Monday, August 30, 2010

Agnes Martin Interview

I watched it through once and for the purpose of explaining it and so on, I'm going to watch it as I type.

I understood most of what what going on, but it was really hard to concentrate throughout the video. I know I'm going to sound like a large, insensitive prick, but I'm guessing one purpose of these blog responses is to state how we feel about what we just read or watched.

All that lip smacking was driving me absolutely insane.

I know she's old and she's probably missing quite a few teeth, and she may not enjoy interviews or it may just be a nervous habit. I'm not one to pick on someone else, but I'm just saying I was having trouble concentrating on her answers because all I can think about was how much she reminded me of a complacent fish out of water.

So here we go. Bash me in the comments about this if you'd like; I'm ready for it.


Agnes Martin paints with her back to the world. She's non-objective, fueled by inspiration, and free of ideas. She often asks herself what she will be doing next just because she admits to keeping a vacant mind. Martin believes that inspiration disappears the moment an artist is plagued by ideas before they have a chance to work.

She believes education is wrong and the idea that 'we are capable of anything' is just a road to failure. It's pointless, all according, because everything has already been done.

Art is not an experiment. It's made by inspiration.

Art is responded to with emotions, music being the highest art and the most abstract due to the fact that it immediately triggers emotional responses.

If you want to do something new, it takes a long time to develop. She repeats that those who think they're capable of anything are headed to failure and that an artist should be modest. Martin admits she's a little extreme and believes that artists don't really deserve the credit; inspiration is what guides us. You shouldn't think about fairing better than others because it'll tend to muddy up the original bout of inspiration. She says the worst thing you can think of when you're painting is yourself.

She waits three days before she decides if she likes what she's done. Martin likes her paintings best when they head out the door and into the world.

She doesn't treat a man or a woman any different, but she does admit that a while back in her lifetime men had a lot more machismo. They were possessive and women were submissive. Nowadays she claims that all the aggressive men have disappeared.

It took her twenty years to get beyond nature. She paints about what is without cause now.

She used to meditate before she stopped thinking. Martin claims to keep a clear mind at all times.


I found myself either contradicted from what I've been taught or in complete disagreement with Martin nearly the entire time. While I'm sure age can reveal a lot to you, I find myself having trouble thinking that 'this is it, she's got it all right and the institutions are a big lie'.

I have to be a little more intellectual about it.

It's physically impossible for me to just stop thinking. It's physically impossible to keep ideas away when inspiration strikes because my ideas usually create the inspiration in the first place. That's how my mind works; the egg comes before the chicken and that's just the way it is. I don't put aside the idea that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to because if I'm physically capable of doing something and I care enough to get through it, I can. I don't punt the idea away completely.

I agree that music is the highest art though. Hey! That's something we do agree on!

And me being me, I still don't think it's possible to make something new, even with time. Unless you're some sort of genius engineer who has the blueprints on a fully functional and efficient hovercar, as an artist you're just not going to be a brand new thing. All it takes is the color or the form or the act or the sound--someone's going to relate it to something else and it's just not going to be this cool, new, and exciting thing anymore. You can make something different is what you can do, and yeah, that's going to take a hell of a lot of time.

Now this is what threw me off. She said that the worst thing you can think of when you're making work is about yourself. Isn't the strongest kind of work personal? What sort of piece are you going to make if what you're making is something you have no interest in? A bad one, I'd think. Something unfeeling and solemn. So I'm trying to think about what she really means. Maybe she's just thinking about it in terms of her own work.

I can understand her feelings about a finished piece of work. I'd be happiest seeing it in someone else's hands {someone who can admire it}. I'm hardly ever satisfied with any of the pieces I create and on the rare occasions in which I am, no one else seems to like them. I just stopped having favorites. It's pretty pointless when you think about it. I'm happy to see others in approval of my work, but I'd be even happier if I also liked it as much.

Maybe keeping a clear mind is just something you learn how to do as you get older and all the children leave the home, because I can't imagine myself with one unless I meditate somewhere really quiet. Then I just end up falling asleep. I'm sure in this day and age, people like me have a lot of trouble keeping their minds clear. All the technology around us has even taught those macho men how to multitask and communicate freely like the women used to do all on their own. It's hard to go through a day without realizing there's this or that you want to/got to do.


But I can still respect Agnes Martin, despite all we might disagree on. She's got age on her side so who knows? Maybe she's right. Maybe it'll take me more than twenty years to realize it.

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