When you’ve read as many truly awful artist statements as I have, it begins to dawn on you that maybe, just maybe, the problem is at the very beginning before sliding down the slippery slope of awfulness.
What if accurately defining an artist statement was the first step, the very first step in writing a compelling, engaging statement that truly caught the attention of your viewers instead of making them yawn.
What if we start by answering the basic question: what the heck is it?
Here are 5 parts to that answer:
1. The Sticky Factor: An effective statement creates a personal connection to the artwork and stimulates our human thirst for “story.” This, in turn, triggers… longer memory storage, and increases the sticky factor about your art, by immersing the viewer in two languages: visual and linguistic.
2. Not Just For Your Audience: Another secret is that the artist statement is not just for art patrons and gallery owners. It is also for you, the artist. The very effort of searching for words, which reflects your relationship to your art, increases your creative flow. This is true whenever we engage in a form of self-expression that pushes us out of our comfort zone. Like sweat from physical exertion, the struggle gets your juices flowing.
3. Defining An Artist Statement: Definition tells you if you’re headed in the right direction. It also saves a lot of angst and prevents you from unsightly fingernails. Here’s my definition: an artist statement is a personal reflection on what, how, and why you do what you do, from your perspective.
4. It’s About You: An artist statement is personal, as personal as your art. Your audience thinks you are magic and if they stand close enough, some of it will rub off. Let them stand close enough.
5. Details Matter: This is a writing exercise, so here’s a writer’s tip: always use specific detail in place of generalities. “A tree” becomes “A gnarled oak with one branch blackened from lightening.”
Have you written your artist statement? Or polished up an old one? Tell me, what was the hardest part?