After she left New York for New Mexico in the late 1960s, Agnes Martin eschewed socializing, plumbing, and electricity for uninterrupted studio time. She described her painting, in part, as a way to escape her psychiatric troubles—namely, schizophrenia. Her friend in New Mexico, Donald Woodman, recalled that “she had to quiet…voices [in her head] in order to reach the core of what she wanted to paint, which took an incredible act of will.”
Martin established regularity in her life by wearing coveralls, reading murder mysteries, maintaining a vegetable garden, and occasionally dining with Woodman. For dinner, she’d assemble unusual meals from eggs, peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, packaged meats, and whatever crop she was growing that year. For Martin, ritual wasn’t just a means of making work, but of triumphing over her illness.