agnes-martin-list-of-jobs-heldForgive the shadow of my iPhone capturing this fabulous list handwritten by Agnes Martin. It’s in a vitrine in a side room off the circular ramp where a retrospective of her work is on display at the Guggenheim Museum.

Truthfully, I’d never heard of her until my daughter mentioned that the beautiful design pattern she’d chosen for her phone was an Agnes Martin design, and was I familiar with her work?

I quickly fell in love with the simplicity of her designs, the serenity of her paintings and the overall effect of the exhibit in the space created by Frank Lloyd Wright.

My friend Sandy and I played hooky for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon to visit this show. We sat and watched a mesmerizing video of Martin speaking to an interviewer about her process and her work. I was awed by the depth of her commitment to emptying her mind to allow inspiration in. Watching her process with the paint and brush made me envious of her relationship to her materials. She was at one with them.

What I most wanted to share with you, though, was the list she’d written. At the top it says “Please publish all or none” and it covers the 35 assorted jobs she held throughout her life. I find this generous and encouraging. So many creative people imagine that greats like Ms. Martin arrived at their greatness in short order and don’t look at the struggles and humility of the path that brought them there. Here are a few of my favorite items from her list:

  • as a playground director
  • in a hamburger stand
  • as a waitress many times
  • as a janitor once
  • in a factory
  • running an elevator
  • housemother on campus

I’ve heard these referred to as “B” jobs while in pursuit of your “A” Vision work. It’s encouraging to know that a woman having a retrospective exhibit at the world-class Guggenheim once worked in a parking garage. I hope it heartens you as well on your way to the top.

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