Santa Fe, NM
Shrouded in myth, the artist Agnes Martin (1912-2004), an iconic figure in 20th-century art, was emotionally and artistically tortured, exquisitely sensitive yet socially inept. Canadian born, she started to make a name for herself in the New York art scene in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but in 1967, abandoned her career for a reclusive life in the New Mexico desert. She did not return to her work for nearly a decade.
Several years after she began creating art again, photographer Donald Woodman met her and remained a fixture in her life from 1977 through 1984. In Agnes Martin and Me, Woodman shares his photographs of their time together.
The exhibit consists of about 20 photographs, including ones from their 1978 misguided and dangerous river excursion through the Northwest Territories of Canada. The trip was a lifelong dream for Martin. Woodman embarked as her keeper, guide, and companion. Upon returning from this trip, the two co-existed on a plot of land owned by Woodman in Galisteo, New Mexico, where her cycles of depression, spitefulness, genius, and eventually incapacitation from schizophrenia played out before Woodman’s eyes.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether you go or not, Donald Woodman's new book, Agnes Martin and Me, reveals the raw, unveiled person he knew in the seven roller-coaster years of their constant contact.Seven years as assistant, friend, and sometime adversary of the celebrated painter are engagingly recalled in this illustrated memoir by photographer Donald Woodman. Woodman's story is an enjoyably readable, affectionate, and respectful account of a period when Martin was close to few people - providing a picture of "missing" years in this important painter's life. An unvarnished and candid account reveals an exasperating, troubled, earthy, but brave and determined painter. At the heart of the memoir is a surreal journey with Martin down Canada's Mackenzie River, toward the Arctic, which her "voices" instructed her to undertake. Illustrated by Woodman's photographs, this book adds a crucial dimension to the Martin story and is destined to become a small classic of art biography.