Spring is coming to the Complete Oeuvre…
Grandma Moses, Sugaring Off, 1955.
While this scene may look very much like winter (or even Christmas!), it actually depicts one of the very first signs of spring for parts of the US and Canada. Maple sugaring is the process of tapping Sugar Maple trees for their sap just as it begins to flow in the very last days of winter. Traditionally, the tap is hammered into the trees and collected into buckets which is then boiled and refined into maple syrup or maple sugar. For many settlers early in the history of the US and Canada, refined sugar was much too expensive for the everyday person, so this was how they made it themselves. Sugaring festivals celebrated the first flows and in some places still do today!
Grandma Moses, the celebrated folk artist from rural New York, depicts this joyful scene of the changing seasons with her signature dynamism and sincerity. In a way, though, this picture is distinctly nostalgic— by 1955, it is certain that sugaring and the community festivals associated with it were on the wane. Grandma Moses gives us a memory that has sweetened in the recollecting, not necessarily the documented reality of life. In fact, it is so blissful a scene that it is even a little bit sad. In my mind, there has never been nor ever will be a time that does not yearn for its past— or at least its memory of it. It is poetic that this, a memory of a changing season, is a document of Grandma Moses’— and our own— yearning for the past.