Agnes Martin. I got an email that I think sums it up perfectly:
"I wish the idea of time would drain out of my cells and leave me quiet even on this shore". - Agnes Martin 1912-2004
May we all be so blessed as to allow just a little of her life seep under our skin. - my friend
I agree wholeheartedly. She has been one of the first I turn to when I'm unsure, when I'm looking for answers, seeking solice of a wise art practioner. She has also been fundamental in my teaching practice..... I have been fortunate enough to see her work and experience it in person - may we all be so lucky (and dedicated and honest as she was).
Agnes' passing made me think about the recent conversation I had with my grandmother about the "philosophy" behind art making. We discussed what Jackson Pollock and Warhol were doing with their work - amongst other things. Although I already thought this - it seems as though the coneptual stakes have been raised in the contemporary art arena. The quest for art to REALLY MEAN SOMETHING seems incredibly important. The undertone of what does this work mean and how personal is consistent. The tricky part is figuring out a balance between personal and universal - if it's only about you it could appear selfish or narcisisstic - if it's too broad you could be borrowing from other cultures or trying to talk in a language that isn't your own. Even formal/minimal work seems to have a statement to go along with it - it's the quest for finding the colors in nature - the interpretation of skin/sky - the investigation of where pink turns to red.... all noble concerns I agree. Is beauty in or out of current fashion? I can't tell (do I really want to tell?). I guess that for myself I seek a balance between the formal and the conceptual. Although I love how conceptual work tickles the brain and makes you aware of layers and meaning or even just the absudity of life - I still look at art as an OBJECT as well - if i'm not intrigued by the aesthetics I feel like something is missing. If the object is empty of any meaning it starts to feel more decorative - like it's pulling away from the art context. I think this line of thought could be endless and inconclusive....
ultimately my favorite part of our conversation was that my grandmother proclaimed that my "profession" was artist. That made my heart glow a little bit. In our society I find it hard to proclaim that I'm an artist. Perhaps this is my problem, perhaps this is an accurate interpretation of how our culture thinks of art. Perhaps I've absorbed the notion that you have to be famous to be considered an artist - or perhaps I just hate the immediate and what seems inevitable follow up of "oh! what kind of art do you do?" Maybe it's all of the above. Instead I'm always listing the things I do... I'm a teacher/professor, a freelancer, a doer of whatever comes my way..... and finally at the end of the list is artist. Nonetheless it is a blessing to have family that support what you do - and think that your endeavors are worthwhile and perhaps even interesting!