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West Virginia Moon


A painting called West Virginia Moon sparked a statewide controversy during the celebration of the state’s centennial in 1963. Joe Moss, an art instructor at West Virginia University, created the piece for the West Virginia Centennial Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture. Moss’s piece—made out of six weathered boards, a piece of old screen door, and some leftover paint—won first prize for a painting by a West Virginia artist. He received a check for $1,963 from Governor William Wallace Barron.

Art critics praised the piece, but state residents were not as fond of it. The Centennial Commission was deluged with calls from people who said the piece would damage the state’s image. The mayor of Charleston, John Shanklin, called the piece “atrocious” and “sickening.” The painting sparked a great deal of interest, however. When it went on display at the Huntington Galleries (now the Huntington Museum of Art), more than 15,000 people came to see it, breaking attendance records.

The Centennial Commission purchased Moss’s work for $200, and it now hangs in the West Virginia Culture Center’s State Museum. Moss spent 10 years at WVU and then taught at University of Delaware until 1998, when he retired. His sculptures have appeared at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and other museums.

Written by Becky Calwell


  1. Bob Kelly. Let the 'West Virginia Moon' shine. Charleston Daily Mail, September 30, 2003.