Imagine my surprise when I asked Pat Buckley Moss recently what is her favorite thing to paint, and she reached for a pendant she was wearing on a long chain. It is … [drum roll] … a horse! When she was a girl, she’d ride her bike to the stables on Staten Island. “When a horse dumped a rider, I was asked to go catch the horse, and those were my only riding lessons,” she happily recalls.
Another favorite painting subject is the crucifixion. Then there are the Amish people, towns and buildings, barns and rural scenes, landscapes, Virginia Tech subjects, birds, weddings, landmarks, covered bridges, universities and schools, people, New River Valley places, holidays, animals, Italian scenes … almost endless. “I’ve never painted a sloth,” she informs me, describing them in unflattering detail.
Moss’s career has spanned decades and taken her around the globe. Her sense of adventure never wanes, and some of her experiences are not for the faint of heart. On a trip to Africa, she woke up in a tent unable to move. “In that half-awake zone, I realized I could not move my arms. I wondered if I was paralyzed and became concerned how I would get home.” Slowly, she opened her eyes, and as things came into focus, she saw the problem. A giant baboon was lying on top of her, pinning her limbs. They locked eyes, and she decided to speak its language, uttering a few loud grunts. Her tent mate arose and wandered outside.
It is this calm, collected, sweet spirit, often portrayed in her art, which has endeared Moss to millions who grace their homes and offices with her unique style. At 89, she appears more than a decade younger in comfy shoes, ecru slacks, a white top and colorful chiffon open shirt. Her smiles are abundant, and her love of everyone is apparent. “There’s no snobbery here,” she announces, “nobody left out,” as she nods to Wendy Nester, the Blacksburg gallery manager.
“I love meeting the collectors,” Nester relates of working more than two years in the Moss art gallery. “People come in who have collected for decades, as often as new ones. Many are multi-generational in the same family, and others seek a remembrance from a trip to Italy, or a Virginia Tech piece, or a porcelain box, or other gift item.” Nester is a New River Valley native who has returned home. Her professional art sales experience developed and flourished in the 14 years she worked in Santa Fe art galleries.
Moss still paints every day, most often in 4-hour blocks of time and frequently at night. She keeps more than one piece in process at any time and says both commissions and original art present challenges. She has two studios at home, plus a studio in Waynesboro and Mathews, both in Virginia, plus her home on Sicily. Her mother was born on that largest of the Mediterranean islands just off the coast of Italy. When traveling, she is most likely to carry only a sketch pad and some pencils.
If Pat Buckley Moss is concerned about anything, it’s running out of energy and time way before she’ll ever run out of ideas or paint. “I am still excited about life – every day!”
The P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education was created 27 years ago to advocate for arts in school curricula, especially for young ones who struggle with learning by traditional methods. Moss shuffled through school labeled as “not proficient in anything” until someone took note of her art talent. Only later would she discover that she had dyslexia.
Her young experiences, along with her success, have propelled her to donate copious time, energy, original art and prints to raise money for promoting innovative teaching methods using art in all its forms, plus scholarships and grants. www.mossfoundation.org
P. Buckley Moss Gallery
Kent Square, 216 S. Main St., Blacksburg
Mon-Sat., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday, noon – 4 p.m.
Text by Joanne M. Anderson
Photos courtesy of P. Buckley Moss