Her Life and Art

“When people go to the ocean they like to see it all day. They don’t expect to see, to find all that response in painting…. There’s nobody living who couldn’t stand all afternoon in front of a waterfall. It’s a simple experience, you become lighter and lighter in weight, you wouldn’t want anything else. Anyone who can sit on a stone in a field awhile can see my painting. Nature is like parting a curtain, you go into it. I want to draw a certain response like this… that quality of response from people when they leave themselves behind.”

Martin invoked the experience of nature often, but only as a state comparable to the response she sought, never as subject or theme for her work. [...] She retained hope that a viewer might engage with her paintings as if walking into water, or a field of wheat, and with a similar kind of release and submission.

“Everybody’s got their mind on artists and paintings. But it’s the response to art that really matters,” she [Martin] said on one occasion. Asked how much time she thought a viewer should spend with her work, she replied, laughing, “Just about a minute.” When the surprised interviewer replied, “A minute?” Martin offered the seldom acknowledged truth, “Yeah, but a minutes’s quite a while.”

From my summer book Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art gracefully written by Nancy Princenthal