It was in an attempt to escape the crowds at MoMA that I came across Agnes Martin’s work. I saw a gallery in the back with no one in it, and like a moth to a flame I was drawn to it’s promise of isolation. In the calm emptiness, in almost silence, I looked at her minimalist canvases hanging before me and was able to let out the deep breath I didn’t realize I was holding in.
If I had not seen her work in person, I don’t know that I would have spent any time considering it. It’s hard to understand their meditative calmness looking at the small scale reproduction on your screen. Hard to perceive the slight changes in the colored stripes floating across the canvas like you can when the painting is in front of you, filling your peripheral. Some things you just need to see in person to fully appreciate them and I would argue that her work is a part of that category of things.
I found it as no surprise reading more about her and her work that she was inspired by buddhism and what she called the ‘abstract glories of being’; happiness, joy, beauty, and innocence. The evidence of that influence is obvious when you encounter her work. The impact of experiencing her paintings that day at MoMA did not really hit me until a week later when I found myself staring out at the clear evening sky, mindlessly waiting for the dogs to come back in, when I realized the subtle bars of color lowering themselves over the horizon were an Agnes Martin painting come to life.
To learn more about the artist:
- MoMA Agnes Martin
- Agnes Martin: the artist mystic who disappeared into the dessert – The Guardian
- The Joy of Reading Between Agnes Martin’s Lines – The New York Times
Ladylike Artists is a weekly feature on my blog where I write about a female artist that has inspired me. My interest for learning more about woman artists peaked when I realized that art history rarely talks about them, saving their stories and work for specialized classes and books. There are more woman artists than we realize! I hope their stories inspire you to ignore whatever boundaries are stopping you from pursuing your passion.