Sunday, May 20, 2012
An Artist Statement
Though artists are visual creatures, they still have to deal with words and people. I keep hearing how art should speak for itself, as though that is some sort of justification to get out of writing anything about art. Unfortunately it has been my experience that art very rarely speaks for itself. I see it move people beyond words, but for people to talk about art and to fully understand, there usually has to be an exchange of words.
Pick any well known piece of art, and there will be a lot written on it. The writers of this information will pull from what the artist says about the work, usually from letters or journals. These artists have made a statement about their work, and that statement can influence how we study and perceive the work today. Some art does not have a statement by the artist associated with it. When people write about these pieces, the writers can come up with different meanings, based on their knowledge and their own experiences. For example, the Titian painting I've posted here has many interpretations associated with it.
Writing about your art can help people understand the meaning, or the reasoning behind certain choices you make as the artist. Not many people will study art in such depth as to notice a connection between your theme and your medium. Or the imagery you've chosen and the colors. An artist statement can help an artist understand your art and your choices. I find if people understand the art they look at, they have the ability to enjoy it more.
Even with the invention of tumblr or pinterest and other image based sites, the web is mostly searched through text. For your art to get found in the sea of google images, you have to make it searchable using words and descriptions. Even if you don't care how people read into your art, an artist statement will help with getting people to your art. Every artist wants more eyes on their work. And they should be the correct eyes, and writing a good artist statement should help with that.
These are my arguments for having a good artist statement!
So how do you get an artist statement?
The first way is to write it yourself. This is the cheapest, and if you don't like writing, most frustrating way to go about this. But, the good news is, you are in complete control. This can be good and bad. Good in you can get exactly where you want to go, and bad in that you could crash horribly in a ditch and never know it. Sorry for the extended metaphor there. If you knew that was a metaphor before I said it, and you can spell "metaphor" without looking, and you know that quotation marks should never be used for emphasis, you can go write your artist statement now. You'll do fine. As long as you remember it is "a lot" and that you probably shouldn't use it anyway, and you definitely shouldn't write a lot. Three to four paragraphs max.
But let's say you are uncomfortable writing. Especially about your baby. Another way is to beg one of your English grad friends from college or an artist friend who has writing ability to help. This is good because if they see your desperation and pouting lips, you can probably get a pretty good discount. They'll probably be grumpy because some evil professor is making them read A Feast of Snakes and all they really want to do with the book is bury it. Or someone is trying to get writing from them. Try and get a person that is aware of your art. Or someone you can make aware of your art. The trick usually isn't the writing. It's trying to get someone who actually understands a bit about what you're doing and why and how this fits into art history. Remember that they are like you! Don't you hate it when someone asks for free art? Try and barter if you don't have money! If they like your art enough to trade for their art (yes, writing is an art form!) then they should write something good about it.
Or if you really hate writing and all things English and you go out of your way to avoid literary nerdy types, you might want to or have to hire someone. Unfortunately this is a pretty specialized market. You not only have to hire a writer, but a writer who understands art. Just like with bullying a friend to do it, you have to bully the right friend, and here you have to hire the right writer. When someone googles, "Artist Statement Writer" they get a ton of sites and links to places that will help you with your artist statement by offering tips and ideas and even some how to cookie cutter scripts. All fine and dandy for people we left up there who wanted to write there own. Not so good for those of us down here. Finding a writer to write artist's statements is a little difficult to google.
So I went and I found Rachelle Nones. She's a writer with a background in art who writes artist statements. Yes! I have done the work of finding you a writer who knows art and writes artist's statements. Aren't I awesome? Her initial consultation is free, and you get a free e-book just for talking with her. You should go check her out, check out what she offers artists, and leave her some feedback. She doesn't just write. She offers consultations, editing, and even coaching. This is really awesome stuff for artists who need help with this whole writing thing! I think when I google Artist Statement Writer her site should come up first, which is why I'm going to link her site to that phrase!
Do you want an artist statement? Do you have a statement? Did you write it yourself? Did you get help from friends? Did you hire someone? Who did you hire and how did it go? Link to your artist statement and story in the comments!
I wrote my own, and I've got it on my website!