Artist Statements: A Rareified How-To

Artist Statements: A Rareified How-To

First of all, Rooms to Let; Summer Edition was awesome. All the houses looked great, there was a huge turnout, my parents were able to make it to the opening, we all ate dinner at a taco truck. and after enjoyed Jeni’s + Doctor Who. Thank you to everyone who came out or just sent good thoughts – it was a damn near perfect evening and that was due entirely to you guys.
(pictures coming soon!)

Initially, I had planned to take a week to chill/regroup (does anyone else feel the need for creative detox post-project?) but then, riding high on a wave of self confidence and I-can-do-it-ness decided to put together a show application for a local gallery’s call for entries. Due yesterday. I made it, but just barely. It wasn’t editing photos or even updating my CV that took the entire week- it was the bloody artist’s statement.

Ask me to write a treatise about cats or cupcakes or the internet, or a youtube comment filled with biting wit and I’ll be all:

Ask me to explain the art I make, in writing, concisely and without sounding like an asshole and my response will be:

If you are in a position where you have to write a general artist’s statement and  you, like me, are at a loss, fear not! I have journeyed down that dark road and made it back with a passable statement and knowledge which I pass unto you padawan.

How I Wrote an Artist’s Statement Without Causing Bodily Harm to Myself or Others.
(with hilarious in-progress examples!)

  • Accept that in your first draft you will sound like an asshole.
  • Look online for tips/examples but limit yourself to 20 min, otherwise you could get sucked into the black hole of procrastivity (procrastination through perceived productivity).
    This place is a good start:Writing the Artist Statement – Claremont Graduate University
  • It helps me to start with free-writing, especially in the form of answering questions. This site may seem a bit cheesy, but honestly I found it’s questions super helpful for just getting words to come out of my body. Also, who doesn’t like cheese.
    Note: For this stage try not to think about the people for whom you’re writing this statement as odds are they are GrownUps in charge of YOUR ART CAREER and that is paralyzing. Instead, try to picture someone you like, around whom you’re comfortable and who may be an art-fan but not necessarily an artist yourself (this helps stop you from unnecessarily artspeaking.)

Click here to see my un-edited artist statement brainstorm.
(Notice how I didn’t answer all of the questions/follow all of the directions, I just did enough to get myself thinking/writing)

  • Once you start, remembering that you’ve given yourself permission to sound like an asshole, keep writing stuff until you have at least 2 – 3 pages of jibber jabber. Why 2-3 pages? Because once you have that much, odds are good that you probably have at least a half a page of stuff worth keeping, and that’s all you really need anyway.
  • Walk away. Watch a few funny videos, take a walk, drink a beer, practice Mindfulness with your cat- just get away from your computer (or notebook if you’re old school) and think about things other than how much you hate writing artist statements. Once you’ve sufficiently distanced yourself, it’s time to go back and be merciless.
  • EDIT. Read it outloud, print it out, editeditedit. Do whatever works for you here. For me, I like to paste from my initial brainstorming into a fresh document (keeps all the stuff from the bainstorming as it was in case I want to go back to it)
    Are there phrases or words that keep popping up? Odds are good that those words/phrases are important. Keep one instance of said word/phrase and find a way to delete the rest. The two best things an artist statement can be are clear and concise. Think about it like a movie jacket:  when you go to choose a movie from the library do you chose one that says “in this contextualization of the (pseudo)Reality of Man, one director seeks to explore dualities and the juxtaposition of the HyperReal- See how his use of color defies the current paradigm and challenges what we bla bla blaaaa”? Or do you choose the one that’s like “Bruce Willis! Cross-dressing and kicking Ass! And also there are GLITTER CANNONS”
    ((…I seemed to have lost where I was going with this metaphor, but I think what I was trying to say is this: At this stage in the writing process you should be doing more deleting than writing….also what the hell is happening in this picture?))
  • Sleep on it. Literally. Once you have your page of edited stuff, give yourself at least 12 hrs, one good meal and a decent sleep before you go back to it.
  • Give it one more look over and, at a certain point, call it. You could probably obsess over it for another week, but you’ve got shit to do.

One thought on “Artist Statements: A Rareified How-To

  1. Pingback: The Elephant in the Room/Blog. | When Sheep Go Moo

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