I’ve participated in a few gallery shows over the years, but they’ve all been pretty laid-back. None of the curators has ever asked me for an artist’s statement or a resume. This fall, however, I am hoping to participate in a show at the Society for Contemporary Craft. These folks are the real deal. They want all the documentation. I didn’t have an artist’s statement ready, so this week I sat down to write one.
- I dreaded doing this. I am not good at critiquing anyone’s art, and the thought of trying to condense the essence of everything I have ever made into two short paragraphs was daunting, to say the least. I couldn’t immediately start writing paragraphs, so instead I started with a big, sloppy brainstorm. Using a few of the prompts on Molly Gordon’s site, I began to scribble out words that I associate with my work. I had written around 50 terms before my brain naturally started to hone in on the ones that seemed most relevant. The terms “bright color,” “childhood,” “irresistible,” “immaculate,” and “collect/organize/categorize” were the gems I pulled from the pile.
- My next step was to brainstorm a few sentences using the terms I chose. The sentences were disparate and unconnected at first, and what I wrote was far too detailed. I was trying to give the most complete picture of my work possible, but then I remembered that that’s not really the point of an artist’s statement. The point is to tell people who are unfamiliar with your work what your art tries to accomplish, and how you make that happen. You can add some context and personal history to the mix, but that’s really just gravy. As soon I realized that I didn’t need to list every material I’d ever used, or every art-related thought I’d ever had, my sentences began to cohere.
Before I started working on my artist’s statement, I was liable to describe my work as “eclectic,” and myself as a Jane-of-all-trades. I had only vague notions about what tied everything together, because I don’t examine my motivations very carefully when I make things. I just “feel inspired.” Now that my statement is finished, I no longer wonder why artists are encouraged to write them. I’ve come to see that I have a unique and coherent style, even when I work with different media or subject matters. And now I can describe that style confidently in just one or two sentences. It’s been both empowering and enlightening to write my artist’s statement. I gained some insight into my process and motivations, and I’m glad to say that I like what I saw.