A few weeks ago I shared a link in my newsletter to 17 things you didn't know about Feminist icon Frida Kahlo. If you followed along here in January while I was studying Frida, you probably already knew all 17 but still it was a fun list. And so I thought... I should make my own list(s)!
Today being the last day of the month, it's the perfect day to share my top 12 interesting facts about Agnes Martin or the more clickable title 12 Things You Didn't Know About Grid Artist Agnes Martin. Here we go!
1. Agnes Bernice Martin was born on the plains of Saskatchewan on March 22, 1912 and became a US citizen in 1950.
2. Agnes' father was gone by the time she was 3 years old and Agnes had a difficult relationship with her mother. When Agnes was about six, she had to have her tonsils removed. Her mother put her on a streetcar with instructions about where to get off for the hospital. No one had told her that the operation meant staying overnight. The next morning she was sent home on the streetcar.
3. Agnes swam in the Canadian Olympic team tryouts and placed fourth in the women's 440 yard freestyle. She just missed qualifying for the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
4. In the 1950's and 60's Agnes lived and worked in a loft on Coenties Slip, a street in Lower Manhattan. She was good friends with Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Jack Youngerman, and Ad Reinhardt.
5. Agnes never publicly discussed her sexuality but while living in NYC she was in relationships with (artists) Lenore Tawney and Chyssa Vardea.
6. Agnes had schizophrenia. She experienced auditory hallucinations, followed by amnesia, and catatonic trances throughout her life. She was hospitalized several times and at one hospital she was subjected to shock therapy. However her art was not fueled by the voices she heard or her illness. She never suggested that her work was cathartic or therapeutic.
7. Agnes is often referred to as a Minimalist but she rejected that label. She also resisted the idea that her work was based on nature or landscape. She considered herself an abstract expressionist. Her art was a deliberate expression of universal feelings and experiences––an expression of control, calm, and happiness.
8. After leaving NY, Agnes drove around the Pacific Northwest, Canada, and the American Southwest, sleeping in the camper that her truck hauled. She then settled in New Mexico. She did not paint for 7 years.
9. While Agnes used a grid in her paintings, she lived much of her life in New Mexico off the grid––with no electricity and or plumbing. During this time she often resorted to extreme food restrictions like only hard cheese, homegrown tomatoes, and walnuts one winter and later only Knox gelatin mixed with orange juice and bananas.
10. Agnes loved cars, owning several (Scout, BMW, Mercedes) at one time. She also loved to read Agatha Christie mysteries and listen to Beethoven.
11. Agnes did not see herself as a woman, much less a feminist. She was hardly ever termed a "woman artist" by writers or critics and reported that she never felt discriminated against.
12. Agnes was a very spiritual person. She meditated daily and believed in reincarnation.