Lecture at Cornell University

September 16, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard

written by Agnes Martin, from Writings

Lecture at Cornell University

I want to talk to you about “the work,” art work.

I will speak of inspiration, the studio, viewing art work, friends

of art, and artists’ temperaments.

But your interest and mine is really “the work”–works of art.

Art work is very important in the way that I will try to show

when I speak about inspiration.

I have sometimes suffered in consequence.

I thought me, me; and I suffered.

I thought I was important. I was taught to think that. i was

taught: “You are important; people are important beyond any-

thing else.”

But thinking that I suffered very much.

I thought that I was big and “the work” was small. It is not

possible to go on that way. To think I am big is the work is big.

The position of pride is not possible either.

And to think I am smal and the work is small, the position of

modesty, is not possible.

I will go on to inspiration I do not want you to think I am

speaking of religion.

That which takes us by surprise–moments of happiness–that

is inspiration. Inspiration which is different from daily care.

Many people as adults are so startled by inspiration which is

different from daily care that they think they are unique in

having had it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Inspiration is there all the time.

For everyone whose mind is not clouded over with thoughts

whether they realize it or not.

Most people have no realization whatever of the moments in

which they are inspired.

Inspiration is pervasive but not a power.

It’s a peaceful thing.

It is a consolation even to plants and animals.

Do not think that it is unique.

If it were unique no one would be able to respond to your work.

Do not think it is reserved for a few or anything like that.

It is an untroubled mind.

Of course we know that an untroubled state of mind cannot last. So we say that inspiration comes and goes but really it is there all the time waiting for us to be untroubled again. We can therefore say that it is pervasive. Young children are more untroubled than adults and have many more inspirations. All the moments of inspiration added together make what we call sensibility. The development of sensibility is the most important thing for children and adults but is much more possible in children. In adults it would be more accurate to say that the awakening to their sensibility is the most important thing. Some parents put the development of social mores ahead of aesthetic development. Small children are taken to the park for social play; sent to nursery school and headstart. But the little child sitting along, perhaps even neglected and forgotten, is the one open to inspiration and the development of sensibility.

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