Reemergence in Cuba, New Mexico
The period of travel that followed Martin's departure from New York and the interruption to her painting career have acquired the status of myth. There is a fair amount of mystery about where she went and how she spent her time during those years. What is known is that for roughly the first year and a half, she was on the move, driving and camping in the Pacific Northwest, in both the United States and Canada. By the end of 1968, she had resettled.
—Nancy Princenthal on the book Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art
No one is exactly sure where she went. Like Huckleberry Finn, she lit out for the territories, travelling off-grid, into open space. She re-emerged at a cafe and filling station in Cuba, New Mexico in 1968, pulling in and asking the manager if he knew of any land for rent. By chance, his wife had a property available, and so, at the age of 56, Martin moved up to a remote mesa, 20 miles across dirt roads from the nearest highway. No electricity, no phone, no neighbours, there was not even a shelter to move into. For the first few months, she focused her energy on building, working from scratch and mostly alone. She made a one-room dwelling out of adobe bricks she shaped herself, and then a log-cabin studio from trees she cut down with a chainsaw. It was in this latter space that she began to inch towards art again, first prints, then drawings, then the luminous work of her maturity.
—Olivia Laing, on The Guardian
In Taos, New Mexico. She was living on a mesa by herself. In the winter it flooded all around so she would be in for two to three months unable to get anywhere because the river was raging. She would grow tomatoes and preserve them, and would have shelves full of them. She would only eat one thing while she was painting so that nothing distracted her. She said, ‘I can’t have any distractions, I can’t even have a cat. I don’t have any chickens either.’ It was a life in art, and it was a very serious endeavour. She was almost a preacher for the beauty within oneself, the order of perfection that she said did not exist in the real world. It was a very intense life. Towards the end she became much more outgoing and personable, but in the early years she was very much a recluse.
—Arne Glimcher, her biographer, talking about Agnes Martin