“I Have a Vacant Mind”: Interview with Agnes Martin

Agnes Martin, Untitled (1979), pencil and ink on paper, 105 x 105 in.

Agnes Martin was a Canadian-American painter whose work is often described as “minimalist”. I believe that Martin eschewed this definition of her work because she saw a much broader vision in her paintings, a vision that extended to a near spiritual realization of herself as an artist. This interview allows us a glimpse into her understanding of art. At one point she says, “I have a vacant mind . . . in order to do exactly what inspiration calls for.”

Her belief that art is primarily responded to with emotion echoes my own convictions. Intellectualism, both in art and in response to art, is always a “bad guess” to Martin. She says, “Never will we learn the truth about life.” Her approach to art is very similar to the Buddhist conception of “no-mind”. It involves a deep not-knowing.

Thanks to James Lourie for finding this video!

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