Janet Amdur, 96, began painting just five years ago, and has plans to keep improving her technique
By DORIS RUBENSTEIN
According to Wikipedia, Anna Mary Robertson Moses(Sept. 7, 1860–Dec. 13, 1961) was a renowned American folk artist, often cited as an example of an individual successfully beginning a career in the arts at an advanced age. Her family and friends called her either “Mother Moses” or “Grandma Moses,” and, although she first exhibited as “Mrs. Moses,” the press eagerly dubbed her “Grandma Moses,” and the nickname stuck.
Janet Karol Amdur, 96, a Minneapolis native now residing at Menorah Plaza in St. Louis Park, is something of a Jewish Grandma Moses, having begun her artistic career at age 90; but perhaps we should call her, in Hebrew, Savta Moshe.
Amdur never recognized her talents and never even thought of pursuing any artistic endeavor until her husband passed away. She graduated from North High School, worked in bookkeeping, married pharmacist Saul Amdur after a whirlwind WWII long-distance romance, and set to work to raise their daughter, Barbara (Hirshberg). Her volunteer activities at Adath Jeshurun, Bnai Emet and Beth El synagogues kept her busy enough.
After caring for Saul through a prolonged decline, Amdur felt at loose ends over how to spend her time. Already a resident at Menorah Plaza, she took the advice of a staff nurse who recognized Amdur’s eye for color to try her hand at painting. She also makes jewelry, with a special talent for using turquoise in necklaces and bracelets.
At the advanced age of 91, travelling around the world or even around the Twin Cities to find the landscape subjects she preferred was not going to be easy. Instead, Amdur turned to copying photographs she easily found everywhere in her home and at Menorah Plaza: books, magazines, calendars, etc.
Likewise, travelling to places where painting classes were offered might also have been a barrier to developing her style and technique. She overcame this by reading books on painting and paying close attention to a PBS program that offered information on the subject.
Amdur says that her greatest influences have been the landscape artist Claude Monet, famed for his garden paintings, and Jerry Yarnell, who was her television instructor and who specializes in landscapes. Amdur prefers landscapes because she says, “I like the challenge of doing a detailed subject.” She is particularly drawn to scenes of lighthouses.
Unlike Grandma Moses, who painted almost exclusively scenes from her 19th-century childhood in a style that could be called “folk” or “naïve,” Amdur’s art reflects the two styles of her artistic models: an Impressionist one that uses semi-abstract blocks of color, and a detailed realism.
All of her paintings, done in acrylic, are executed on paper or canvas and generally fit in an 8-by-10 frame. Amdur and her daughter scour the resale shops in the area for frames that show off the artwork, yet keep the cost attractive to those wishing to buy the paintings, which generally sell for well under $50.
Amdur’s work has been exhibited and sold at Sholom West, Knollwood Place and Menorah Plaza, although she likes to tell the story of selling one piece out of the backseat of her daughter’s car in a shopping center parking lot.
After six years working regularly at her art, Amdur realizes that she still has much to learn to improve and expand her artistic abilities. She experiments with mixing colors and has recently learned how to “mottle.” She plans to expand her technique by trying to paint using watercolors.
In other words, at 96, Amdur plans to keep painting for a long time.
(American Jewish World, 7.18.14)