Gerry Moran is driving around Montauk, where she’s had a house for 28 years, looking for a copy of Dan’s Papers. “I’m an avid reader,” she says. She passes the green at Gosman’s and, lo! she sees a guy, he’s got a hat, could it be? She knows he’s been doing readings, from his new collection of regional tales, at sites where the events he’s recounting took place. She approaches, it is indeed Dan, but “where is everybody?” She is his only audience. Well, he says, why don’t they just amble over to the gazebo and he’ll read to her. And then, of course, they get to chatting, and the chance encounter leads to the cover on this week’s issue—her elegant oil painting of Wölffer Estate Vineyard—just in time for harvest season.
A gregarious housewife, mother of three adult children (one, a special needs boy who inspired her to persevere), Moran grew up in Queens and went to Catholic schools in the city. Her perceptive mother, determining that her daughter had artistic talent, sent her off on the subway at age 11 to attend the Art Students League. Moran loved it, but the family soon moved to Little Neck, and Moran became wild about clothing design and sewing. But she never abandoned her love and study of fine arts.
What attracted you to the Old Masters?
I saw I could get from them a rigorous exposure to the fundamentals of drawing and painting, the kind that is still taught by people with whom I studied, such as the Hungarian artist Attila Hejja and Robert Armetta [who taught drawing and painting at Southampton College and who currently teaches at the New York Academy of Art and at the Long Island Academy of Fine Art, in Glen Cove]. They represent the classical academic tradition that Laura Grenning keeps going in Sag Harbor and that I still pursue in Glen Cove two days a week. When I began to study art seriously in 1990 I went to the prestigious Stevenson Academy of Fine Arts in Oyster Bay. Like many of the Old Masters, my work has lots of underpainting, using grisaille [paintings or sketches executed in shades of grey or another neutral greyish color that create a sculptural quality], and I go for tone and composition.
You mention the psychological rewards of painting and working with your hands. Do you think of art as therapy?
To draw or paint you have to focus and forget about the outside world. In doing so, it is therapy without a label. I should also add quilting, it’s so tactile, as well as mental. But anything you do that’s creative is positive. We all need something outside our everyday lives to sustain and nurture us. In olden days women quilted in bees, finding solace not just in making art but also in each other. Though quilting is tactile and painting is not that touchy-feely, both disciplines help you feel good about yourself. I’m a perfectionist, and art and craft have both made me want to strive to be better, to learn more. I was a certificated teacher for many years in the city and on Long Island, teaching middle school [Moran has a B.A. in Home Economics from Queens College, with a minor in Education]. I also gave classes in adult education programs. I believe in giving back.
Though you have no website your email contains a reference to design. Would you elaborate?
I wear many hats. In 1995 I started a corporation, McClusky Moran Designs, doing interior design and architectural consulting. Interested readers can contact me at [email protected].