Writing an Effective Artist Statement
Standing consensus says that great art speaks for itself and needs no explanation but a simple and genuine statement has a way to reach out and welcome people to your art. When I attend a curated show or see an installation around town that grabs my attention, I will make sure to read the artists’ statements or biography. Taking the time to better read the intention of the artist will open the work up to broader interpretations and understanding. There are many instances when as an artist you will be asked to provide such a statement. Here are a few key points to consider while writing.
Some of the simplest and most impactful advice I have been given was to “just write”. Write without the expectation of anyone reading your words. Expel your thoughts onto paper the same you would your art. GET IT OUT!
With the abundance of technology that surrounds us on any given day – go somewhere unplugged and start formulating your ideas by hand. Give yourself time and space to understand your thoughts, to fail, to have revelations. Scribble, cross things out, make a mess. This time is all about you.
Perception is Key
Artist statements are for people who want to know more. This is your opportunity to briefly explain why you are as an artist, your inspirations, and how you create what you do. What message are you trying to express and what would you like the viewer to take away from their experience? Understanding your audience is key to the language that you choose. Try using simple and clear sentences and avoid “artsy” jargon.
Write as if you’re explaining what you do to a non-artist friend. Focus on answering the most commonly asked questions about your work, leaving the viewers wanting more and allowing the art to speak for itself. Include information that only you as the artist can provide and avoid making comparisons to other artists; allow the viewer to make their own comparisons.
When explaining the art that you make start with the basics such as color, theme, and location. How long has it taken to create this body of work and what is it about creating it that you enjoy so much?
“Make sure you have both long and short sentences which create syncopated rhythm that is enjoyable to read”, advises Hannah Piper Burns, a multimedia artist and writer. “Use verbs and adjectives that really match the qualities of your creative output and will create a statement that both excites, and informs.”
Is your work whimsical, surreal, satirical, brooding, pure, stylized, painterly? During the writing process continue to ask yourself, “is this fresh, creative, professional, and accessible?”
Use Your Statement
Your website should be the first place this statement goes. It will be used to promote your work, which is one of the major factors of having an online portfolio. To get your work seen in public spaces, put together a promo package including samples of your art, contact information, and artist statement. This is the grassroots way of getting your work seen by curators and business owners and potential buyers.
A fresh statement can also help you stand out from the pack when submitting art into contests, applying for grants, and to show your point of view to art/photo directors in hopes of getting published.
In conclusion, your artist statement should reflect confidence and genuinely express the self belief you have in the art you produce. Consider how your statement will be perceived by others and avoid large amounts of bravado which could potentially alienate your work from those looking to connect with it. There is no race to the finish line while crafting your artist statement. Understanding how to communicate your work verbally is a challenge and takes time and patience to accomplish.
Use language thoughtfully that relates with your work so the statement itself is a branch of your art and overall package. Lastly, after you have spent all this time and effort formulating your statement, get it seen!
Here are some examples of artists statements to help get you started.