicated to helping learning disabled
children. In addition, the same positive philosophy that made her a
great artist also makes her a unique teacher and an outstanding role
model. Working in a classroom rather than a studio, she constantly extols
young people to persevere in their dreams, to set goals, and, as she
says, achieve their own success" a little bit at a time."
She tells her students that they can achieve... "if it's right
for [them and their] abilities." She inspires in art and she inspires
in life, and people understand!"
I am a strong believer in the power of positive
thought..." she wrote in her autobiography. "If I had not
developed this attitude early in my life, I would never have overcome
the disadvantages of my complicated childhood... If my childhood had
been easy and I had learned to read and if I had a secure home, I would
probably be a very different person today. I think I might have been
a doctor and have had no time for art. It is inherent in me to be always
encouraging people to take the positive approach..."
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in the Music of Art: The Still Life Paintings of P. Buckley Moss
Peace, silence, and beauty are hallmarks
of the Moss style. From this it would seem that the quiet themes of
still life painting - bouquets of flowers, bowls of fruit, arrangements
of bottles and glasses - would be one of Moss' most popular subjects.
Yet, to date relatively few still life paintings are represented in
the published body of her work.
Notwithstanding, astute collectors and critics
consider Pat Moss' relatively few still life paintings to be among her
finest pieces. While such pieces are not as popular as some others,
it can be said that these meditative works capture the purest spirit
of this soul-centered artist: her acute sense of unabridged harmony.
Since her early student years at New York's Cooper
Union, Pat has come back repeatedly to still life themes. Flowers arranged
in shapely vases, sparse groupings of luscious fruits, and orderly assortments
of bottles and glasses appear as landmark, original, works in her long
Still life paintings rarely are high excitement
pieces. This probably is why so few originals have been selected to
be reproduced as offsets. They lack mass appeal. So these works tend
to stay close to home, decorating the artist's own homes and the collections
of some of her most longstanding admirers.
As has been written elsewhere in this series,
Pat Moss' most serious and academic works typically are oil on canvas
paintings. Still life works are no exception. Two impressive still life
oils can be seen at the Moss Museum: Flowers on Red and Red
Flowers (above). The former is the premier example of all Pat's
oil paintings in the museum's principal collection, while the latter,
a somewhat less academic piece that has been reproduced, is displayed
prominently in the museum's upstairs' oil painting gallery.
It is the singular artistry of Moss' still life paintings, be they oil
or watercolor, that endows works of this theme with their particular
aesthetic appeal. The typical Pat Moss still life is a coordinated and
controlled symphony of line and color. Unlike an illustrator, Pat doesn't
attempt to copy Mother Nature's achievements in two dimension. Instead,
she uses her distinctive curving lines and flowing forms to literally
capture and contain subtle segments of color. From these free-floating
islands of tone and hue she creates her own expressions of flower-forms,
fruit-forms, or bottle-shapes. These she organizes into complimentary,
thematic, arrangements. In this art, Pat Moss comes closest to being
a pure abstractionist, though she never quite crosses the line into
non-objectivity. Friendly realism is what people expect from a Moss
painting, and still-life is no exception. While an original P. Buckley
Moss still life is always something to be treasured, a few of these
paintings HAVE been very successfully reproduced. One of these, Kaleidoscope
(above), is a favorite, rare, offset among print collectors. Kaleidoscope,
as its name implies, is an explosion of contained colors set against
a non-objective, linear, background.
For those collectors whose aesthetic sense is
well-developed, the still life art of P. Buckley Moss provides an opportunity
to enter a world of unadulterated artistic pleasure. A Moss still life
is like a fine piece of classical music: a presentation without words
or images to confuse one's sense of inner enjoyment. It's a chance to
be truly emersed in the purest music of art.
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Question of Remarques
Some collectors look at remarques as possibly "gilding the lily".
Others, more frequently, consider them to be one-of-a-kind re-expressions
of artistic genius. Both sides have their valid points.
But first, what is a remarque? According to experts it is any print,
original or reproduction, that contains a mark of any kind (drawn, scribbled,
etched or sketched) either on its image surface or on its margin that
is not common to the whole edition of the same print. Contrary to popular
opinion, a remarqued print does not have to contain any additional pictorial
information or be added in an original medium. Simply, it is a print
which in some way or another has been marked and thereby singled out,
usually, but not necessarily, by its original artist [historically,
editors have sometimes remarqued prints].
Pat Moss likes to do remarques, though usually
she restricts her remarking to charitable causes. In the process she
feels that she is able to "revisit" one of her former creations
and add something to its pictorial story and, perhaps to its meaning.
Pat's remarques truly are individual creations.
A remarque is Pat's second chance to make another
statement about a familiar subject. It also gives her an opportunity
to "finish" a piece again when the original watercolor or
oil painting is no longer available to her. Under these circumstances,
the creative process is continued, perhaps even beyond its original
concept, to new conclusions. An especially ambitious remarque can becomea
new work of art: a reproduction print that has evolved into a mixed
media piece. However, this is unusual. Most remarques remain remarques,
marked prints with fresh outlooks and revitalized messages.
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Moss: Her Personal Point-of-View
Great art is distinguishable from mediocre art in that its artist is
recognizable as an individual whose work can be easily set apart from
any school, movement, or influence. Probably this is one of the most
significant conclusions that the learned 20th century American art historian
and critic, Dr. Edgar P. Richardson, came to when he published his pivotal
study of all periods of American art, "Painting in America".
Dr. Richardson was convinced that greatness in art is not so much a
matter of skill and technique, or even talent, as it is the ability
of an artist to express his/her's unique self in the available artistic
mediums and methods.
This personal point-of-view, according to Dr.
Richardson, is the single essential quality that must be present in
any art which one expects to have lasting value and meaning. Anything
less, according to Richardson, is mere decoration at best or, at worst,
mean, dull, insipid and probably misunderstood replication. Art collectors
and even casual art buyers would do well to keep this wise dictum in
P. Buckley Moss' art is an expression of the
artist's unique self. For many people, Moss' art is the most recognizable
artistic productions available on today's massive art market. It seems
that once a person has been introduced to the Moss style, that person
"knows" the art even if they've never met the artist. Her
art broadcasts a mood that is unmistakably "Moss". Her subjects,
her lines, her colors, and even her deletions (what isn't there - blank
spaces and missing elements that are left to the viewer's imagination)
are all important parts of her expression of self. Even if her art was
never signed, most people still would be able to assign her art to her
Pat Moss was trained at New York's famous Cooper
Union where she was influenced by the latest contemporary art as well
as by great historic art. Nevertheless, she tenaciously maintained her
own artistic integrity. Tradition and example for this young artist
were guides, not a masters ©©a situation that caused her problems
with some of her more rigid teachers. From the beginning her art embodied
the heritage of her Italian/Catholic past, the vitality of her exuberant
personality, the understanding of a person who had been heckled on account
of her dyslexia, and the drive of a talented artist with an overwhelming
desire to succeed. Moss is the kind of person whose identity is so rooted
in who she is that outside influences usually cannot sway her from her
course, as an artist and as a person.
Today, Pat Moss has many admirers who collect
her art and love "the Moss style." They see her as a unique
individual who is able to "speak" to them in the arts in a
way that they both understand and appreciate. She has become one of
America's most popular artists.
Unfortunately, her popularity has led to imitation,
and not always by unethical and illegal fakers. Many well-intentioned
people obviously believe the old adage about imitation being a form
of flattery. While this might be true in dress or hairstyles, it's not
valid in the fine arts. Moss admirers who take (cut out, trace, put
together) elements of the Moss style and apply them in ways that the
artist never intended are guilty of plagiarism. The stealing of artistic
ideas without giving legal credit, no matter how well-intended or innocently
performed, is still a wrongful attack on this artist's precious selfhood.
Sometimes its overenthusiastic collectors and
their framers who violate Pat's artistic sense of self. Those "cute
little details" that are sometimes used "to enhance"
a Moss print can be menacing infringements on the meaning of the original
art. Serious art should be properly presented, but people, framers and
their customers, have a duty to recognize the limitations of their own
creativity. Frames and matting are there to enhance the presentation
of a piece of art and to protect that art from destructive elements
in its environment. They should neither bethought of as additions to
the art nor continuations of the artistic message.
A much more insidious enemy of Moss' creative
self expressions, however, is what has become a growing throng of outright,
second-rate, artistic imitators. Blatant copying and otherwise misusing
Moss' imagery and her pictorial techniques is a crime, both in a legal
sense and in an aesthetic sense. Of course, in time the obvious forgers
will be caught and prosecuted. This is necessary not only to protect
the artist but also to protect the investments of her collectors. In
the United States an artist holds the copyright on his/her creations
as intellectual property: an outright forgery is a blatant theft of
But in a broader sense, intellectual property
is a difficult kind of property to defend. Artistic plagiarism by less
creative artist/illustrators is relatively common. Perhaps it's worth
reminding the "collectors" of such second rate art, even if
the so-called "artists" themselves don't realize it, that
if the personal point-of-view is at the heart of great art then a borrowed
("stolen") point-of-view is at the heart of mediocrity.
Pat has often been asked "how long it takes
her to finish a new painting?" Her answer invariably is that "it
took me about fifty plus years to do this work!" Her point is that
every painting is the result of a life-time of experience, training,
experimentation, joy, failure, and success. P. Buckley Moss' art is
the sum of her unique self... without any frosting, reinterpretation,
Moss' personal point-of-view is the single most
important characteristic of her art. As Dr. Richardson observed, all
value and meaning flows from this expression of self. Truly then, what
is uniquely Moss can only be "uniquely Moss."
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Printed Art of P. Buckley Moss: A Balance of Artistic Creation and Printing
The following sections explain and illustrate
the procedures that are followed for making offset reproductions, etchings
and silkscreens and giclées:
EDITION OFFSET REPRODUCTIONS
Offset reproduction refers to a photomechanical
process of reproducing an original image by first "breaking down"
or "separating" the artist's blend of colors into four constituent
colors and then recombining them on a printing press to approximate
the original work of art. This process, which takes approximately three
weeks from start to finish, results in prints that are exactly the same
throughout the press run. By using the highest quality acid-free rag
paper and a faithful interpretation of the color and tone of Pat's original
work, her print editions can honestly portray her message to Moss collectors
even though she is not directly involved in the printing process. Because
Pat limits the edition size of her prints, usually to 1,000 and 25 artist's
proofs, they are known as limited edition offset reproductions and are
highly collectible. The following process describes how Pat's original
art becomes a print edition.
After Pat has completed an original watercolor
painting in her studio, she allows her creation to be reproduced so
many people will be able to enjoy her art since the demand for her art
greatly exceeds her supply of originals. This reproduction process begins
at The Moss Portfolio, where the image size, paper size, cost and edition
size of the print are determined.
Once the preliminary production work is completed,
the original watercolor is shipped to the printer where the print edition
will be made. The first step in the printing process involves photographing
the original with a special camera that separates the art colors into
four printing colors. Using a color filter in front of the lens to absorb
unwanted colors and transmit the wanted color, one continuous-tone negative
is produced for each of the four colors used in printing. These colors
are yellow, magenta (red), cyan (blue) and black. If the reproduction
will be a different size from the original painting, cropping or reducing
is done at this time.
Tonal values in each color negative are carefully
compared to the original. Once this examination is complete, the image
is projected through a camera lens and through a grid pattern to produce
a screened positive of the image with a dot pattern. Fine dots in the
pattern will print as light areas, while large dots make dark areas.
As the dots blend together entirely, solid color areas appear. A halftone
negative is made of each of the four colors, and again they are compared
meticulously to the original.
The four color negatives are printed together
to create color proofs that estimate how the finished print will look.
These rough proofs are examined and fine adjustments are made to refine
the image. Final proofs are approved by Pat or her representative. After
any corrections are made, the film is "stripped" to another
piece of clear film which is placed against a thin, light-sensitive
aluminum plate. A powerful light source transfers the dot pattern for
that color to the plate and developing solution makes the pattern visible.
Once a separate plate has been made for each of the four colors it is
time to go to press.
Offset lithography is based on the principle
that oil and water do not mix. Each plate is mounted on a cylinder of
the printing press. This cylinder is then exposed to a water roller.
The water from this roller will not adhere to the grease-based printing
image and will repel the ink from the non-image area. Next, from an
ink roller, particles of ink adhere to each printing dot on the image
plate. The inked area is then transferred to the offset blanket. This
rubber blanket is used to transfer the ink onto the acid-free paper
because it transfers the image more smoothly than the metal plate. Because
the ink image does not go directly from the plate to the paper, it is
considered offset printing.
All of Pat's offset reproductions are printed
on the highest quality acid-free paper. The color-fast, fade resistant
inks used are specially formulated to meet the standards of the Fine
Art Trade Guild of Great Britain and cost about five times more than
conventional inks. By using the highest quality materials and recommending
conservation framing for archival permanence, Pat ensures that future
generations can also enjoy her artwork. Even though the printing process
does not occur in Pat's presence, she works closely with The Moss Portfolio
staff and York Graphic Services, Inc., to insure that the reproduction
genuinely represents her original artwork. Final approval of all print
editions comes from Pat. The signature that appears on the prints warrants
that each print is reproduced from a P. Buckley Moss original and meets
her expectation of quality.
Each etching in an edition is an original print
because it is pulled directly from the plate on which Pat has created
the image and comes in no other form. In this respect, etchings differ
from offset reproductions for which the original image is created in
a different medium such as watercolor or oil painting. Because, in the
case of the offset, the image starts in one form and ends in another,
it is termed a "reproduction."
Pat's involvement in the creation of etchings
has been described as a "labor of love." Each etching requires
an enormous amount of time and energy, and she is able to produce only
a limited number of editions each year.
Pat uses many of the same techniques employed
by the sixteenth and seventeenth century masters, such as Rembrandt
and Goya. First, she selects a metal plate, usually steel but on occasion
copper, which is cut for her to the size of the image she intends to
print. The plate is then thoroughly cleaned and polished so its surface
is smooth and without blemishes. Next, it is coated with an acid resistant
substance to create what is called the "ground."
Using a fine-pointed steel needle, Pat draws
the outline of her image onto the plate. The needle scribes through
the ground to lay bare the steel beneath. When she has completed her
initial drawing, the plate is placed in a bath of acid. The ground protects
the plate from the acid; but, where the needle has drawn, the acid eats
into the metal, creating an etched line which subsequently carries the
printer's ink. The plate may be immersed into the acid a number of times
during this process. When it is first removed, those lines which Pat
wishes to be the finest lines will be covered with a new application
of the ground. When the plate next goes into the acid bath, these areas
will be protected from further "biting." Following this method,
she is able to vary the depth and thickness of the lines throughout
When all the lines are bitten to the correct
depth, Pat wipes the ground off the complete surface of the plate, polishing
its surface to make certain that it is totally clean. Next, she applies
the ink, pushing it into the bitten lines. When satisfied that all the
lines are filled with the ink, she again polishes the plate's surface
so that no ink exists outside of her drawn image.
The procedures described so far relate to the
linear areas of the image. We now need to address how the multiple colors
and tonal effects are achieved. For these she uses a second plate, cut
to the exact size of the first. To this plate she applies what is called
aquatint. She covers the area of the plate where she wishes to apply
color with a powdered rosin. She then heats the plate so that the rosin
crystals adhere to its surface. Now, when she puts the plate into the
acid, the acid eats between the rosin crystals, creating a mass of small
inundations which are called "bitten areas." These will subsequently
hold the inks. The depth of these areas and, therefore, the amount of
ink they will hold will, again, depend on the time they are exposed
to the acid and will also determine the tone of color and the texture
of the print. Where necessary, she is able to reduce the intensity of
tone and texture by burnishing the bitten surface.
When Pat has prepared both plates to her satisfaction,
she applies the inks. On the aquatint plate, she applies the different
colors, bleeding and blending them together to achieve gradation of
It is now time to print the first proofs of the
image. Pat begins by laying the aquatint plate on the bed of the printing
press and placing over it a sheet of dampened cotton paper. The plate
and paper pass through the cylinders of the press, forcing the moist
paper down into the etched areas which hold the ink. The ink is thereby
transferred onto the paper so that when the paper is removed from the
plate, it carries the areas of color and texture.
Now, Pat replaces the aquatint plate with the
plate containing her drawn lines, placing it in exactly the same position
on the press bed. When the plate and paper pass through the press, the
etched black lines become superimposed on the areas of color. For each
individual print, both plates have to be re-inked before printing. Again,
this is done by hand and, inevitably, no two prints turn out exactly
the same. This further adds to the original character of each etching
This describes what is involved in Pat's creation
of each etching. There are additional techniques and variations that
she also uses in certain circumstances; but, if you understand the above,
you know the essentials of her technique. One final note: etching editions
are kept small because the etched surfaces of the plates deteriorate
after a certain number of printings due to the immensepressure needed
in printing. Copper, being a softer metal than steel, is less durable,
which is why Pat usually works on steel.
For the making of a silkscreen, Pat uses water-based
inks which are non-toxic. She starts by painting single-color brush
strokes onto a piece of mylar which is then placed on a screen which
has been coated with a liquid emulsion. The emulsion is then exposed
to light which causes it to harden except where Pat's brush strokes
protect the screen from the effects of the light. When the mylar is
removed, the screen is washed. The areas of the hardened emulsion remain
intact; but, where the brush strokes were placed, the emulsion dissolves,
leaving open the mesh of the screen. The screen is placed over the print
paper and the ink, which has been mixed to the chosen color, is forced
through the open mesh of the screen, creating on the paper the image
of the brush strokes.
This process is repeated time
and again for each of the areas of different color Pat uses in creating
the image. With each application of the ink, decisions are made as to
color, bearing in mind the effects of placing a color on top of another
that already exists on the print.
Some of Pat's silkscreens involve over one hundred
separate applications of color. When printing an edition, each of the
colors is applied to the whole edition in turn, building color upon
Giclée (pronounced zhee-clay)
is a French word meaning "to spray." This method of printing
is a 20th-century digital process derived from the Iris large-format
No other reproduction process
can match the quality of a giclée, nor come as close to reproducing
the artist's original than the giclée process. Owning a giclée
print by Pat Moss is the next best thing to owning the original itself.
While the quality is outstanding,
the giclée is much more affordable. Pat's giclées are
printed in small editions of just 250 prints and 25 artist's proofs.
Because of their scarcity, they are true collectors' items.
To create a giclée, Pat's
original painting is photographed under specific lighting conditions.
A digital file is created. The master printer then manipulates this
file so that the hues and subtleties in color of the original will be
captured in the reproduction. This involves many stages of proofing:
outputting a print followed by color corrections in every inch of the
The goal is for the reproduction
to match the original. Once the master printer feels he has achieved
this goal, a final proof is sent to Pat. She marks up any further corrections
that need to be done to the print. Once these final corrections are
completed, production is ready to begin.
The final file is sent to the printer
and the image is printed either to paper or to canvas. The ink is sprayed
back and forth across the surface, line by line. This printing process
is slow but very precise. Each of Pat's pieces takes from 30 to 60 minutes
to print, depending on size, and is closely monitored throughout the
When a giclée is printed
on paper, each sheet is fed into the printer individually. After it
is printed, the sheet is trimmed to the final size.
When producing a giclée
on canvas, a roll of canvas is fed through the printer. Once the roll
of canvas is full of printed images, the coating process begins. Each
roll proceeds through a coater, where an environmentally-
safe, protective coating is applied to each image on the roll of canvas.
This protects the canvas from damage, such as water, and retards the
natural aging forces in the home environment.
The inks used are pigmented and
not dyes. Pigmented inks ensure a long-lasting, more fade resistant
image. The canvas is archival and of the highest quality.
A staff of curators carefully
inspects each canvas. Any printing flaw or canvas defect is detected
at this stage and the canvas is either repaired or rejected.
The final product is then ready
to be signed by Pat. After signing, a final inspection of every canvas
is once again completed.
Each canvas is stretched and
attached to the wooden stretcher bars according to Pat's specifications.
Sizes and corners are exact. Corners are grooved and wedged.
An important advantage of the
giclée method of art reproduction is that the final product requires
no matting or glass cutting. The canvas arrives at the gallery ready
to be framed, just like a painting.
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