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“He wanted the seasons, the hills, the rivers, and the trees… all the outdoors from which he was shut away. His wife brought them to him. Under her brush the ceiling of the little house turned to sky, walls became the hills and valley, the rivers and woods, farmers’ pastures all from her fertile imagination.”
– Agnes Lucille Anderson
Don and Robin Ferrario purchased the Robertshaw home in 2017 to build a new Auto Dealership. They were not aware of the paintings or their history until after the real estate closing. Neither of them had any idea of the story that was to unfold.
Martha was born in 1898 in Shinglehouse, Pa. When her father was killed in a railroad accident she moved to her grandmother’s home in Big Flats, NY. Martha and Charles Robertshaw married in 1924 and built their home on Fisherville Rd. Martha was a self-taught folk artist. Charles became ill, unable to leave the home. He could not go outside so Martha brought it to him. In 1942 Martha began painting the interior of the house with her interpretation of the Chemung Valley. The walls, the ceilings, even the closets and bathrooms. Her work of love took over a decade to complete. Charles passed away in 1958.
Through the 1960s and 1970s Martha did housework and childcare. Later, she took care of the elderly in her home. Martha passed away in 1989. Few people knew about the paintings prior to her death.
The first step in preservation was photography. You can see the paintings untouched in the original house at www.martharobertshaw.com. The second step was more difficult. The Robertshaw family tried to save the paintings but could not find a practical method to remove 90-yearold drywall without destroying the art. Everyone said it would crumble. Don and Robin found a way. Two ingenious carpenters Travis Nocci and Dennis Munn performed the impossible. The entire collection was saved from destruction. Don, Robin, and friend Rich Schmidt transformed the rough pieces which were taken to Michaels Custom Framing for the final step!
Martha’s art is now part of the community. The paintings are displayed for all to see at Ferrario Auto Team, Adventure Trail in Big Flats, NY, at the same location where Martha created them.
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