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Artist Quotes

Throughout the FOR KIDS pages, we include quotations or thoughts straight from the artist’s mouth! Find out where they came from here.

Super Mario Clouds, 2002 (installation view, Synthetic, Whitney Museum of American Art, 2009)  2005.10

Cory Arcangel
“Keep doing what you like to do. That’s all it is.”
Cory Arcangel, from: interview by Stina Puotinen, tape recording, Whitney Museum of American Art, March 21, 2009.
Jean-Michel Basquiat
“I start a picture and I finish it. I don’t think about art while I work. I try to think about life.”
Jean-Michel Basquiat, quoted in: Leonhard Emmerling, “Riding with Death: The Final Years,” in Jean-Michel Basquiat: 1960–1988 (Köln: Taschen, 2003), 75.
Contraband, 1969  2008.14

Lynda Benglis
“I totally believe that art is an open dialogue and that it is not logical. It does not always make sense.”
Lynda Benglis, from: “Liquid Metal: Lynda Benglis and Seungduk Kim in Conversation,” interview by Seungduk Kim, in Lynda Benglis, exhibition catalogue, edited by Franck Gautherot, Caroline Hancock, and Seungduk Kim (Dublin: Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2009), 172.
Oscar Bluemner
“When you FEEL colors, you will understand the WHY of their forms."
Oscar Bluemner, quoted in: Oscar Florianus Bluemner, exhibition catalogue (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1939), n.p.
Quarantania, 1941  77.80

Louise Bourgeois
“Clothing is . . . an exercise in memory. It makes me explore the past: how did I feel when I wore that. They are like signposts in the search for the past.”
Louise Bourgeois, from: Louise Bourgeois, Destruction of the Father, Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews 1923–1997, edited by Marie-Laure Bernadac and Hans-Ulrich Obrist (London: Violette Editions, 1998), 277.
Mark Bradford
“I always made stuff but never thought, I’m going to be an artist.”
Mark Bradford, quoted in: Brian Keith Jackson, “How I Made It: Mark Bradford,” New York Magazine, September 24, 2007,
Charles Burchfield
“Doodling serves as a means of keeping the hand or fingers limber, so that they are always ready for serious work.”
Charles Burchfield, quoted in: Nannette V. Maciejunes and Norine S. Hendricks, “Nurturing His Muse: The Archive of Charles Burchfield’s Creative Life,” American Art Journal XXVIII (1997), 34.
Calder’s Circus, 1926–31  83.36.1-95  On view in the museum  On view in the museum

Alexander Calder
“My fingers always seem busier than my mind.”
Alexander Calder, quoted in: Pepe Carmel, “The Alchemist: Alexander Calder and Surrealism,” in Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926–1933, exhibition catalogue, edited by Joan Simon and Brigitte Léal (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2008), 214.
Velvet White, 1962  70.1579a-b

John Chamberlain
“The good thing about being an artist, is it’s a legitimate way of looking at things cross-eyed.”
John Chamberlain, quoted in: Carol Strickland, “Unshackled, Unconventional Sculptor,” New York Times, June 13, 1993,
Stuart Davis
“Ask yourself—what will my subject be—street scene—still life—portrait—landscape—interior?"
Stuart Davis, quoted in: Hilton Kramer, “Prolific Pen: Stuart Davis Was His Own Toughest Critic,” Art & Antiques, December 2002, 84–85.
Lyonel Feininger
“The most beautiful landscape cannot hold my fascinated attention as much as nature by the seaside and all that is connected with water.”
From a letter from Lyonel Feininger to his wife, Julia Feininger, September 10, 1922; reprinted in Joseph W. Gluhmann, “Lyonel Feininger: The Early Paintings” (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1969), p. 378; and Barbara Haskell, Lyonel Feininger, At the Edge of the World (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art and Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2011), p. 99.
DeLuxe, 2004–05  2006.340a-hhh

Ellen Gallagher
“At times we [Gallagher and her best friend] would have these whole cities that would take up rooms and stretch out all over the house. But they were also very abstract, like ‘this piece of cardboard is a pool’ and so forth.”
Ellen Gallagher, from: “This Theater Where You Are Not There: A Conversation with Ellen Gallagher,” interview by Thyrza Nichols Goodeve (Birmingham, United Kingdom: Ikon Gallery), 3.
Untitled, 1992  92.128a-u

David Hammons
“As an artist you have to keep reinventing yourself.”
David Hammons, quoted in: Peter Schjeldahl, “The Walker,” exhibition review, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, New Yorker, December 23, 2002,
Duane Hanson
“It doesn’t have to be pretty. It has to be meaningful.”
Duane Hanson, quoted in: Matt Schudel, “Mr. Hanson’s Neighborhood,” Ft. Lauderdale News Sun Sentinel, December 18, 1988.
Untitled, 1981  97.89.2  On view in the museum  On view in the museum

Keith Haring
“Art . . . should be something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination, and encourages people to go further.”
Keith Haring, from: interview by Sylvie Couderc, Bordeaux, France, December 16 1985,
Early Sunday Morning, 1930  31.426  On view in the museum  On view in the museum

Edward Hopper
“So many people say painting is fun. I don’t find it fun at all. It’s hard work for me.”
Edward Hopper, quoted in: Brian O’Doherty, “Portrait: Edward Hopper,” Art in America, December 1964, 80.
Three Flags, 1958  80.32  On view in the museum  On view in the museum

Jasper Johns
“Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.”
Jasper Johns, from: “Sketchbook Notes (1965),” in Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings, edited by Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 326.
Untitled (Thinking of You), 1999–2000  2000.217

Barbara Kruger
“I think pictures and words have the power to make us rich or poor.”
Barbara Kruger, quoted in: Christiana S. C. Spens, “Barbara Kruger,” exhibition review, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, Studio International, May 13, 2005,
Yayoi Kusama
“I fight pain, anxiety, and fear every day, and the only method I have found that relieves my illness is to keep creating art. I followed the thread of art and somehow discovered a path that would allow me to live.”
Yayoi Kusama, from: Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama. Translated by Ralph McCarthy; published by the University of Chicago Press, 2011, 93.
Sherrie Levine
“It is something that artists do all the time unconsciously, working in the style of someone they consider a great master. I just wanted to make that relationship literal.”
Sherrie Levine, quoted in: interview by Constance Lewallen, “Sherrie Levine,” Journal of Contemporary Art vol. 6, no. 2, Winter 1993, pp. 59–83.
Glenn Ligon
“My job is not to produce answers. My job is to produce good questions.”
Glenn Ligon, from: “Glenn Ligon: Interview,” by Lyndon Phillip, International Contemporary Art, September 22, 2005, 12–14.
Milk River, 1963  64.10

Agnes Martin
“That which takes us by surprise—moments of happiness—that is inspiration.”
Agnes Martin, from: “The Untroubled Mind,” in Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings, edited by Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 137.
Ana Mendieta
“My art is the way I reestablish the bonds that tie me to the universe.”
Ana Mendieta, from: Olga M. Viso and Ana Mendieta, “The Memory of History,” in Ana Mendieta: Earth Body: Sculpture and Performance, 1972–1985 (Washington, D.C.: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, 2004), 47.
Elizabeth Murray
“I want to make a beautiful, beautiful thing, something that gives you ideas about how life can be.”
Elizabeth Murray, quoted in: Dodie Kazanjian, “Freeing the Spirit,” Vogue, October 2005,
Self Portrait as a Fountain, 1966–67, from Eleven Color Photographs, 1970  70.50.9

Bruce Nauman
“What is it that an artist does when he is left alone in his studio? My conclusion was that if I was an artist and I was in the studio, then everything I was doing in the studio should be art . . . . From that point on, art became more of an activity and less of a product.”
Bruce Nauman, from: “Bruce Nauman: Biography,” Art21, PBS,
Andy Warhol, 1970  80.52

Alice Neel
“Art is two things: a search for a road and a search for freedom.”
Alice Neel, from: “Art Is a Form of History: Interview with Patricia Hills,” in Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings, edited by Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 214.
Louise Nevelson
“I always wanted to show the world that art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind.”
Louise Nevelson, from: “Dawns and Dusks,” in Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings, edited by Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 512.
Georgia O’Keeffe
“I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say in any other way—things that I had no words for.”
Georgia O’Keeffe, quoted in: Elizabeth Hutton Turner, “O’Keeffe as Abstraction,” in Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction, exhibition catalogue, edited by Barbara Haskell (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2009), 68.
Claes Oldenburg
“Everything I do is completely original—I made it up when I was a kid.”
Claes Oldenburg, quoted in: Claude Marks, World Artists, 1950–1980 (New York: H.W. Wilson, 1984), 639.
For the Light, 1978–79  79.23

Susan Rothenberg
“I think artists almost always end up turning to what’s around them, what’s in their environment or outside their window.”
Susan Rothenberg, from: "Susan Rothenberg: Interview & Videos,” Art21, PBS,
Cindy Sherman
“I wanted to create something that people could relate to without having read a book about it beforehand.”
Cindy Sherman, quoted in: Martin Schwander, “The Outer World,” in Cindy Sherman: Photographic Work 1975–1995, edited by Zdenek Fleix and Martin Schwander (London: Schirmer Art Books, 1995), 11.
Dwellings, 1981  81.11a-c  On view in the museum  On view in the museum

Charles Simonds
“There was never much question as to what I was going to do in life, because working with clay was what I could do . . . there are things I watch my hand do that are almost thoughtless. I can remember the moment of learning them. It is knowledge you have in the hand.”
Charles Simonds, quoted in: Phil Patton, “Charles Simonds’ Lost Worlds,” ARTnews, February 1983, 88.
John Sloan
Sloan was “…in the habit of watching every bit of human life I can see about my windows, but I do it so that I am not observed at it.”
John Sloan, quoted in: Patterson Sims in Whitney Museum of American Art: Selected Works from the Permanent Collection, compiled by Kristie Jayne (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with W. W. Norton & Company, 1994), 27.
David Smith
“If you ask me why I make sculpture, I answer that it is my way of life, my balance, and my justification for being.”
David Smith, from: “Statements, Writings (1947–1952) in Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings, edited by Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 38.
All Souls, 1985–87  91.20

Kiki Smith
“I think making things beautiful is important. But often what’s first considered ugly is beautiful, too.”
Kiki Smith, from: “Lynne Tillman in Conversation with Kiki Smith,” New York Magazine, September 9, 2004.
The Steerage, 1907  77.106

Alfred Stieglitz
“The scene fascinated me: a round straw hat; the funnel leaning left, the stairway leaning right; the white drawbridge, its railings made of chain; white suspenders crossed on the back of a man below; circular iron machinery; a mast that cut into the sky, completing a triangle.”
Alfred Stieglitz, quoted in: Dorothy Norman, Alfred Stieglitz: An American Seer (New York: Random House, 1960), 75–76.
Paul Thek
“Inside the glittery, swanky cases—the ‘modern art’ materials that were all the rage at the time, Formica and glass and plastic—was something very unpleasant, very frightening, and looking absolutely real.”
Paul Thek, quoted in: Richard Flood, "Paul Thek: Real Misunderstanding,” Artforum 20 (1981), 48-53.
Black Bean, 1968, from the portfolio Campbell’s Soup I  69.13.2

Andy Warhol
“I think an artist is anybody who does something well, like if you cook well.”
Andy Warhol, from: “Final Interview with Andy Warhol,” by Paul Taylor, “Warholstars: Andy Warhol,”