I’m an artist, so I often have to write artist statments for events and other things. I entered an online gallery juried event once and was rejected due to my “bad” statement. I was never told how it offended anyone, though, so I don’t claim to be an expert.
Here’s the thing — Artists statements are usually silly and redundant, because for an artist, their
ART IS THE STATEMENT!
So writing another statement to explain the statement you have already made seems crazy, like a waste of time. “Look at that, the art,” we want to say, “that there is the statement”. Why do you need to read something more, beyond a descriptive tag or title?
Then again, not everyone speaks “art” so we are required on a constant basis to come up with “Artist Statements” for people who want to know our darker, ulterior motives. As a result, most artist statements sound like BS or acts of desperation or even narcissism. In the case of the many I have written, there is an undercurrent of impatience and annoyance, which makes sense because every time I have to write one I’m annoyed.
Some artists enjoy writing them however, especially when they are not being forced to, which is usually when entering some show or hallowed website echelon.
Now keeping in mind that these statements are annoying to both write and read, below is one I did recently that I really like. I know it’s obvious and blunt, but there is little I dislike more than a bunch of $10 words and cheap phrases that in the end all say much the same thing, like this short “statement poem”.
This is what I do.
OK with you?
If you like it that’s great,
but I would do it even if you didn’t.
That was the world’s most honest artist statement.
Now here is mine. (I have stripped it of $10 words). I have incorporated part of this statement onto the front page of this website where you can read an introductory statement about my work. This statement was for a show I entered.
Shelly’s Latest Artist Statement
I am a visual artist compelled to create two-dimensional images. I make paintings with watercolor, acrylic or mixed media, and I am also fascinated by photography. Most of my art focuses on paintings based on my own imagination and photography. These paintings express my feelings about environmental issues, human interactions with the natural world, and behavior.
My painting is a combination of science, psychology, and a commitment to communicating themes of humanity, nature, and ethics. Observing nature and immersing myself in it from a very young age has required me to appreciate the world around me and share my knowledge and appreciation. Traveling, hiking, and camping in wild places has been a great source of my inspiration. My paintings often reflect the chaos and calm of nature, through the combined use of realism and abstraction. There is a sense of urgency and action in some of my paintings. My paintings can also be allegorical and story telling, reflecting my emotions in ways that make sense to me.”
So is that enlightening to anyone? What I really would like to say is more along these lines:
“I paint because I have to, I’m supposed to, and I think it’s possible that I have to because I’m a reincarnated artist from an earlier time. So I have to find some meaning for this compulsion, because it’s not a profession I asked for. I try to honor it by making socially conscious statements in much of my artwork because I feel I have to. Art has always made me feel kind of guilty, like I should be doing something more productive with my time, so I try to make art that seems worthy.”
That might confuse people though because it sounds religious and I’m not religious. I do feel that I was given some reincarnated person’s talent though, as many people who were child prodigies of some kind probably feel. I didn’t know how else to think of it. I don’t know where my abilities to draw so well when I was 6 years old came from, and this ability made me an oddity, a curiosity. It also made me obligated to draw things all the time as if performing tricks for people. This ability didn’t seem to come from me or my family so it felt like some kind of outside influence from some unknown source. I have been playing catch-up to this “gift” ever since.
Much of making art for me has been feeling guilty about a talent I didn’t always appreciate. I decided I didn’t want to waste it but I almost did, but that is another story for another day. In a nutshell, things became more normal when I became an adult, but it was still hard to shake that feeling that when I was 6 years old, that weird ability I had came from somewhere, or someone else.