At risk of sounding like a travel brochure, Max Moran says that the North Fork “has all the right ingredients for a plein air painter.” Case in point, this week’s cover, “Rainbow over Northville,” a scene Moran passes every morning on his way to his Mattituck studio.
What was the inspiration for this piece?
Encountering the setting, then transferring that energy and enthusiasm onto the canvas. The challenge is to snatch the sense of sky, land and place to document and celebrate the encounter.
What called you from the Midwest, where you were raised, to the East Coast?
It was New York, and I had to take a shot at it! Plus, I thought I’d get better terms and treatment.
What are some similarities, if any, you see here on the East End to the Midwest?
Long Island is nothing like Ohio, however the rural character and broad horizon lines resonated with me. There are some areas that remind me of my early works in the Amish areas of Ohio. There’s a “small farm, growing things by your own hands” culture in both places. They call it “farm to table” here on the North Fork; it’s called “existing” in Ohio.
Can you update us on the recovery effort regarding your stolen artwork?
The theft of my artwork and subsequent investigations over the past 10-plus years has been well documented. There are currently more than 200 pieces listed on the FBI’s National Stolen Art Registry. I’ve met and spoken with many police departments and law enforcement officials from the FBI and Homeland Security. I’ve retained attorneys in several states and hired ex–FBI agent Robert Wittman to work on the case. His investigation gave me a better understanding of why so little work is ever recovered. I’m exploring and proposing legislative solutions to art theft with state and federal legislators.
According to Newsweek, after drugs and guns, art theft is the third biggest criminal enterprise in the world, and 95% of art reported stolen is never found or returned in the U.S. New legislation and incentives to address this should be considered. For example, Italy has 280 agents working on cultural/art crimes, and the FBI has only 16. If you’re a living artist you tend to put all of your resources into the creation of your work, leaving little for legal fees, private investigations and having to pay for the return of stolen property.
I’m grateful to Detective Edward Grathwohl of the Southold Police Department for recovering four of the stolen paintings from two collectors in Greenport.
Where’s the strangest/most unusual place your work has appeared?
A friend spotted one of my rain pieces on the NBC show This Is Us. An unfinished stolen painting of two silverback gorillas turned up being donated to the Columbus Zoo. What was strange and unusual was how it traveled from my Mattituck studio and the number of people involved.
If you could sit down to coffee with any artist from history, who would it be and what would you talk about?
Coffee would be with Vincent Van Gogh. We would talk about the landscape of the soul. And since you’re asking, it would be a bottle of Jameson with Jackson, Chianti with Leonardo, a beer with Pablo and milkshakes with Andy.
Moran has a permanent exhibition at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport and a rotating exhibition at Lieb Cellars in Cutchogue. Visit maxmoran.com for more info or to make an appointment to see his studio.