Today in our painting class we watched a film about the great painter, Agnes Martin. When the film was made, she was 86 years old and still painting. She died at the age of 92, after leaving a remarkable series of very still, very zen-like paintings. Personally, she was quite striking, and came across much like a monk. She talked about painting for 20 years before she began to get what she wanted to paint. Every year at the end of the year, she would burn all the work she had done that year and start over. Finally she got it. As she said, "I don't paint nature or what's on this earth. It took me 20 years to paint what I want. Finally I got the grid, completely abstract, no hint of any cause in this world." At another point she explained how "intellect is the servant of ego .... I gave up facts entirely in order to have an empty mind. If your mind is full of garbage and an inspiration came, you wouldn't recognize it. I'm very careful not to have ideas because they're inaccurate." Later she said "I think all agressive behavior is wrong .... With a soft attitude, you receive more. Go slower and slower and then stop. Then your mind is at rest. It's best not to try too hard. Just look around and be in the mood for the truth. When the truth comes into your mind, you know what to do."
Agnes Martin knew so much about solitude, silence, geometry, the empty mind, and how to find inspiration. She stood out as a memorable and remarkable person, especially in this culture we have where everything seems speeded up, complicated, and everyone's mind is over-full of garbage. I know that mine is!
******* Unrelated Postscript:
On Wednesday, March 1st, 2006, in Annapolis, at a hearing on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, Professor of Law at AU, was requested to testify.
At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said: "Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?"
Raskin replied: "Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."
The room erupted into applause.