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Agnes Martin: An Artist 0n Her Own

By Jenny Attiyeh

Although she's in her 90!s, Agnes Martin prefers to drive. I was all ready to offer her a seat in my generic rental car, but she insisted on taking us to the restaurant in her white Mercedes. I helped her to reverse, standing outside the car and gesturing, for the parking lot behind her studio was crowded, the corners tricky. As I sat in the passenger seat, the flat planes of Taos passing outside, I knew I would fall in love with Agnes Martin. Agnes was everything I!d hoped for -- she was remote, powerful and yet a little jolly. Her voice is high and light like a young girl, and she giggles, often. I had come to her Taos studio, a small, plain affair stacked with large canvases, for an interview. But all that got postponed until after lunch. For it was a Tuesday, and every Tuesday Agnes dines with Bob Ellis, the director of the Harwood Museum in Taos, which has a specially designed octagonal room devoted exclusively to her artwork. We drove slowly to the restaurant. Agnes does not eat dinner, she told me. Lunch is her meal, and she has a couple of favorite restaurants. I had been expecting her to pull into the lot at Bravo, where she's been spied in the past, but we kept going, to the Trading Post, a shiny restaurant farther along the Paseo Del Pueblo Sur. Many people knew her there. She ambled in, large of body, her white hair short like a tomboy. Her eyes talk so loudly, they make up for her quiet ways. Agnes pauses when she talks. She punctuates her phrases with sighs in the high octaves. She drifts off, not from old age, but from thoughts she seems not to want to communicate too clearly. Over lunch, Agnes has a routine. She has a glass of red wine -usually a Chianti, I believe. She wants a full meal, but likes to share dessert with Bob. I watch the two old friends eat. Bob asks Agnes how her painting is going. A canvas - broadly striped with horizontal baby blue and white - is propped up unfinished in her studio. She says, “I am sunk in blue.” I had heard that Agnes had a problem with depression -- that it!s one big weary fight for her. But sunk in blue was a happy place for Agnes. It was free, which above all else, it seems, is what Agnes wants to be. She lives so simply one would think she is poor. Her

home, where we went after lunch, is in a cookie cutter mini-village, The Plaza De Retiro, off the main road. The houses are small, without character. Inside, Agnes has spent little thought on furniture; it feels like a motel. Above a small round table on which we conducted the interview are two paintings of fruit, very motel-like. They are not by Agnes. As we speak, we are interrupted by the telephone ringing. Often it!s New York, where she is represented by the Pace Gallery. And once the laundry lady comes by, drops off a neatly folded pile of Agnes's clothes, and leaves. I think about Agnes! clothes. She wears jeans, stone washed, and a large light blue, finely striped flannel shirt. It matches her eyes. Interview: Jenny Attiyeh: One of the things that really interests me about you, something you yourself said, is that beauty is not in the eye, it is in the mind. That goes against our cultural notions of beauty, where beauty is a 15 year old on the cover of Vogue. Tell me how you see your beauty, and you see that physical beauty? How do you see them as different? Agnes Martin: They're not different. I always say that when the beautiful rose dies, beauty does not die. Beauty is unattached. In our minds there is a very slight awareness that absolute beauty is love. Love is absolute beauty. And we can!t look at it, I used to say until after we die, but I'm not so sure that after we die we can look at it. It!s more than we can bear. Actually we have this slight awareness of beauty and perfection. I really think that perfection is easier to see than beauty. When you look at beauty, you're really looking at love, in your mind. It is really the beauty of love, and we like put it on the mountain -- we say the mountain is beautiful, but it is really a memory in our minds that we see. JA: What is it that you feel then when you look in the mirror? AM: In the mirror? You mean at myself? [chuckles] JA: When you were a young woman, and you looked in the mirror.

AM: Well, I never thought I was beautiful, but I do see some women that are just very -- I think I've seen three beautiful women. It!s not like being good looking, you know, they don!t have perfect features, or anything. But they're beautiful. I think it has to do with loving love. JA: You never got married. AM: Uh-um, no. JA: If you could live your life over again, would you have wanted a partner, a husband, a companion? AM: Yes, but no I wouldn't, because you see, I believe in reincarnation, and every time you're born you're different. And every time you're born you're different from anybody else. And you see you have to live according to what you were born to do and be. When there's a bare place on the ground, the best possible weed grows there, and it was the same with us, we were born to a purpose. And it took me 20 years to find my vision and do exactly what I was born to do, and I've finally found it. Everybody should study that up, what they are like and what they like and what they want to do, and be. And study their abilities and shortcomings -- you would be perfectly suited from what you were born to be. JA: [In your writing] you talk a lot about pride as something that we all experience, but that's something we should perhaps try to overcome AM: Pride is the enemy of life, because I think pride is really built on lies. You've got the best farm in the state, and you've come from a model home, a good home, wonderful home, and they're just one lie after another. If you live a bunch of lies, I mean, you've messed up your life. JA: Did you have to overcome pride? AM: Uh-um. [no] JA: You never struggled with that in yourself?

AM: You know, parents used to teach their children, “We want you to have a certain amount of pride.” They don!t do that anymore. The only thing that we haven't escaped from is pride in ancestors -- we still have that. They don!t know a thing about their ancestors, but they still take tremendous pride, they still try to live in such a way that their ancestors would be proud of. JA: You were quite a success in New York in the [19]60s, and you left. Tell me what you were feeling and why you felt it was important to leave at that time -- when you were so successful as an artist. AM: Yeah, I left. My shows were selling out. I sold out my shows from when I started showing, except sometimes I!d go seven years without selling, generally speaking, I sold nothing. No, I left because they tore down my loft, and I couldn't bear living anyplace else, after living on the river. JA: So was there something about the culture of New York that bothered you? AM: No, it was the environment, the fact that, in my last loft on the river, I liked it, but any place else, you have to come down an elevator to get outside, you get outside and it doesn't feel like outside, the walls go straight up on every side, you never see the stars, you don!t see the weather, it!s just -- but what gets me, I used to sit in New York and think, underneath me, underground you know, the wires, and pipes, you know, I don!t know how they ever dig up the basement on those big buildings, they must cut millions of wires! JA: You came to Taos several times before you settled here finally. But what do you think is the appeal of Taos for someone like you -an independent, single, strong woman? AM: I would go for the climate and the environment. In about three minutes, you're out of town, looking at the scenery. I love driving around, I never get tired of the great scenery. I came here in the first place because it!s the poorest state in the union. For instance, I had what I thought was a pretty good studio. It was a goat house, that

somebody had taken the whole end out of it and made it a window. I thought it was pretty big, but I went back -- it was really small, [giggles] and it had a view out over the plain. It cost $15 a month. That's why I came. Cause I didn't have the money. JA: I look at you and I look at Millicent Rogers and I look at Mabel Dodge -- strong personalities, strong women. Do you see any reason why this area would nurture and welcome women like that? AM: You know, Taos big spenders, they don!t function like they do other places. They are forced to convention in other places. The conventional people are on top, they have the whip hand, they tell you what to do. I had [known] a boy, he was a composer, and he gave me his composition, and he actually said that artists had a certain responsibility to the community, to members of the community and all, and it!s not true, I told him I disagree absolutely! I told him that when children tell their parents they're going to be artists, it just seems like bad news, because they do not have a sense of responsibility -- they are thinking about beauty and happiness, and innocence --I have no idea if anyone's thinking that, but -- they're at least thinking about beauty. I went to lunch with Rothko, and he talked all through lunch about the difference between artists and laymen. And he ended up by saying that his wife even expected him to go to PTA. He thought that was just ridiculous, he was painting paintings that were supposed to enlighten, and his wife thought he should go to PTA! JA: If you had had children, or a pet, or a husband, do you think it would have detracted from your focus on your art? AM: Oh no. But I do think that most women, they paint like these two pretty [Agnes points to two small still lifes of fruit in her living room, given to her by a female friend.] After their children get to be about 10 years old, they have plenty of time to paint. I didn't start showing till I was 45. There's plenty of time. Another 40 years. They've got plenty of time.

JA: In the culture that exists today, I feel I don!t have plenty of time. I feel this incredible pressure about being a woman and being young, as if older women don!t receive respect, aren't valued, aren't acknowledged. I feel that many older women are pretty much ignored by society at large. What do you think of that? AM: I told them that I never met with any prejudice. I think artists, they are the ones that think it!s not appreciated, women's art. The artists I know, they appreciate me. I've had every opportunity, you see... JA: You say in some of your writing, “Make happiness your goal.” Have you succeeded? AM: Oh yeah, I didn't have to succeed. I've been happy every day. You see some people are -- I don!t go up and I don!t go down. I thought when I got my Mercedes Benz I would have a little flutter, for having this, but I don!t get any happiness from material gain. You make a lot of money, but I did go up a little bit when I shook hands with the President, because he was such a nice man. [Agnes Martin has photo of Clinton displayed in her studio of the two meeting.] JA: What are the things that make you happy, if not material things? AM: The things that make me happy is to see the effect of love in life. If you see somebody being kind to someone, even children are sometimes kind to each other. Little children are always kind to us, they are always forcing on us everything they have, but I like to see love being effective in the world. I like to think of it in the abstract. And I just think it!s -- when you become really aware of love, that's all I want. JA: You talk about love in the abstract as something you focus on. What about love in the individual sense? AM: There isn't any human love. Of course you can think what you like. But according to me, there's no -- it!s insane to think that you have love. Only love that created the world and surrounds the world and fills the world, it!s the only love there is.

JA: Have you ever experienced depression? AM: Uh-um, no I have been happy every day, and I have painted, and I've been thinking happiness, innocence, love, every day, every hour. See, that's a different life. JA: In this second essay, [“Agnes Martin: "Humility, the Beautiful Daughter...All of Her Ways Are Empty! “ by Anna C. Chave from the Whitney Museum of American Art!s “Agnes Martin” catalogue, which accompanied her solo exhibition there from November 1992 to January 1993] which positions you as a woman artist, it says that you have succeeded partly because you were less personal and subjective and organic, and more classical and logical and masculine -- that you inherently sided with the powers that be in the art world. What do you think of that? AM: That's true. I have said several times that I'm a classicist. You know, impersonal. You see, the difference between my art and other people!s, is that because of what I'm painting, it!s not in this world, it!s beyond the world. Other people are painting what happens in this world, in nature. I'm painting beyond nature -- they're not about nature. Although people say [when] they're coming out of the mountains and coming into the plain, and people respond, saying when they get in a landscape they think of my painting, well I'm perfectly satisfied with that response, because they're responding to the expansion and freedom and all that. JA: You were describing briefly at lunch your new paintings, and you were thinking of giving them titles. How is that process going, the naming of the painting? AM: It!s going great. See, as soon as I find someone responding to a name, then I put it on. But what I'm anxious to paint out is -- I think that human being!s idea of love is just terrible, just terrible. I don!t see how they can be so wrong. That they think that the genital reaction of making love is love, I just think that's fantastic! It!s 15 minutes of physical abrasion, it!s the most important thing in the world! That's

just -- well. Love is really when you are no longer responding genitally, then you are able to be aware of love. And it!s about your heart and your mind. It!s the response of your heart and mind, it!s not the response of genital... There are just as many women [as men] who think it!s the drive of life. What gets me is it!s the most monotonous thing in life. It!s just the same thing over and over. And it!s the same the whole world over, exactly the same in China, in Africa, anyplace, and for anybody. I mean, everybody's built the same. There are no femme fatales, and there are no accomplished men... It!s the same, you know. No, it!s not an accomplishment. It!s just like any other natural process. But I don!t think that the sexual response is normal. I think that procreation is normal. But people that tell me how they feel about procreating is certainly nothing like making love. They think they are in tune with creation, they've told me a lot of things! And of course procreating is not what I'm talking about when I say making love. Making love is a destructive attack. And when you're making love you keep saying to yourself “destroy, destroy,” and then you get an appetite for destruction, and sure enough, you are destroying each other, and it!s an attack on the mind. After you make love, you're just so dumb, you're really dumb. It used to be that people kept it up until they could hardly move. In this old folks home, there would be lots of people that were senile, and kinda goofy! JA: When you were a younger woman, were you the subject of a lot of male attention? Were men trying to get you into bed? AM: [chuckle] When I was in high school, I don!t know what struck me. I was, I guess I was promiscuous. But I got over it. I started young, too young to get into trouble. I didn't menstruate till I was about 16 and a half, and so I never got pregnant or anything, but I just, umm... I didn't care what they thought. But what stopped me was a boy, three boys it was, they called me a slut. And so I stopped dating. I stopped this every night out, but I don!t regret it, my gosh, I don!t think a thing of it. JA: But you didn't like being called that.

AM: No, I didn't like -- I didn't like being it. [musing laughter] It was just absent-minded of me. JA: I'm thinking about Winter in Taos, Mabel Dodge Luhan!s book, and the book centers around a day, and Tony Luhan has left, and she misses him, and she's jealous of the possibility that he!s gone to see his other wife, or drink whiskey with his friends, and the whole day she keeps coming back to this need for him. And this is what I don!t want in love, but it seems to be always there, when you have a romantic relationship -- this jealousy, this suspicion, this fear that they're gonna leave you, or find someone else, find someone who's younger. How do you deal with all of that? AM: That isn't love. That is unlove. [conversation is interrupted] JA: How do you see yourself in relationship to these words -masculine and feminine? AM: I think for one thing, I look very feminine, I mean I have a feminine shape and everything. And, but you see, I don!t see that. I!ll tell you what I think. When love created good people, reached into nothing and pulled out a spark and made it into a baby, and then you gave the baby the choice to cry out or not. The baby cries out. And then you give him the choice to eat -- and the baby eats, and then you give him the choice to sleep, the baby sleeps. And then from then on, for as much as I think hundreds and hundreds of years, the baby chooses, chooses, that's the way his life is built, with the choices he makes. Well, I think that most of the choices that men and women make are the same. So far, the baby -- they all cry out, they all eat, they all sleep, this that and the other, until they are mature, and then they make slightly different choices, but they're not different. You know, when the men thought they were so masculine and everything, they weren't happy... And now look at them, they thought there was this tremendous separation, just an abyss, they thought that a man and a woman even eating an apple was a completely different experience. But no, when I was investigating masculine men, I discovered that they were practically helpless. They thought they were such a, that they're pulling together and creating the world, they

did think that. But really, if you're a man and you think I'm going to build a dog house, you have to really sit back and have some inspirations, even to build a dog house! They're practically helpless! They seem to be the terrific victorious males, and they're practically helpless. JA: One of the ways to see that is in being alone. Women in general are better at being alone than men. Often, if the woman dies first, the man is at a complete loss. How do you deal with being alone? AM: Oh, I love to be alone, my gosh. If I never had the chance to be alone, I wouldn't be able to carry on. I asked [somebody over] dinner, have you ever been alone, and he said well, I guess for half an hour, and I had been alone day after day, week after week, and I've never lived with anybody, been alone the whole time. JA: What about a roommate? AM: Uhum. [no] JA: Are there people who you love in Taos? AM: No, but I love their love, for love. You've heard me now. JA: I did, I'm just testing you. AM: I love their goodness. But I do not love personally. There's a lot of people that want me to love them personally, but I don!t. And believe it or not, but when I was 5 years old I had a playmate. Perfect I thought she was. But I told her when I was 5, I told her “You don!t love me and I don!t love you.” And I've never had that trouble about, you know, love interfering with a relationship. [giggles] I don!t believe in emotional involvement. I've known lots of wives who thought they were emotionally involved with their husbands, but really, I don!t think they knew their husbands, you see, because I've lived with my mother 17 years, and I never knew anything about her. We don!t get to know each other. We don!t even get to know ourselves, let alone each other. And then, there's no emotional involvement, that just messes things up. JA: Somebody might say that you're afraid of it. Afraid of the mess. You know, the mess can be a source of interest. Chaos, mess.

AM: I think that's insane, to want to be in a mess. I know people that do, but I never do. I even live like that -- don!t go down, don!t go up, don!t mess, go straight like that. I live very carefully. JA: What do you mean you live very carefully? AM: I very carefully choose what I'm going to do. Check, double check, just like as if I was going to make a painting. Say, now, is this the painting I want to make? Do I like this, and do I like that. Over and over, before I begin. The same with living. JA: Do you have an image of the painting in your mind before you paint? AM: Uh-um. [yes] Complete with color and everything. All I have to do is get it from the size of a postage stamp to six by six feet. And not make a mistake in scale. JA: How do you get that image in your head? Is that something that happens right away, something that takes a week, a month? AM: Well in the first place, your mind has to be empty. It can!t be full of junk and then expect to have inspirations. You have to live a life that makes inspiration most possible. So you have to have no involvements, and then, no responsibility. When I was 14 I thought that we don!t know much, a 5-year-old child asking us questions can stop us in about 15 minutes. We come to the end of our knowledge, and then so we don!t know what we need, and we don!t know what the future will be and what our relatives are, and so I came to the conclusion that we can!t possibly be held responsible for what we do. We!re just not responsible! Let alone being responsible for somebody else. We!re not even responsible for ourselves. We just aren't responsible. JA: Tell me about blue for you.

AM: Blue. Well you know, I think it!s the sky. It!s so blue, isn't it? Here in Taos, the sky. Blue is my favorite color. I used to paint in gray, moth gray, for years, but blue is so much prettier. JA: You have blue eyes. AM: No I don!t. My eyes are green. JA: They are? I thought they were blue, maybe it!s the shirt. [Agnes Martin was wearing a horizontally striped light blue shirt] AM: They reflect blue, but they're green. [laughs] Dark green. Everybody says I have blue eyes, but I don!t. JA: I don!t mean to stress this too much, but it!s of interest to me, the notion of you as a physically beautiful person -AM: At one time? JA: At one time, and now. I'm interested in your views on age. How you view yourself. I have a picture of you when you were a young woman, and I think it!s a very beautiful woman, and I like the way you look now. I'm just wondering how you think of yourself physically. AM: My face is so expressive, that I just take a terrible picture. That one good picture JA: The one in the studio? AM: That one and the one you say you saw when I was young. Those are the two good pictures in my life. And you wouldn't believe how many photographers I've entertained. I tell them beforehand, very little chance. But I think that you get what you want. I didn't get fat -as fat as I am -- till I was 64, and then I got absent-minded. But I really think we get everything we want, and so if you don!t want to get fat, just keep saying I want to be slender. JA: Is it important to you to be slender? AM: Uhum. I think it!s terrible to be fat. The doctors say that I'm just fat like an old woman, but I'm really fat like an old man! I have a fat stomach! [laughter] The doctors don!t consider me fat, but I am.

JA: What about the whole concept of aging. Are you comfortable with it? The concept of your body not being able to work as well, the concept of getting fat, the concept of not being able to walk as fast? AM: Not being able to walk up and down stairs. JA: What impact does that have on you? AM: I think that old age, that you're brought to a standstill. The same with disease, that you're stopped. See we just go racing ahead, racing ahead, racing ahead. And we miss a whole lot, and we have to be stopped. Old age is being stopped. Your mind, my mind is not stopped, but yes, physically, you're stopped. I think it!s necessary, to find out what you have found out. JA: It!s not something that makes you sad -AM: Uh-um [no] I don!t want to have life prolonged. I've filled out all kinds of papers you can fill in about not prolonging life. No, I'm ready to die any time, any minute. JA: Why? AM: Why? Because I guess I don!t want to have a long old age. I'm ready to go on finally. I certainly don!t think it!s the end when you die, do you? JA: I have to tell you that I'm scared of it. AM: Scared of dying? JA: Absolutely. AM: What do you think is gonna happen? JA: I think I won!t be alive. I want to be alive. JA: Hilton Kramer has talked about your work as having an aura of self-sufficiency. That you're communicating for yourself, you're painting for yourself, not for an audience. [I read her the quote from the Whitney Museum 1992 catalogue, in the essay titled “Agnes Martin: The awareness of Perfection” by Barbara Haskell:] “As Hilton Kramer noted, her paintings had an aura of self-sufficiency, of not having been painted to impress or please anyone but the artist herself.” What do you think about that?

AM: I don!t think he!s right about self-sufficiency. If you are selfsufficient, you don!t need any help from anybody else, in order to do it. That's self-sufficient. JA: Isn't he also saying that you're not that interested in what other people think of your work? If you like it, that's good enough? AM: That's not what I -- no. I don!t paint for myself. Now I'm painting innocence, so that people will know that what the baby puts out, that's really love, and I want everybody to see it and know it, and this and that, and I don!t want to show paintings that do not show it. You know, I don!t paint for myself -- far from it, and I can see that I'm contributing to life, and [everything]. I think that living is giving, like a farmer grows 150 acres of wheat. He gives it to life for bread, and somebody else makes pies, and sells some shoes. [Agnes! laundress arrives, and the interview is interrupted.] AM: You see, what you are -- what we give is attention and energy. You give attention and energy. Everybody gives attention and energy, and I think everything is needed, nothing can be left out. And so everybody's as important as everybody else. JA: When you left New York [in 1967], the description here [again from the essay in the Whitney Museum catalogue titled “Agnes Martin: The awareness of Perfection” by Barbara Haskell] -- you implied that you were unhappy when you left. AM: I wasn't though. JA: [I read aloud, from Barbara Haskell!s essay.] “Her precipitous abandonment of a successful career and decision to live away from people had been motivated by her need to resolve the despair and confusion about life that had numbed her.” AM: That's crazy, those two-second essays, they're by women's professors, don!t know anything.

JA: [In your writings, you] say that you feel a sense of defeat is an essential state of mind for creative work. What do you mean by a sense of defeat? AM: The thing is, I said I wanted to build a house, and I thought, now what do I know about building houses, and I said my gosh I don!t know a thing -- completely defeated. The thing is, you have to be completely defeated to be creative. You think, I've got an idea about how to build a house, and you build some crazy thing. See that's no good. You have to be completely defeated, to start with nothing. JA: Humility? AM: Humility is a great thing. I really meant it when I wrote that poem [from her Journal Excerpts, Whitney Catalogue, p. 26.] I know a lot of women, they know that they're no influence on their husband, and no influence on their children, and they don!t have any responsibility, so in the poem it says they walk an even path, with no cares, and that all of their ways are empty, but the last line is “Sweet, smiling, uninterrupted, free” -- you can live a free life. JA: Did you have adult relationships, romantic relationships in your adult life? AM: No. JA: So it was a decision you made early on? AM: Uhum. [yes] When I started painting, I was so taken up with it, completely taken up with it. JA: What did your parents think of your life choices as far as they followed them? AM: I just had one parent, my mother was widowed. My father died when I was 2 and a half, and she didn't like children, and she hated me, god how she hated me. She couldn't bear to look at me or speak to me -- she never spoke to me. JA: Do you know why?

AM: Yes, it was that she always thought that if she ever got a chance socially, that she would be a knockout. She would be a charming hostess and all that, and when she got married, she thought, oh, now it!s my chance, but then they went up north, way up north, cause the government was giving away land, and my father was the manager of a grain elevator. He bought and sold wheat and so he was like in the town, he was like the biggest businessman in town. But my mother was out on the farm and she had three children in three years, and she really didn't like children, and I was the third. And she was a fierce woman. We really had a peculiar family, because my younger brother was brilliant and then my older brother wasn't, and then my mother and my sister were below average, I think, in intelligence. He and I were brilliant, and they were dumb. JA: Did you feel you didn't fit in, in the family?

AM: I was overlooked. When I was two, I was locked up in the back porch, and when I was three, I would play in the backyard. When I came to the door, my sister would say “you can!t come in,” and shut the door. All day I was out, all day, till five o'clock. When I was four I was in the yard. When I was five, I started walking around the town. Six -- when I went to school I didn't come home from school, cause I wasn't wanted. JA: Were they up to no good in that house? Is that why you weren't wanted? AM: No, it!s because my mother hated me, because I interfered with her social life. [Agnes laughs] She's a fierce, fierce woman. She enjoyed seeing people hurt. Her favorite television program was boxing, and she got right up close to the television, and just watched them smacking his head against -- but as a matter of fact, she hated me, but I liked her. JA: Why did you like her?

AM: Well, I liked her because she worked so hard. She made a good house clean, she was a good cook, she sewed, and I felt sorry for her making my clothes when she hated me so much. I really did feel sorry for her. Hmm. JA: Do you think this is one of the reasons why you didn't want to have children? Because of the way your mother treated you? AM: No, I didn't want to have children, I wanted to be a painter, all the time. JA: When do you remember knowing you wanted to be a painter? AM: When I was in New York I just thought, and I went to all the museums and I thought gosh if I could make a living painting, that's what I!d like to do. JA: Have you ever doubted your work? AM: I doubted it for 20 years. I didn't like it for 20 years. It wasn't what I wanted. When I knew what I wanted, I wanted absolutely abstract painting, like music. Music is abstract. It!s about our feeling, you know, and I had to paint from inspiration and the inspirations just went ahead just a little bit at a time, a little bit, so slow. 20 years of inspiration - but not what I wanted. JA: What made you break through, do you think? AM: Well, I don!t know. I was sitting thinking about innocence -- I'm always thinking about innocence -- and into my mind came the grid, this vertical and horizontal grid, and then I thought well, if I paint that nobody will think it!s a painting. But I painted it anyway, 6 feet and 6 feet of grid, and sure enough, it was innocence. You just thought of innocence when I looked at it. So I knew that I had at last painted the nonobjective. And later I came to the Museum Of Modern Art, and they showed it for years, and I was satisfied with that one. JA: Do you have a favorite painting?

AM: That's one of them, and this painting, on the folder. “Flower in the Wind” was a favorite -- its horizontal lines.

JA: What makes that one a favorite for you? AM: “Flower in the Wind”? Well, you just have to see it. JA: What about the 8 paintings you just completed? AM: I feel that they're the best, maybe the ones I already sent, the 8, maybe they're the best paintings I've painted, maybe right now. It might not be, I really strain for a permanent painting, see, they don!t take them down, they leave them up forever. So I really tried hard. I don!t believe in trying hard, but I did my best. JA: So these last paintings that you just completed are going to be on permanent display at the Dia Center [for the Arts in New York]? AM: Yes. JA: So you feel they're your best work. So how do you deal with the pride? Do you feel pride for those paintings? AM: No, I don!t have pride. I have the opposite, that I simply cannot take credit for anything. And so -- you won!t believe this, but I have sore knees because I can!t take credit. Because when an inspiration comes in my head and it just is the whole painting, all I have to do is paint it. I don!t take credit! JA: Why do you have sore knees? What's the connection? AM: The connection is that I am supposed to take credit, that I did it, and so therefore I take the credit! I'm being punished for not taking the credit. A while ago I had sciatica, and that was for not realizing that I was superior. So I struggled, struggled, I thought it!s so insane to think you're superior when there are 2 and a half billion people, you know, but I had to. I had to think I was superior to get rid of sciatica.

But I finally got around to it. Now if I could just take the credit for a whole lot of things, I feel my knees wouldn't be so hurt. JA: But it!s against your beliefs to take the credit -AM: I've gotta give up that belief. It!s wrong. Whenever you have a pain, doesn't matter where it is, you should investigate it, you know, just put your mind on it like that and then watch what comes into your mind -- the answer. Your own mind is all you need. You just have to pay attention to it. And you have to give up asking the neighbors and your friends and everything for advice, see? Just watch your mind. Everything you need to know trickles in. I've made millions of dollars that way. JA: What do you do with the money? AM: I have a foundation. My foundation buys -- so far I've bought the Abstract Expressionists mostly -- to put in museums when they come on the market. When I'm painting I think to myself, I want this painting to appeal to other minds. I keep thinking that to myself as I paint, you know, that's what I think when I'm painting. Either that or nothing. And then I also paint, I say I wish myself good wishes. [laughs] Good wishes make a lot of difference, somebody wishes you good wishes. Hmm. Uhum. JA: So what are you going to do this afternoon? AM: Gosh, I don!t know. I think I should sleep. What time is it? JA: It!s 3:15. AM: Because not a wink of sleep. And I haven't had a good sleep for a long time, see, and I'm really beat. JA: Do you know why you haven't had a good sleep? AM: I'm interrupted, that's why. It!s like bad dreams, having bad dreams. Uhum. yes. JA: Well, I!ll let you take a nap.

AM: Okay.