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17 February 2011

Questionartist #2

Do you have any advice about writing artist's statements?
It is usually very difficult for artists to write effectively about their own work. There is a good reason for this; they are artists not writers. Having someone else write the artist statement is advised.

Ideally, the artist can work with an art historian, a curator, a gallery owner or even a professional creative writer so that their "authentic" (this work is used with caution) voice and comes through. Although, depending on the person chosen to write about the work, it can get to pompous and be filled with art-speak. It’s a tough call.

The bottom line is that artists need to have someone else write about their work in an effective, non-flowery and honest way. The artist statement can make or break interpretation or a sale.
–Traci L. Morris, PhD (Chickasaw),
Owner/Homahota Consulting,
Policy Analyst/ Native Public Media


Personalize the art form or yourself as an artist. People become involved with art and/or artists, when they can feel a sense of connection.

Make it relevant for others. One of the challenges with specific art genres or niches is that people are looking for ways to make the aesthetics, or content relevant to themselves.

Share the "quirky" or the "behind the scenes" story that shapes the artwork or influences the artist. People are often drawn in by the story that offers some interesting aspect about the process for making the artwork. Keep it simple assuming that the audience is not familiar enough with the process to identify what is the"out-of-the-ordinary" aspect. When I interview an artist I am always interested to uncover what engages them in the process.

One artists relayed that he is actually interpreting traditional songs through very abstract markings and the tools he prefers are not the conventional painting tools such as paint brushes, instead he uses many different kinds of objects we encounter daily to make these markings. Another friend who is a painter is so engrossed in the process of under-painting that there are often many different images, objects and whole paintings buried below the final piece.

A filmmaker friend of mine shared a really funny story about how he solved the dilemma for feeding the actors during the filming with little budget to work with - it involved "a borrowed frybread trailer." This made everyone laugh when they heard the story. I would have loved to have been able to feature a photo of the frybread trailer with the promotions but we couldn't find one. So save everything and document the off the wall stuff, it humanizes the artists or the story and might be the very thing that makes you as an artist stand out from the rest.

Make your statement somewhat relevant to the institution that is featuring your artwork. This really goes back to making it relevant for others. In this case it is making it relevant for the patrons at that particular venue. If your work is going to be featured at MOMA, tweak the statement slightly so that it speaks to the audience that will be viewing your work at that venue or the theme that was used to curate the show. If that same piece travels to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, there is probably a very different curatorial approach, so find a way to communicate with that in mind.

Find a way to pose questions in your statement that positively encourage the viewer to interact in some way with the work.
—Shoshana Wasserman (Thlopthlocco Tribal Town
and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation),
Director of Marketing & Public Relations,
American Indian Cultural Center and Museum

1 comment:

America Meredith said...

While artist bios are written in the third person (She was born in Happy Camp, California), statements are written in first person (I started weaving baskets when I was four). You might want to read quite a few other artist's statements, especially looking for clichés to avoid. Don't write that "your art speaks for itself." The artist's statement is often used to describe about your work to people who have never seen it in person – you are arousing their curiosity and enticing them to come and look at it.