I first encountered Richard Long’s work in Konrad Fischer’s gallery in Düsseldorf. I was at once surprised and disturbed by the installation of pine needles on the floor of the gallery. I said: “Konrad, you can’t make art out of pine needles.” Konrad said: “You can now.” When I saw it I, and everyone else, looked down on it and rejoiced.
As for the story of how Portrait of Richard Long came about… At the age of 73, I find that my memory has become unreliable in so far as it exists at all. As I recall, Frank Stella made a series of witty portraits of friends and acquaintances in the form of strip drawings and paintings. In response, I made a series of small, improvised floor sculptures as portraits of my friends. I think I took my portrait of Richard to Cornell University (where he was exhibiting in From Earth Art to Eco Art) as a gift for him.
Richard once said: “I like simple, practical, emotional, quiet, vigorous art.” I would agree with his list, except I would substitute the word “passionate” for the word “emotional”. Of course artworks cannot possess emotions, but I do respond passionately to Richard’s work. From his art I feel a “fierce calm”. I envy his gift of being able to walk into a patch of woods and emerge with the makings of a great installation from an arm full of twigs.
Richard’s work has inspired me in many different ways. I am not at all tempted to imitate him – our gifts and sensibilities are much too different to allow for that. His standards are so high I have no choice but to demand more of myself. I am sure I am a better artist for having met Richard and his work, and I have always enjoyed his subtle and piercing wit. I have never met an artist finer than Richard, nor a man of higher standards or better character than he.