Artist
Agnes Martin
American artist

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Agnes Martin
American artist
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Birth Date

1912

Death Date

2004

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Sr. Editor

Agnes Martin was a Canadian artist who moved to the States to study and ultimately teach art.

At first she painted landscapes but when she moved to New York in the 50’s she became an integral member of the Abstract Expressionist movement, meaning her paintings evolved to be more minimal until they were just vertical and horizontal lines. There were perhaps a simplification of the horizon line in her earlier landscapes, but people also speculate that the grids of New York City blocks and the shape of skyscrapers made their way into her mind.

She left New York for New Mexico because the building her studio was in was going to be torn down, and then didn’t paint for seven years! She lived basically like a hermit, with no radio and taking very few visitors. It’s said that she didn’t even read a newspaper for 50 years! Her interest in the teachings of Zen Buddhism may have accounted for the drastic lifestyle change.

The spiritual aspect to her paintings is the reason she wanted to be called an Abstract Expressionist instead of a Minimalist. Agnes Martin’s fragile lines speak to her psyche and philosophy on life, whereas Minimalism was a conceptual exercise in paring down art to just the stuff it’s made out of (think plain black canvases or big metal boxes).

There is lots of speculation about Martin’s sexuality. Though she had romantic relationships with women she never publicly identified as a lesbian. The silence and mystery surrounding her personal life could be said to be related to the quiet yet profound effect her large canvases have on the viewer.

 

 

I know I always feel contemplative in front of an Agnes Martin. Do you?

 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Agnes Martin

Agnes Bernice Martin (March 22, 1912 – December 16, 2004) was a Canadian-born American abstract painter. Her work has been defined as an "essay in discretion on inward-ness and silence". Although she is often considered or referred to as a minimalist, Martin considered herself an abstract expressionist. She was awarded a National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998.

Personal life

Agnes Bernice Martin was born in 1912 to Scottish Presbyterian farmers in Macklin, Saskatchewan, one of four children. From 1919, she grew up in Vancouver. She moved to the United States in 1931 to help her pregnant sister, Mirabell, in Bellingham, Washington. She preferred American higher education and became an American citizen in 1950. Martin studied at Western Washington University College of Education, Bellingham, Washington, prior to receiving her B.A. (1942) from Teachers College, Columbia University. In 1947 she attended the Summer Field School of the University of New Mexico in Taos, New Mexico. After hearing lectures by the Zen Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki at Columbia, she became interested in Asian thought, not as a religious discipline, but as a code of ethics, a practical how-to for getting through life. A few years following graduation, Martin matriculated at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, where she also taught art courses before returning to Columbia University to earn her M.A. (1952). She moved to New York City in 1957 and lived in a loft in Coenties Slip in lower Manhattan. She left New York City in 1967, disappearing from the art world to live alone. After eighteen months on the road, Martin settled in Cuba, New Mexico (1968-1977), and then Galisteo, New Mexico (1977-1993). She built an adobe home for herself in each location. She lived alone all her adult life. In 1993 she moved to a retirement residence in Taos, New Mexico, where she lived until her death in 2004.

She was publicly known to have schizophrenia, once opting for electric shock therapy for treatment.

Many of her paintings bear positive names such as Happy Holiday (1999) and I Love the Whole World (2000). In an interview in 1989, discussing her life and her painting, Agnes Martin said, "Beauty and perfection are the same. They never occur without happiness."

A pioneer of her time, Agnes Martin never publicly expressed her sexuality, but has been described as a "closeted homosexual." The 2018 biography Agnes Martin: Pioneer, Painter, Icon describes several romantic relationships between Martin and other women, including the dealer Betty Parsons. She often employed an intersectional feminist lens when she critiqued fellow artists' work. Jaleh Mansoor, an art historian, stated that Martin was "too engaged in a feminist relation to practice, perhaps, to objectify and label it as such."

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Agnes Martin.