Keeneland Magazine

NO4 2013

Keeneland, Investing in Racing's Future since 1936.

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Kentucky Crafted Janice Harding Owens Janice Harding Owens is not Grandma Moses, although her paintings have been likened to those of the 20th-century folk artist. Beyond the primitive style of art they share, the two women have much in common. Like Anna Mary Robertson, aka Grandma Moses, Owens is a small, lively woman. Grandma Moses, who died in 1961 at age 101, was noted by one writer as a person who "charmed wherever she went." The same can be said for Owens, who has traveled comfortably in circles far beyond her hillside home in Rockcastle County. Like Grandma Moses, Owens has lived life in the country, the majority of it on 30 mostly forested acres between Berea and Mount Vernon. "What is fat, we made fat," she said, her husband, Ron, nodding in agreement. Owens has seven children; Grandma Moses had 10, al- It's also easier to clean. said Ron, "You would not believe how much paint has been spilled over the years. though only fve lived past Her children are mostly out of the house now, but in their infancy. Owens has 11 grand- place are grandchlldren, ages 8 months to 18. It's likely that the children; spills and smiley faces will continue. Grandma Moses had nine. Grandma Moses worked next to a washer and dryer Owens' late sister was a realist painter, but Owens, like Grand- on top of an old kitchen table. Owens works in her kitchen, her ma Moses, paints scenes that exist only in her mind. "My niece canvas leaning against shelves Ron made. He made her a table- said to me, 'You know these places you paint don't exist.' I said, top easel, but she doesn't always use it. Yes, they do. In here," pointing to her head. Pastoral scenes common in the country inspired Grandma Like Grandmas Moses' famous contemplations on rural life, Moses; the same inspires Owens. Grandma Moses painted from Owens paints a simpler time. There are no power lines, no cars. the top down, starting with the sky. So does Owens. Grandma The snow is pure; the trees are straight; the buildings square. Moses' never painted a shadow. Neither has Owens. "No complications," is how she sums it up. But Owens started her art career at a much younger age than Grandma Moses died long before Owens became an artist, yet Grandma Moses, who didn't pick up a paintbrush until she was their artistic paths have crossed. At the home of the late musi- in her 70s. So Grandma Moses never negotiated some of the chal- cian Skitch Henderson in Connecticut, one of Owens' paintings lenges Owens has faced. hangs with three original works by Grandma Moses. As a young mother, Owens became an artistic multitasker. She'd hold a baby and paint. Fry chicken and paint. Leaving the kitchen for a quieter work area was out of the question. "Somebody was always needing something," she said. For practical reasons she chose to work with acrylic paint. "I had seven children here at home when I started painting; I couldn't have toxics like turpentine and mineral spirits around." Acrylic was also forgiving. "I don't know how many times she walked in and found a smiley face painted on one of her paintings," said Ron. 70 KEENELAND WINTER 2013 "It is my claim to fame," said Owens. "I get to hang out with Grandma Moses." K Owens' work is sold at the Kentucky Folk Art Center in Morehead and at the Kentucky Artisans Center in Berea. Her pieces have been commissioned by numerous businesses, including Woodford Reserve Distillery, and individuals. Jancrow@aol.com

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