Thank You, Agnes Martin, for Making Me Hate Your Painting!

‘The Rose’ by Agnes Martin 1965. All rights reserved.

‘The Rose’ by Agnes Martin 1965. All rights reserved.

Article by: Christina Lazarakis.

As a food photographer and creator of the food blog Small Kitchen Chronicles, I photograph peaches. Okay, a lot more than just peaches, but food is my art these days. It wasn’t always that way. I used to paint.

A lifetime ago, when I was an art student, I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of an art history assignment. We were given a list of pieces we were required to see, and dutifully, I, the consummate good-art-student, made my way to see them. I cannot recall a single piece but one, a painting called “The Rose” by Agnes Martin.

By the way, I had to think and search far, wide, and deep to remember what the name of it was, and to locate any info on it. But though it took a long time to remember what it was called, I never forgot it. It is the only piece of art, before or since, that has ever affected me so much. It affected me not because I loved it, but for quite the opposite. I hated it.

It was 6’ by 6’, acrylic and graphite on canvas. In layman’s terms: a big, primed square canvas with pencil and rose-colored lines in a grid pattern on it.

To my 18 year old brain – basically, gigantic, rose-colored graph paper but – ooh! – on canvas. I couldn’t believe that I had been asked, no, made to see this piece of ____, that this was even considered art, and what-the-what-was-going-on-in-the-world that it was hanging up in the Philadelphia Museum of Art!

But I remembered it. And that was over twenty years ago. And that’s the point.

I have loved many a piece since, or so I’ve thought, but ask me to remember one, and I can’t. But I remember this one. This piece – this seemingly lame, glorified “graph paper on canvas” – has stayed with me. It wasn’t nice, it wasn’t pretty; it was art.

Why? Because it made me feel, and so strongly, that I have never forgotten it. And no glorified piece of graph paper could ever do that.

I realized that I didn’t have to like something for it to be good. That good art, true art meant little about likability and more about its lasting impact on the viewer.

So thank you, Ms. Martin, for making me hate your painting. For that, I truly admire you.

To see more of Agnes Martin’s work go here.

Christina Lazarakis is a freelance writer and creator of Small Kitchen Chronicles. She has been an artist and performer her entire life. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Christopher, and is thrilled to be writing for Give Us Art! Go Art! Connect with Christina on Twitter @christinalaz.

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Comments

  1. Ayup. I had the same feelings of “Why is this art?” about that painting and yet it’s one of the few pieces I remember decades later from the museum.

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  2. And here I was, all ready to defend Agnes Martin. But I see you’ve already figured out that you don’t have to BE a minimalist painter to appreciate a minimalist painter. Nice post. You had me going.

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  3. I too was waiting for it to load. What-the-what is right! Great article Christina! 🙂

    Like

  4. Niko Lazarakis says:

    Ha, ha, awesome and oh so wise! When I was first looking at the painting I thought that my screen had not loaded yet. Then I realized it had:).

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. […] Martin has been discussed on his blog before. Guest writer/contributor Christina Lazarakis (having now moved on to her own blog Small Kitchen Chronicles) wrote this article Thank You, Agnes Martin, for Making Me Hate Your Painting! […]

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