When I have shared artist Morris Graves' statement "My first interest is in being. Along the way I am an artist." with fellow artists they sometimes misunderstand its meaning. They think he is saying that he really doesn't care about art all that much. Otherwise he would have said his first interest is in art, so he must not have been a very committed artist.
However, given his vast output of artwork it would be inaccurate to think that he was not committed. I believe in his statement he is placing the state of his consciousness ahead of the art-making process. Because he knew that art is a reflection of the artists state of consciousness. But most artists are so preoccupied with their process that they rarely step back to consider the state or quality of their consciousness from which their artwork arises. Graves called that state "being". And to be grounded in the state of pure being was to Graves a prerequisite for producing meaningful art. His interest in the subject of being and consciousness can be found in many of his works.
"Many of us who are driven by this life, are desperately searching for pockets of silence where we can root and grow. We must all hope we find them". --Mark Rothko
Similar to Rothko, Edward Hopper once commented that he loved quite, empty places, like the interior of empty rooms. I also think Rothko’s “pocket of silence” relates to French philosopher Blaise Pascal’s saying “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Perhaps if Rothko had known the pocket of silence more deeply, his life might not have ended so tragically. Some people have said that Rothko’s art is very spiritual. and I think it is. His paintings are like “pockets of silence”. There is even a Rothko Chapel where people can sit and meditate in a space filled with his paintings on the walls. It is unfortunate that Rothko could offer the pocket of silence to others but was unable to fully know it for himself.
Patrick Howe, Artist, Author, Educator, Electronic Music Composer