the distraction of food, cats and dogs

During a studio visit from art dealer Arne Glimcher in 1976, Agnes Martin said, “When I work, I diet so as not to have any distraction from food. Sometimes I’ll eat only one thing, like bananas, and anytime I get hungry, I say, ‘Agnes, have another banana’ and that’s it, I won’t eat any more. I can’t deal with distraction. I don’t have a dog because they demand love. Even a cat is too distracting. I wouldn’t mind the company, but I can’t have it” (pg 77).1

This was an interesting statement to encounter as I have been thinking about booking-off two weeks to devote to an artist residency to get some work done—I actually haven’t devoted much time to my practice since the pandemic became ‘a thing.’ My distractions from the daily routine of life are many and this is one way I think I can get back on track.

I had been thinking how I might eat when in residency. I was thinking I’d stick to simple meals but I can’t eat just one thing—that in itself would be a distraction. I would bring my own home-made granola for yogourt and fruit breakfasts, have rice cooked up and ready to go in the fridge to warm up with canned Romano beans, Parmesan cheese and olive oil to drizzle on top, and salad stuff with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for supper. Bananas would be the in-between meal snack, if needed. I think I could stick to this diet for two weeks, no problem. Of course, if there’s any good restaurants in the vicinity, I would try them out.

As for the business of dogs and cats…a dog can provide a much needed distraction. There’s nothing like going for a walk with a canine companion—it’s one way to get a darn good mental break. A cat would be such good company. But I wouldn’t be bringing my dog on a residency…she’d stay behind with my partner.

But, given the current travel restrictions, I’m not even sure when I could travel to a local residency. This means I have to be realistic and find a way to diminish distractions at my home studio. I have two lists going right now, 1) local artist residencies, and, 2) strategies for eliminating distractions at home. It seems both are necessary.

1Martin, Agnes, and Arnold B. Glimcher. Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances. Phaidon Press, 2012.