Sunday, October 23, 2011

Inspired by Agnes Martin

mini paintings by Rosa Phoenix

I've returned to the desert where I grew up, in Phoenix, Arizona. 

The desert of the American Southwest has always attracted artists, 
who are drawn to the open skies, raw landscape, sculpted rocks and dazzling light.

A couple of years ago I visited the Dia Arts Center in Beacon, New York. There I encountered for the first time, the works of Canadian-born artist Agnes Martin (1912 - 2004).

Her paintings couldn't be simpler: stripes in the palest colors, painted on a pencil-drawn grid.

by Agnes Martin

In concept, it seems one-note and one-dimensional, but actually, to be in the presence of these paintings is a transcendent experience. It's not something that translates as a reproduced image. 

Paintings emanate with the energy and intentions of the artist.

A painting is a lot more than just colors on a surface.

photo by Bill Jacobson

I still keep Agnes Martin's paintings in my heart.

I learned that she lived and worked in Taos, New Mexico, just like another of my favorite artists, Georgia O'Keefe.

The desert is a harsh environment. 
It is a huge, open space that makes a person feel 
very small, insignificant and vulnerable.

How do you capture that sense of space? 

The desert invites a different kind of artistic approach.

Lots of decoration and embellishments don't work. Ornate patterns don't work. Realism doesn't work. 

I think the maxim "Less is more" applies here.

Agnes Martin had a particular genius for this.

Agnes Martin

Here in the desert, I'm clearing my mind.

As an exercise, I created my own works, inspired by my desert surroundings, and Agnes Martin.

Using some small, square canvases, I used masking tape and latex paints to create a series of striped paintings. Here are some in progress, with masking tape on:

mini paintings in progress 
by Rosa Phoenix

I used desert colors.

When I put them together as an installation on one wall of my room, I was pleased with the result. It is a suggestion, rather than a literal interpretation, of desert beauty. 

I wake up and see the colors of the desert. I see the sky, the clouds, the earth, the light. I see Indian blankets. I see the striated colors of the rocks. I see sunrises and sunsets.

 This wall of mini paintings keeps my mind clear and creative.

I like the rhythm of the stripes.

wall of mini paintings by Rosa Phoenix

I feel so inspired by the beauty that surrounds me. 

Like Georgia O'Keefe and Agnes Martin before me, I find myself challenged to create in a whole new way.

Here is a video interview of Agnes Martin, where she talks about the painting process. It is quite enlightening.

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