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Agnes Martin’s Hands

By April 8, 2012Blog, Uncategorized

Thinking about hands that make things, thinking about Agnes Martin’s hands. Martin (1912-2004) was a Canadian-born American painter who spent the second half of her life living alone on a remote mesa in New Mexico, who consciously distanced herself from the social life and social events that brought other artists into the public eye, who used her hands for the rough work of building houses in the desert and the refined work of minimalist drawing. Is it my knowledge of her life and art that renders her hands so mysterious and riveting?

Thinking about the shyness of her hands, if it isn’t the same understatement I detect in her spare and ethereal canvasses, the same lonesomeness I imagine in her hand-drawn pencil lines. Thinking about this and what happens to hands when they are suddenly placed in the camera’s frame after years of working unwatched; that this is how hands sit (stoic and apprehensive) when, after years of working vigorously and reclusively, happily and self-reliantly, they are suddenly asked to be idle and observed.