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HOW TO RELISH YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT 

HOW TO RELISH YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT 

Here’s two things I know to be true about artist statements:  

  1. An immediate, very human desire arises when someone is moved by your art: to know more about the person who moved them. Simple. Undeniable. 
  2.  At the outset, an artist statement may be used for art patrons, gallery owners, websites, applications (grants/residencies, etc.), press releases, etc., but more than that, it’s also for you, the artist. Here’s an Artist Statement Stress Test: A True Story 

    I suggested to one of my private clients that he display an “art” statement beside each of his sculptures for an major exhibition. 

    Wait… let’s back up. What’s an Art Statement? 

    An Art Statement is an artist statement tailored to an individual piece of art. Instead of a succinct, overview of your artistic vision, the Art Statement sticks to a single piece.  

    Now, Back To Our Artist Statement Story… 

    Before his solo, sculpture exhibit, he and I talked at length about presentation strategies. 

    If you’re going to the trouble of writing a statement, then making sure it’s easy to access and read just makes sense. 

    I was pleased, when I attended the exhibit, with how he’d mounted each typed “art statement,” on handmade paper,  at the top of a thin, metal pole set in a simple disc on the floor.  

    Those typed statements were assembled at the perfect height. A viewer could walk right up and read it. And, even if someone else was peering over the first person’s shoulder, the font size and word placement allowed that second, or even third, person to read it too.  

    His presentation followed all the best practices I’d put together. But what I observed, as over 200 guests mingled in and around his pieces, truly astounded me. 

    Written Artist Statements Are Innately Compelling. 

    The caveat: when presented well!  

    I make this claim because of my first-hand experience during a long evening of quiet observation. 

    As I too mingled with the guests this happened: whenever someone approached a sculpture, they would glance at his piece, then immediately turn their head to read his art statement for that piece. 

    After reading, they would turn back to look at the piece with an appreciative nod or smile. These weren’t cursory observations. They would lean in and study the sculpture, walk around it, talk about it, then walk around it some more. 

    Once in a while, they would return to the art statement again. Then back to the sculpture. 

    You could almost see, on their faces, how their brains were connecting with what they saw (visual language) with what they read (word language). 

    And this happened over and over and over again… confirming what I’ve suspected all along… 

    The Heart of an Artist Statement Embraces a Deep Truth… 

    When your statement is effective and presented with care, that statement creates an engaging, meaningful connection to your artwork because it ignites our human thirst for story. 

Blog 4 Ariane Goodwin The Heart of an Artist Statement Embraces a Deep Truth

And that’s not all it does. 

Once you fan the flames of an engaging story, that goes on to trigger someone’s long-term  memory.  

Connecting your visual language with word language builds neural connections in the viewer’s brain about you and your work, because it immerses the viewer in not just one, but two languages: visual and linguistic. 

As the viewers read those art statements that night, and then looked more closely at the sculptures, they also began a conversation with the people near them about the connections they were seeing between what they read and what they saw.  

Between these two, different forms of creative expression. 

This highlights some of the brain research in science communications that shows how thinking about a narrative, and talking to others, reinforces our memory and, over time, can drive a broader change in attitudes—quite literally changing aspects of our world. 

In an interview with Liz Neeley, a scientist working in science communications, the host of NPR’s Short Wave podcast, Maddie Sofia, gave Neeley the opportunity to make two points: 

  1. Word narratives are so powerful they can “shift stereotypes” about who we are.
  2. Research data suggests that people remember things better, and are more engaged by stories, over a list of facts, like a resume or artist bio. 

Blog 4 Ariane Goodwin Word narratives are so powerful quote

Imagine the implications of these two points for the people in your world who love your work. 

An Artist Statement can, subtly, alter some of the artist myths and stereotypes floating around. And simultaneously, help you and your work stay longer in your viewers’ brains. 

Why would any rational artist give up learning to wield this kind of power? 

It’s a question that haunts my sleep. 

Artist Statements: What’s Good for the Viewer is Even Better For the Artist. 

Writing an artist statement is not easy. 

Oh, I know, all kinds of artist advocates might use the “5 Easy Steps to Writing Your Artist Statement” to persuade you otherwise. 

And, if you’re a surface-level kind of artist, who doesn’t enjoy digging into their psyche for hidden material, I suppose you could write an artist statement that would hit all the surface benchmarks. 

What a surface-level artist statement can never do is give you the kind of insight into your own artistic process that signals to your viewer, “Ah, now this is fascinating. This is compelling…” 

At best, it passes English 101. At worst, it comes off trite, inauthentic, and padded with generalizations. 

Once you’ve decided to use writing your artist statement as a way to deepen, enrich, and expand your relationship to your artistic process, you’ll find the exercise gives you a surprising and new way to reflect upon your work. 

It’s not at all unusual, when I’m working with a private client, to get some variation of what my most recent client, a mid-career professional artist, said to me: 

I didn’t think I would have anything to say but there are all these  words and phrases and sentences coming out now…L.A. 

And that was followed by pages of material she’s uncovered, all waiting inside her psyche for permission to show up. 

It Takes Courage to go Into the Heart of Your Artistic Process… 

… and bring the intuitive into consciousness. 

The magic happens when you search for words that truly reflect your relationship to your art, and experience an upsurge in your creative flow. 

Surprising benefits show up whenever we tackle a form of self-expression that pushes us out of our comfort zone. Like sweat from physical exertion, the very struggle gets our juices flowing. 

One of the great keys to creativity is to work against the grain,  get out of familiar mindsets, and shake things up. And for artists, whose very practice is founded on being unique, it can be hard to recognize when a pattern has become familiar. 

For prospective art buyers, your artist statement will draw them closer to your work. For you, the artist, writing your artist statement gives you an opportunity to deepen your own awareness. 

I mean, what’s not to love? 

Writing my artist statement gave me a chance to focus on myself. It opened up more creative juice and self-expression than I had experienced in a long time. Taming my internal critic, and the roadblocks to my inner mind, gave me new skills to express my heartfelt emotions to others. 

Working on my statement gave me the opportunity to delve into my inner soul and reflect on the science of “me.” When I took the time to evaluate what, how and why I do what I do, it refined my work and gave me a fresh, determined self-confidence that I had lacked before.  

~ Norbert Ohnmacht, sculptor 

***** 

Nine Reasons to Banish Resistance & Relish Your Artist Statement 

For The Artist:

Writing an artist statement asks you to, once and for all, recognize the faces of your true self: Truth. Power. Beauty. 

  • You may feel the relationship you have with your work is already pretty strong. But once you write your artist statement, I promise you’ll lift way above your level. 
  • Writing an artist statement affirms what you do, and so, by extension, also affirms you. And who would give up being affirmed? 
  • Self-trust can be hard to come by. Writing your artist statement makes another statement about you:  that you trust yourself enough to flow into another realm of creative expression.  
  • Writing your artist statement invites you to experience an expanded awareness about yourself and your art. Given a chance to update your own art experience, why wouldn’t you? 
  • Writing your artist statement is a rare and precious time to engage your artistic soul. 

Digging deep into the artist statement reveals more about your work than even you suspected. Surprise yourself! 

Blog 4 Ariane Goodwin writing artist statement affirms what you do quote

For The Viewer, Your Potential Buyer: 

  • Your artist statement builds a compelling bridge between your viewer and your work. Of course your art is the real deal. But when connecting to your potential buyers on  more than one level increases their interest, and thus the likelihood of a sale, why wouldn’t you? 
  • Your artist statement enriches the connection between the artist, the art, and the art patron, and influences how long the memory or your work stays in your viewer’s long-term storage. 
  • Because it is a powerful experience for your viewers when you use the tool of language to support the art you love giving to the world. 

    Drop a line in the blog post comments below. 

    I’d love to know what stage you’re in of the writing-your-artist-statement process.  

    Do tell! 

     Ariane Goodwin's signature file

    Whenever you’re ready to update your artist statement, or even write your first one, join my waitlist for: Writing The Artist Statement eBook & Ambitious Bundle. 

    It’s not enough to know what an artist statement is. You need to know how to write one! 

    This new 3rd edition eBook with its Ambitious Bundle takes you from head scratching to a polished, compelling artist statement. Check it out! 

      Your Artist Statement … Why Bother? Part 3

      Your Artist Statement … Why Bother? Part 3

      PART 3: Three More Rational Reasons To Not Write Your Artist Statement…or, 

      Are they really “rational?” 

      In Part 1, I wrote about seven core reasons artists use to rationalize away any need for an artist statement. And then we dove into the first four in Parts 1 & 2. 

      Here’s a quick review of those first four before we finish up with the last three of these seven arguments against writing an artist statement.

      REVIEW of Parts 1 & 2: Four Rational Reasons To Not Write Your Artist Statement 

      Reason No. 1:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

      #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see? 

      Under the hood:  

      Fearing words have a power, when mis-used, that could negatively affect a viewer’s opinion of your artwork, speaks to a deeper mistrust of your own ability to use words effectively. 

      When you approach words as just one more tool in your art career toolbox, this resistance relaxes.  

      Reason No. 2: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

      No. 2 – Reducing my intuitive, reflective, and emotional creative process to words feels like caging a magnificent beast. 

      Under the hood:  

      Here’s a variation of the “ tyranny of commitment” theme: Words have the unreasonable power to make whatever you write real and unchangeable. You become committed to them for life. 

      Realizing you have the same control over which words you choose (and can delete or change at any time), gives you permission to use your artist statement words not just for your viewers, but to also deepen into your own consciousness about your intuitive ArtLife. 

      Reason No.3: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

      No.3 – I want my viewer to draw their own conclusions. I don’t want to interfere or impose on  their interpretation or experience. 

      Under the hood:  

      Of course you don’t want to trample on anyone’s experience of your work. But isn’t the work itself already setting the parameters for what you want someone to experience? 

      It’s no different with your artist statement. Check out if there’s a part of you that has always felt unsafe being too exposed to others; so, putting your relationship to your art in words becomes a trigger for level of unsafe vulnerability. 

      As I said in Part 2: Revealing the true spirit of your work does not mean you don’t have boundaries. This is not a free for all and nothing has to be revealed that doesn’t feel right. 

      Reason No. 4:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

      No.4 – I don’t want my work judged by an artist statement when my true medium is visual. I want my work to stand on its own.  

      Under the hood:  

      Fear of “word magic” increases the fear of word power exponentially. Here, anything you say will be held against you and your art; the double whammy! 

      Remember, the idea is for your artist statement to become a complementary support for your work. Not to replace it. Not to deflect from it. Not to overshadow it. 

      As I said in Part 2: Revealing your relationship to your art creates a vibrant connection that keeps the story going after the artwork has been appreciated on its own. 

      Now, let’s tackle the last three of the seven core Reasons To Not Write Your Artist Statement. 

      ************************************ 

      The No.5 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement 

      I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

      No.5 – I don’t want the magic of my creative process demystified by words and left open to criticism. 

      Oh, goodness, two for the price of one: demystification and criticism (in other words,  judgment). 

      In this “reason,” the assumption is that some things are better left unsaid (by the artist), while leaving the door open for all kinds of things to be said by the viewers, art critics, the peanut gallery, etc. 

      I mean, heaven forbid that you, the artist, might weigh in on the discussion.  

      Or that you, the artist, might actually lead the discussion. 

      Because, what would you, the artist, have to contribute to the conversation (all done in words, btw…)? 

      Never mind the assumption that demystification dilutes the magic. Of course, if artist statements are already suspect for you, then this No.5 Reason to not write one will be appealing. 

      But, what if…  

      Reason #5 – I don’t want the magic of my creative process demystified by words and left open to criticism. 

      …isn’t what it seems to be? 

      What’s Really Behind Reason No. 5?   

      The concern that your art magic will be demystified by your artist statement is a cover story for the real culprit: the potential criticism, the fear of being judged. 

      Even though most of us engage in judging others, when it comes to being judged, well… that is a beast with different stripes. Which means our fear of being judged is not entirely unfounded, because we know it’s a real possibility in human give and take. 

      Also, being judged feels embarrassing. Most of us will go out of our way to keep from feeling judged or embarrassed.   

      And if writing an artist statement leaves us open to either, we’ll figure out a seemingly “rational reason” for not doing it. 

      Releasing the Resistance Inside Reason No.5 for Not Writing an Artist Statement 

      First off, let’s demystify the demystifying-your-art-magic concern. 

      One of the beauties of art is how it can transcend language barriers. The universality of images and color and spatial relationships between these connects people on a deep, intuitive level. 

      This is uncontested. 

      Words hold a different kind of power. Which is why it’s fruitless to compare them, as in “a picture is worth a thousand words.” 

      Because word-language is basic to all of human interaction, it holds a primary place in our quest for understanding and meaning-making. It’s the basis of story, the oldest form of social connection. 

      Words excite specific areas of our brain. Words excite our imaginations. 

      The sharp tang of the cut orange peel rushed into my nose, even as it stung the cut on my finger, which had rested too close to the knife. 

      Try that with paint, or marble, or metal, or fabric… 

      You might execute the imagery, but the words ignite the smell and kinesthetic feelings that that translate into a direct sensation because of an odd truth about our brains.  

      Brains do not distinguish between the physical experience, and the same experience played out imaginatively.  

      It’s this kind of word power, when added to the power of your art, that creates the ultimate magic: exciting all of your viewers’ imaginations, visual and verbal (words). 

      But what about the potential criticism you leave yourself open to when you write an artist statement? 

      It’s important to remember that an artist statement is not an art critique; these are very different approaches to writing about art. 

      Your  artist statement is a bridge between what the viewer sees and what the viewer thinks about your work.  You artist statement revolves around your relationship to your art, not a critique about your art. 

      It reveals something (not everything) about this relationship that gives the viewer the sense they get to “peek into your studio while you’re working.” 

       It makes them feel more connected to you and what you do, not less. 

      And whom, may I ask  is better qualified to do this than you, the artist? 

      As I write in my book  

      (paraphrasing…) In the end, the best protection against the embarrassment of being judged or criticized, is to arm yourself with the truth, and the skill to reveal it.  

      You are the one who holds the truth about your art, no one else. 

      ***** 

      The No.6 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement 

      This reason smacks of visual-art elitism.  Art is everything; nothing else can compare. 

      Ouch. 

      I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

      No.6 – Words are too limiting while art is boundless. 

      I suspect Reason No.6 arises from the fact that a visual artist , by definition, is attuned to visual expression in a very direct, very compelling way. 

      What amuses me is that because of this overwhelming visual sensitivity (talent), artists dismiss or forget that word language has always been alongside their visual acuity.  

      It’s been with them as soon after birth as they began to mimic the caretakers around them and “speak,” in whatever word or sign language (also words) was in their environment. 

      So, maybe, just maybe… 

       Reason No.6 – I don’Words are too limiting while art is boundless isn’t what it seems to be… 

      What’s Behind Reason No. 6? 

      Words are your human birthright. 

      But if the words you think and speak every day are so taken for granted, so commonplace, so universally accepted that they become, in some sense, less than your celebrated talent for visual expression, this sets you up to dismiss their potential contribution to your artistic process. 

      And in this unconscious ignorance of the foundational existence and importance of words—every day of your life—you are more likely to misplace your visual talents as top dog in some kind of unconscious hierarchy of importance. 

      And then you land here: art = boundless / words = unacceptable limits 

      Releasing the Resistance Inside Reason No.6 for Not Writing your Artist Statement 

      Take your art off the pedestal and let it stand side-by-side with your words. Think of words as an extension of your art that can increase the vibrancy and connection your visual talent has made for a viewer. 

      Think of visual language and word language as partners in creating an indelible bond between you the artist, and the viewer who wants to own your work. 

      Offer this viewer, wowed by your work, insight into who you are as the artist that created this magnificent piece of art. Offer them another layer of complexity that cannot be “seen” by the work itself. 

      Give them more. Surprise them with an even richer connection. 

      Surprise yourself. 

      ***** 

      The No.7 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement   

      I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

      #7– The canvass is my mirror, and the strokes of my brush reveal more about me than an artist statement. 

      This reason has two flaws: 

      1. This artist assumes their viewer can decode what’s behind the artist’s visual language, which is nonsensical on its face. 
      1. This artist is also transferring the responsibility of bringing unconscious material into conscious awareness to their viewer. 

      Only the artist knows what those strokes mean to them. Only if the artist uses words to articulate the connection between brush strokes and what is “being revealed,” will the viewer have any chance of understanding that connection. 

      Hmmm, let’s see why Reason No.7 isn’t what it seems to be… 

      What’s Behind Reason No.7 

      What I find most intriguing about this reason is how it speaks to truth. 

      Indeed, your work of art is a direct reflection of you, the artist. The two of you are forever entwined in a creative experience; one cannot exist without the other. 

      But… truths can be tricky, especially when one truth is simultaneously hiding another. 

      In this case, the truth—that  your art is a mirror, revealing important aspects of your artistic psyche—fails to acknowledge that the “reveal” is private and hidden, only available to the artist. 

      This means that writing your artist statement will directly and intentionally bring what is hidden into the presence of others. 

      Which may unconsciously threaten an artist who feels, for whatever reasonable reason, unsafe. Or who feels vulnerability is to be avoided. Or who doesn’t want to be judged or criticized (sound familiar?). 

      Let’s see what we can do with all of this, yes? 

      Releasing the Resistance Inside Reason No.7 for Not Writing an Artist Statement 

      I’ll remind you:  

      You, the artist, are in control of the word language you choose. You are in control of what you decide to share in your artist statement. 

      There is a soft landing on what will increase a viewer’s experience of your work, and the elements you choose to reveal  that feel right to you. 

      You can pull back the curtain enough to create an expanded art experience for your viewer that also honors your privacy. 

      This is not a win or lose proposition. It’s a win/win all the way around. 

      Because, isn’t that what it’s all about: connecting to others, sharing your visions with the world? 

      At least Reason No.7 admits that there is, indeed, something in the artistic process and production of a piece that reveals an artist’s psyche. 

      Which is why I end all of my emails with this salutation: 

      Revealing the true spirit of your work is the work. 

      What’s Next: 

      You know, I’m not really sure. I’m toying with writing about Art Sales next. But I may head in a different direction with artist statements. 

      It’ll be a mystery to us both. 

      Drop a line in the blog post comments below. 

      I’d love to know if you see yourself in any of these 7 reasons why artists won’t write their artist statement! 

      Whenever you’re ready to update your artist statement, or even write your first one, join my waitlist for: Writing The Artist Statement eBook & Ambitious Bundle. 

      It’s not enough to know what an artist statement is. You need to know how to write one! 

      This new 3rd edition eBook with its Ambitious Bundle takes you from head scratching to a polished, compelling artist statement. Check it out! 

      YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT… WHY BOTHER? Part 2

      YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT… WHY BOTHER? Part 2

      PART 2: Peeling back the layers on …Four Rational Reasons To Not Write Your Artist Statement…or,

      Are they really “rational?”

      In Part 1, I wrote about seven core reasons artists use to rationalize away any need for an artist statement. And then we dove into the first four.

      Here’s a quick review of those first four before we peek under the artist psyche-hood and see what’s simmering behind these rational arguments against writing an artist statement.

      Reason No. 1:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

      Reason No. 2: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      No. 2 – Reducing my intuitive, reflective, and emotional creative process to words feels like caging a magnificent beast.

      Reason No.3: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      No.3 – I want my viewer to draw their own conclusions. I don’t want to interfere or impose on  their interpretation or experience.

      Reason No. 4:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      No.4 – I don’t want my work judged by an artist statement when my true medium is visual. I want my work to stand on its own. 

      Now it’s time to look under the artist psyche-hood and see who’s actually calling the shots here.

      Let’s see if there’s anyone you recognize…

      The No.1 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement

      This reason is miles ahead of all the others. It carries the hubris of an artist strutting their stuff, with a withering dismissal in the process.

      #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

      This reason is hard at work to marry confidence, self-assurance and support for one’s work while deflecting it’s arrogant edge.

      As I wrote in Part 1: This reason works by virtue of an unspoken hierarchy: visual language bests word-language, as in a picture is worth a thousand words.

      But, since everyone loses when exclusion takes over, may I suggest that the more effective perspective is not this or that, but this and also that.

      However….

      I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

      Or its close cousin:

      Words can never express the true nature and beauty of my work. My work speaks for itself.

      … isn’t what it seems to be.

      What’s Really Behind Rational Reason No. 1?  

      The positive, life-affirming tone of — My work speaks for itself. — sounds independent,  self-assured, even grand. 

      So, it’s pretty tricky to figure out who’s pulling the strings behind ye-old-positivity mask. 

      One clue is the sense that this artist has landed so firmly in soft cement, that they don’t realize how quickly it hardens. There is no flexibility in this reason, none;  rigid to the core. 

      On a scale of one to ten, the artist here is ready to entertain a different opinion? 

      Zero. Zip. Zilch.

      Inside Reason No.1,  language becomes an evil alchemist, ready to wave its word-wand and… Presto! The incredibly shrinking art work! By the time diabolically clever words destroy the “true nature and beauty” of your art, you couldn’t find it with a high-powered microscope.

      Drill down further, and maybe this artist has a lurking fear about their work. That it really isn’t as marvelous as they would like. That they’re a fraud. Or as I say in my book on artist statements: That, in the Land of OZ, there is someone else behind the curtain?

      Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.1 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

      What if you consider words another tool in your artwork toolbox?

      How you use them is your choice. It’s in your control to say and write what you truly believe. And when you write about your work, it means you take yourself seriously at more levels than visual expression.

      Consider the writing process an extension of your creative journey because different forms of self-expression not only deepen how others experience what you do, writing about your work has the power to spark new insights and influence what you do in the studio.

      The No.2 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement

      Even though there’s honest resistance going on behind this “reason,” you know something’s up when the reason is ridiculous right out of the gate.

      #2 – Reducing my intuitive, reflective, and emotional creative process to words feels like caging a magnificent beast.

      Think about it: artists are constantly reducing everything they do.

      They start out with a block of wood and reduce it to the vision in their inner sight.

      They start out with an entire palate of colors, and reduce it to the few they decide to use. 

       

      They start out with a range of subjects, then selectively reduce the photograph to a single frame.  

      Oh, but words are different. Eyup! They have evil magic that reduces the artwork to… what? Dust? A single exclamation point. A raging rhino?

      What?

      Has this rational reason not considered that words have the same variable range as any other creative process? And the artist is as free to choose one word over another? Delete, erase, or replace?

      So, maybe Reason No.2 isn’t what it seems to be…

      What’s Behind Rational Reason No. 2?

      Once again, this reason implies that words have a malicious power able to imprison the work; cage it in another realm of time and space from which there is no escape.

      I dare say this is a fine, fine example of Fear of Commitment, with some Word Glue thrown in to make it stick. Dare to write down one, little thing about your art, and you are forever committed. 

      Words have the unreasonable power to make whatever you write real and unchangeable. 

      As if the act of writing something down on paper establishes its own tyranny and you and your art become a powerless prisoner of language. The artist-statement soft-cement you’ve stepped into has finally hardened around your creative ankles.

      Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.2 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

      But, hey! Being born is a commitment. So is choosing that color over those colors. Or that piece of oak over the walnut. Or wire and fishing hooks over discarded water bottles.

      Your artist statement is no more bound to time and space than they work in your studio. And that doesn’t seem to elicit a heart pounding anxiety, so what’s up with words that feel so different?

      Switching to word-language offers you a way to deepen into your own consciousness about your intuitive ArtLife. It’s an opportunity to offer a different kind of richness and complexity that only heightens a viewer’s experience.

      The caveat being… when the artist statement is compelling and as unique as your work.

      The No.3 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement  

      Goodness, such concern artists seem to have over the power words hold over them, but no concern when it comes to the power of their art materials.

      #3 – I want my viewer to draw their own conclusions. I don’t want to interfere or impose on  their interpretation or experience.

      This reason has two flaws:

      1. Who truly believes any of us are in control of what another experiences?
      1. If you aim for an “explanation” of your work, or a “roadmap to what someone should be experiencing when they see it,” you’ve missed the entire purpose of an artist statement.

      If you are doing it right, your artist statement is not telling, or explaining, it’s revealing your relationship to the piece they’re viewing.

      But what if you haven’t taken time to reflect on your relationship to your creative process and the artwork that your creative process produces?

      Hmmm, maybe Reason No.3 isn’t what it seems to be…

      What’s Behind Rational Reason No.3

      Deferring to others is a hallowed pastime of almost every woman I’ve ever known. Once in while a man will fall into this category of human behavior. In both cases, the deference is considered “polite,” or “kind,” or “considerate.

      All of which may be absolutely true. 

      And the rationale behind Reason No.3—I don’t want to interfere or impose (myself) on someone else’s experience…—falls squarely into this quasi-truth camp. However, I suspect that it’s the intimacy behind an authentic artist statement that quietly controls this story.

      When we are uncomfortable or unsure, it’s easier to focus on someone else. And for a lot of us, if we’ve experienced a past trauma that still lingers in our system, revealing ourselves can feel unsafe. Maybe even a bit dangerous.

      So, definitely, don’t get involved in your audience’s experience of your work. And whatever you do, don’t expose your own perspective on your work. That’s a target on your back for sure.

      The truly sad aspect of this “reason” is how it uses a deep truth—that connection between the artist and the viewer is a good thing—and flips it to imply that any connection could harbor an unseen threat. 

      If you have any angst about artist statements, this reason gives you an emotionally credible out, cleverly disguised as a thoughtful, considerate gesture of respect.

      And if you peel back another layer, it further insinuates that what you reveal about yourself has the power to harm others by offering the power of your perspective. Yikes!  

      If some part of you has always felt safer hiding out,  this rational reason lets you off the hook. 

      Its mission is to make you believe that revealing who you are is your own worst enemy. 

      Please, don’t buy it.

      Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.3 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

      Revealing the true spirit of your work does not mean you don’t have boundaries. This is not a free for all and nothing has to be revealed that doesn’t feel right.

      Revealing appropriately, with insight, candor, and personal truth draws people closer to you and your art.

      As I say in my book:

      When you reveal, you invite connection. When you invite connection, you open up the channel for good things to flow toward you. Yes, the opposite might happen (fear stage whispers), but when you have nothing to hide (that’s what revealing is about, not hiding), the fear that you might be exposed is preempted.

      Your artist statement provides a deeper context without dictating a singular interpretation or meaning because it’s your point of view. You aren’t telling people what to think; you’re offering a personal perspective on what you, the artist, thinks. And in so doing, you offer people another way to connect with you.

      And isn’t that what it’s all about: connecting to others, sharing our visions with the world?

      The No.4 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement  

      As I said in Part 1, this is a variation on Reason No. 1 (visual language vs the language of words), but with a couple of twists: judgment alongside the stand-on-its-own rationale.

      #4 – I don’t want my work judged by an artist statement when my true medium is visual. I want my work to stand on its own. 

      I want my work to stand on its own is factually impossible because the work, by its very existence, points directly to the artist who created it.

      You can create physical distance from your work. You can refrain from interviews, or documentaries (though I really don’t know artists who do either). But you can never, ever be divorced from the energetic reality of having created the work.

      You and your creation are inseparable, which ignites one of the mysteries that draws people to your work, and thus to you.

      Maybe Reason No.4 isn’t what it seems to be…

      What’s Behind Rational Reason No.4:   

      I don’t want my work judged (by an artist statement) means you want your artwork to do all the heavy lifting—by itself.

      This reason quivers under a fear of artistic intimacy vis a vi the viewer.  

      I call this fear of Word Magic.

      And in my book on writing artist statements, I explain it like this:

      Deep down, you believe that words hold a mysterious power, which automatically makes something true about you. Of course this “something” is always a bad thing. Somehow, this same mysterious power evaporates when you try to use words to say something good about yourself. 

      Under their spell, words become evil magicians who render you incapable of writing a valid, engaging, and honest perspective of your work. In a flash, your naturally gorgeous tail feathers are turned into the gaudy fan of a peacock strutting around.

      Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.4 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

      It’s obvious that your work speaks for itself. And an artist statement does not quibble with this.

      An artist statement also speaks for itself. Neither of these alternate voices drowns out the other. In fact, when done with intention and thoughtfulness, an artist statement expands the influence of your visual work.

      The artwork and the statement support each other; but in the end, they stand on their own. Which is why it’s so important to lean into writing the most compelling, evocative statement you can.

      Revealing your relationship to your art creates a vibrant connection that keeps the story going after the artwork has been appreciated on its own.

      Your artistic journey is a powerful component of your studio work. Offering aspects of this journey provides a roadmap for viewers to navigate your work in a different medium—word language.

      How exciting would it be to have an extension of your artistic magic in word language so the viewer experiences more bonding with you and your work, , not less.

      What’s Next:

      In Part 3, we’ll explore the last three core reasons.

      ———————————————————————————————————

      Whenever you’re ready to update your artist statement, or even write your first one, join my waitlist for: Writing The Artist Statement eBook & Ambitious Bundle.

      It’s not enough to know what an artist statement is. You need to know how to write one!

      This new 3rd edition eBook with it’s Ambitious Bundle takes you from head scratching to a polished, compelling artist statement. Check it out!

      Art Career Reflections Blog

      Artist Statement

      Why Bother
      PART 2: Peeling back
      the layers

      PART 2: Peeling back the layers on …

      Four Rational Reasons To Not Write Your Artist Statement…or,

      Are they really “rational?”

      In Part 1, I wrote about seven core reasons artists use to rationalize away any need for an artist statement. And then we dove into the first four.

      Here’s a quick review of those first four before we peek under the artist psyche-hood and see what’s simmering behind these rational arguments against writing an artist statement.

      Reason No. 1:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

      Reason No. 2: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      No. 2 – Reducing my intuitive, reflective, and emotional creative process to words feels like caging a magnificent beast.

      Reason No.3: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      No.3 – I want my viewer to draw their own conclusions. I don’t want to interfere or impose on  their interpretation or experience.

      Reason No. 4:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      No.4 – I don’t want my work judged by an artist statement when my true medium is visual. I want my work to stand on its own. 

      Now it’s time to look under the artist psyche-hood and see who’s actually calling the shots here.

      Let’s see if there’s anyone you recognize…

      The No.1 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement

      This reason is miles ahead of all the others. It carries the hubris of an artist strutting their stuff, with a withering dismissal in the process.

      #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

      This reason is hard at work to marry confidence, self-assurance and support for one’s work while deflecting it’s arrogant edge.

      As I wrote in Part 1: This reason works by virtue of an unspoken hierarchy: visual language bests word-language, as in a picture is worth a thousand words.

      But, since everyone loses when exclusion takes over, may I suggest that the more effective perspective is not this or that, but this and also that.

      However….

      I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

      Or its close cousin:

      Words can never express the true nature and beauty of my work. My work speaks for itself.

      … isn’t what it seems to be.

      What’s Really Behind Rational Reason No. 1?  

      The positive, life-affirming tone of — My work speaks for itself. — sounds independent,  self-assured, even grand. 

      So, it’s pretty tricky to figure out who’s pulling the strings behind ye-old-positivity mask. 

      One clue is the sense that this artist has landed so firmly in soft cement, that they don’t realize how quickly it hardens. There is no flexibility in this reason, none;  rigid to the core. 

      On a scale of one to ten, the artist here is ready to entertain a different opinion? 

      Zero. Zip. Zilch.

      Inside Reason No.1,  language becomes an evil alchemist, ready to wave its word-wand and… Presto! The incredibly shrinking art work! By the time diabolically clever words destroy the “true nature and beauty” of your art, you couldn’t find it with a high-powered microscope.

      Drill down further, and maybe this artist has a lurking fear about their work. That it really isn’t as marvelous as they would like. That they’re a fraud. Or as I say in my book on artist statements: That, in the Land of OZ, there is someone else behind the curtain?

      Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.1 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

      What if you consider words another tool in your artwork toolbox?

      How you use them is your choice. It’s in your control to say and write what you truly believe. And when you write about your work, it means you take yourself seriously at more levels than visual expression.

      Consider the writing process an extension of your creative journey because different forms of self-expression not only deepen how others experience what you do, writing about your work has the power to spark new insights and influence what you do in the studio.

      The No.2 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement

      Even though there’s honest resistance going on behind this “reason,” you know something’s up when the reason is ridiculous right out of the gate.

      #2 – Reducing my intuitive, reflective, and emotional creative process to words feels like caging a magnificent beast.

      Think about it: artists are constantly reducing everything they do.

      They start out with a block of wood and reduce it to the vision in their inner sight.

      They start out with an entire palate of colors, and reduce it to the few they decide to use. 

       

      They start out with a range of subjects, then selectively reduce the photograph to a single frame.  

      Oh, but words are different. Eyup! They have evil magic that reduces the artwork to… what? Dust? A single exclamation point. A raging rhino?

      What?

      Has this rational reason not considered that words have the same variable range as any other creative process? And the artist is as free to choose one word over another? Delete, erase, or replace?

      So, maybe Reason No.2 isn’t what it seems to be…

      What’s Behind Rational Reason No. 2?

      Once again, this reason implies that words have a malicious power able to imprison the work; cage it in another realm of time and space from which there is no escape.

      I dare say this is a fine, fine example of Fear of Commitment, with some Word Glue thrown in to make it stick. Dare to write down one, little thing about your art, and you are forever committed. 

      Words have the unreasonable power to make whatever you write real and unchangeable. 

      As if the act of writing something down on paper establishes its own tyranny and you and your art become a powerless prisoner of language. The artist-statement soft-cement you’ve stepped into has finally hardened around your creative ankles.

      Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.2 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

      But, hey! Being born is a commitment. So is choosing that color over those colors. Or that piece of oak over the walnut. Or wire and fishing hooks over discarded water bottles.

      Your artist statement is no more bound to time and space than they work in your studio. And that doesn’t seem to elicit a heart pounding anxiety, so what’s up with words that feel so different?

      Switching to word-language offers you a way to deepen into your own consciousness about your intuitive ArtLife. It’s an opportunity to offer a different kind of richness and complexity that only heightens a viewer’s experience.

      The caveat being… when the artist statement is compelling and as unique as your work.

      The No.3 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement  

      Goodness, such concern artists seem to have over the power words hold over them, but no concern when it comes to the power of their art materials.

      #3 – I want my viewer to draw their own conclusions. I don’t want to interfere or impose on  their interpretation or experience.

      This reason has two flaws:

      1. Who truly believes any of us are in control of what another experiences?

      1. If you aim for an “explanation” of your work, or a “roadmap to what someone should be experiencing when they see it,” you’ve missed the entire purpose of an artist statement.

      If you are doing it right, your artist statement is not telling, or explaining, it’s revealing your relationship to the piece they’re viewing.

      But what if you haven’t taken time to reflect on your relationship to your creative process and the artwork that your creative process produces?

      Hmmm, maybe Reason No.3 isn’t what it seems to be…

      What’s Behind Rational Reason No.3

      Deferring to others is a hallowed pastime of almost every woman I’ve ever known. Once in while a man will fall into this category of human behavior. In both cases, the deference is considered “polite,” or “kind,” or “considerate.

      All of which may be absolutely true. 

      And the rationale behind Reason No.3—I don’t want to interfere or impose (myself) on someone else’s experience…—falls squarely into this quasi-truth camp. However, I suspect that it’s the intimacy behind an authentic artist statement that quietly controls this story.

      When we are uncomfortable or unsure, it’s easier to focus on someone else. And for a lot of us, if we’ve experienced a past trauma that still lingers in our system, revealing ourselves can feel unsafe. Maybe even a bit dangerous.

      So, definitely, don’t get involved in your audience’s experience of your work. And whatever you do, don’t expose your own perspective on your work. That’s a target on your back for sure.

      The truly sad aspect of this “reason” is how it uses a deep truth—that connection between the artist and the viewer is a good thing—and flips it to imply that any connection could harbor an unseen threat. 

      If you have any angst about artist statements, this reason gives you an emotionally credible out, cleverly disguised as a thoughtful, considerate gesture of respect.

      And if you peel back another layer, it further insinuates that what you reveal about yourself has the power to harm others by offering the power of your perspective. Yikes!  

      If some part of you has always felt safer hiding out,  this rational reason lets you off the hook. 

      Its mission is to make you believe that revealing who you are is your own worst enemy. 

      Please, don’t buy it.

      Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.3 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

      Revealing the true spirit of your work does not mean you don’t have boundaries. This is not a free for all and nothing has to be revealed that doesn’t feel right.

      Revealing appropriately, with insight, candor, and personal truth draws people closer to you and your art.

      As I say in my book:

      When you reveal, you invite connection. When you invite connection, you open up the channel for good things to flow toward you. Yes, the opposite might happen (fear stage whispers), but when you have nothing to hide (that’s what revealing is about, not hiding), the fear that you might be exposed is preempted.

      Your artist statement provides a deeper context without dictating a singular interpretation or meaning because it’s your point of view. You aren’t telling people what to think; you’re offering a personal perspective on what you, the artist, thinks. And in so doing, you offer people another way to connect with you.

      And isn’t that what it’s all about: connecting to others, sharing our visions with the world?

      The No.4 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement  

      As I said in Part 1, this is a variation on Reason No. 1 (visual language vs the language of words), but with a couple of twists: judgment alongside the stand-on-its-own rationale.

      #4 – I don’t want my work judged by an artist statement when my true medium is visual. I want my work to stand on its own. 

      I want my work to stand on its own is factually impossible because the work, by its very existence, points directly to the artist who created it.

      You can create physical distance from your work. You can refrain from interviews, or documentaries (though I really don’t know artists who do either). But you can never, ever be divorced from the energetic reality of having created the work.

      You and your creation are inseparable, which ignites one of the mysteries that draws people to your work, and thus to you.

      Maybe Reason No.4 isn’t what it seems to be…

      What’s Behind Rational Reason No.4:   

      I don’t want my work judged (by an artist statement) means you want your artwork to do all the heavy lifting—by itself.

      This reason quivers under a fear of artistic intimacy vis a vi the viewer.  

      I call this fear of Word Magic.

      And in my book on writing artist statements, I explain it like this:

      Deep down, you believe that words hold a mysterious power, which automatically makes something true about you. Of course this “something” is always a bad thing. Somehow, this same mysterious power evaporates when you try to use words to say something good about yourself. 

      Under their spell, words become evil magicians who render you incapable of writing a valid, engaging, and honest perspective of your work. In a flash, your naturally gorgeous tail feathers are turned into the gaudy fan of a peacock strutting around.

      Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.4 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

      It’s obvious that your work speaks for itself. And an artist statement does not quibble with this.

      An artist statement also speaks for itself. Neither of these alternate voices drowns out the other. In fact, when done with intention and thoughtfulness, an artist statement expands the influence of your visual work.

      The artwork and the statement support each other; but in the end, they stand on their own. Which is why it’s so important to lean into writing the most compelling, evocative statement you can.

      Revealing your relationship to your art creates a vibrant connection that keeps the story going after the artwork has been appreciated on its own.

      Your artistic journey is a powerful component of your studio work. Offering aspects of this journey provides a roadmap for viewers to navigate your work in a different medium—word language.

      How exciting would it be to have an extension of your artistic magic in word language so the viewer experiences more bonding with you and your work, , not less.

      What’s Next:

      In Part 3, we’ll explore the last three core reasons.

      ———————————————————————————————————

      Whenever you’re ready to update your artist statement, or even write your first one, join my waitlist for: Writing The Artist Statement eBook & Ambitious Bundle.

      It’s not enough to know what an artist statement is. You need to know how to write one!

      This new 3rd edition eBook with it’s Ambitious Bundle takes you from head scratching to a polished, compelling artist statement. Check it out!

      YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT… WHY BOTHER? Part 1

      YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT… WHY BOTHER? Part 1

      Part 1: Four Rational Reasons To Not Write An Artist Statement

      When you hang around me, you will hear the following Origin Story a lot.

      It is the beginning of my quest, and it begins with a question….

      Why Don’t Artists Want to Write Their Artist Statements?

      I stood on unfinished, wide, wooden planks staring at a trio of large seascapes: Before, During, and After a Storm. Outside, tourists were roaming this quaint, Maine town surrounded by inlet waters. Inside, a summer breeze poured through the open gallery door.

      Inside, I stood transfixed. 

      It was July 1992 and I was taking a break from the graduate school grind. This gallery had felt unimposing, a place to be quietly invisible. And, anyway, I loved looking at art.

      But something other worldly was happening as I stood in front of these paintings. Even though the subject matter and execution didn’t seem exceptional, a force poured into me from those canvasses. From top to toe that force held me captive.

      The longer I stared, the greater this force became. 

      I began to merge with the paintings as if all the power of nature were dragging me into the riotous explosion that grew from an initial calm and ended in a salty tangle of driftwood, seaweed, and the deep thrumming of a storm’s aftershock. 

      The energetic fingerprint of this artist was undeniable.

      When I turned away, all I wanted was more connection with the person who sparked such a visceral response that the very boundaries of my skin were expanding out into the universe…

      The gallery owner, inconspicuously attentive, immediately looked up from his desk and came toward me as I approached him.

      I’d love to know more about this artist, I said.

      Of course. And he walked over to a tall filing cabinet (do you even know what that is?), pulled open a metal drawer and pulled out a single sheet of paper.

      Eagerly, I reached for the paper, excited to find out who had skillfully, and fully, used the elements of paint, brush, and canvass to affect me so deeply.

      Only, instead of connection, I was met with the dry dust of resume names, dates, and references. It was like following a spectacular sip of fine wine with sawdust.

      I looked up, confused. 

      No, I mean, I want to know more about this artist. You know, what that’s all about. 

      And I flicked my hand toward the seascape trio on the back wall.

      Oh, he gave a wry laugh, you want an artist statement.

      Please, and I held out my hand.

      Sorry, I don’t have one.

      Really… why not?

      Because artists don’t like to write them.

      Really… why not?

      Because—and here he hesitated, looked up at the ceiling, gave a long sigh—it’s like pulling teeth. I ask and I ask and I ask.

      Even if it makes the difference between a sale and no sale? I was struggling to understand.

      Yes, he said, even that doesn’t move the needle.

      And that, my dear artists, was when my graduate work in creativity took a long, winding detour down Artist Statement Lane.

      Suddenly, in-between classes, I found myself popping in and out of galleries. Luckily, in Western Massachusetts, galleries are more abundant than colleges and universities!

      Each time, I spoke with a gallery director or owner. And each time I heard the same story:

      We love artist statements. Artists won’t write them. Or, if they do, they’re terrible. Full of art speak, convoluted sentences with arcane language, or self-deprecating, or wildly egotistical. They give us artist statements we can’t use.

      Or they don’t give them at all.

      Since most of the art in these galleries was really good, I knew these artists were professionals, which in my mind meant they were also mature, educated, and dedicated to their work.

      So Why The Heck Do Artist Not Want To Write Artist Statements?

      You might think that in the next round, I’d be talking to the artists, yes?

      Sadly, no. Tracking down contacts, setting up appointments—all of this would take too way too much time away from my intense, Creative Behavior and Human Development doctoral program.

      Instead, I became curious, even obsessed. For no reason I can sort out, statistics was the easiest class to think it through. I had two notebooks: one for statistics and one for Why don’t artists want to write artist statements? 

      Not realizing it at the time, I was writing the nuts and bolts of my future book. Each time I had an aha about the why not artist statements, I would start imagining a simple process to turn the why not into a why, of course! 

      Within a couple of months, I’d figured out a process I thought could move artists from reluctance and resistance to a finished, compelling artist statement.

      Now all I needed was an artist laboratory.

      I turned to my local arts association and offered to give a free workshop, even though I’d never given a workshop in my life.

      Over five days, with a two-hour class, seven artists and I refined the process of writing an engaging, authentic artist statement based on the principles I’d crafted.

      When the process worked for every one of them, no one was more surprised than I.

      These seven artists proved that artists are perfectly capable of writing an authentic, engaging artist statement that hits all of the benchmarks.

      Now, Let’s Unpack The No.1 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Writing An Artist Statement

      I’ve been surfing the web, looking at the myriad of material different organizations have put together on artist statements.

      A favorite seems to be the artist statement Dos and Don’ts list. Like this one that offers the kind of basic information an artist just starting out might consider. 

      Or another one where the esteemed staff of the New York Foundation for The Arts (NYFA) backs up their basic list with years of experience reading artist statements. 

      The challenge here is that so many artists are either beyond the beginner stage, or don’t consider their beginner stage a reason to undercut their intelligence or maturity with simplistic approaches—yet still find themselves resistant to writing an artist statement

      Oh, dear, did I forget to mention that your artist statement is considered a professional addition to your portfolio? And that any portfolio is immediately diminished if your artist statement is missing? And when your portfolio is diminished, so are the opportunities open to you on your path toward selling your art. 

      That said, simple lists, like simple explanations of an artist statement, aren’t going to crack the artist statement reasons de resistance. 

      Why not? 

      Because resistance is a cover story for so much else that’s going on in our creative psyches. 

      Once I began looking under the artist psyche hood, I found seven core “reasons” artists use to rationalize away any need for an artist statement.

      Today, we’ll look at four of these.

      Far and away, the most emphatic and dismissive reason that comes up time and again is this: 

      No. 1:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

      Besides the overtone of confidence, and a deeply felt self-assurance and support for one’s work, there’s the paler undercurrent of arrogance—which many not be the best tone for engaging your potential buyer, m’ thinks…yes?

      This No.1 reason for not writing an artist statement is a true push ‘n pull that offers little opening for another perspective. In fact, this “reason” has very much closed the door, if not actually slammed it shut.

      This reason works by virtue of an unspoken hierarchy: visual language bests word-language, as in a picture is worth a thousand words.

      However, since everyone loses when exclusion takes over, the more effective perspective is not this or that, but this and also that.

      It reminds me of a lesson I learned in graduate school when I took a course in Group Dynamics that experientially proved how more brains are better than one. 

      In this case, visual language and word language are better than either by itself. (I’ll make the entire case for this assertion in another post.)

      So, maybe Reason No.1 isn’t what it seems to be…

      Right now, let’s go through three more reasons (#2, #3, #4) you might give me for not writing your artist statement!

      Reason No. 2: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      No. 2 – Reducing my intuitive, reflective, and emotional creative process to words feels like caging a magnificent beast.

      First, what’s up with “reducing?” 

       

      Isn’t this what you do every time you choose one color over another? Haven’t you just “reduced” your color scheme?

      Or you cut into the wood at this angle and not another angle?

      Or you select the angular stone instead of the rounded one?

      Or you layer in these coarser fibers instead ones with a finer weave?

      Or you shift the angle of your camera this way instead of that way?

      Or you slice the orange in your still life horizontally instead of vertically?

      How, may I ask, is this any different than selecting one word over another? 

      Pause. Think about it for a few seconds. Just think about the logic here.

      Words have a range of characteristics in the same vein as the range of materials from which you select every time you start your creative process.

      Maybe Reason No.2 isn’t what it seems to be…

      Reason No.3: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      No.3 – I want my viewer to draw their own conclusions. I don’t want to interfere or impose on  their interpretation or experience.

      Goodness, such concern you seem to have over the power you hold when it comes to words, but absolutely no concern when it comes to your art?

      And while I applaud concern when it makes sense, I can’t applaud the rationale.

      For one thing, none of us are in control of what another experiences. Each of us brings a constellation of past conditioning—what our mood is that day, do we have a headache, or just backed into a car, never mind our complicated DNA—to the viewing of a piece of art.

      For another, Reason #3 completely misses the point of an artist statement, which is not an explanation of what your work means, or a roadmap to what someone should be experiencing when they see it.

      If you are doing it right, your artist statement is not telling, or explaining, it’s revealing your relationship to the piece they’re viewing.

      Maybe Reason No.3 isn’t what it seems to be…

      Reason No.4:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      No.4 – I don’t want my work judged by an artist statement when my true medium is visual. I want my work to stand on its own. 

      This is Reason No. 1 (visual language vs the language of words), but with a couple of twists: judgment alongside the stand-on-its-own rationale.

      Let’s start with the latter: I want my work to stand on its own. 

      This one has always puzzled me because your work, from inception, does not have any way to stand on its own. You, the artist, are implied by its very existence.

      The work is you and you are the work. That’s one of the powerful aspects of creative work: the creator and the creation are essentially inseparable. This is also one of the mysteries that draws people to you and your work.

      What I really hear, here—and this is echoed by the “judged” aspect—is a fear of artistic intimacy vis a vi your viewer. You want your artwork to do all the heavy lifting—by itself.

      And this when the best thing that can happen to your artwork is to have an extension of its magic in word language so the viewer experiences more bonding with what you do, not less.

      Maybe Reason No.4 isn’t what it seems to be…

      What’s Next:

      Maybe all four of these Reasons  aren’t what they seem to be.

      Next week, let’s peek under the artist psyche hood and see what’s simmering behind all these rational arguments against writing an artist statement.

      There just might be someone under there whom you recognize…

      ———————————————————————————————————

      Whenever you’re ready to update your artist statement, or even write your first one, join my waitlist for: Writing The Artist Statement eBook & Ambitious Bundle.

      It’s not enough to know what an artist statement is. You need to know how to write one!

      This new 3rd edition eBook with it’s Ambitious Bundle takes you from head scratching to a polished, compelling artist statement. Check it out!

      Art Career Reflections Blog

      Artist Statement

      Why Bother?
      PART 1: Four Rational Reasons…

      Part 1: Four Rational Reasons To Not Write An Artist Statement

      When you hang around me, you will hear the following Origin Story a lot.

      It is the beginning of my quest, and it begins with a question….

      Why Don’t Artists Want to Write Their Artist Statements?

      I stood on unfinished, wide, wooden planks staring at a trio of large seascapes: Before, During, and After a Storm. Outside, tourists were roaming this quaint, Maine town surrounded by inlet waters. Inside, a summer breeze poured through the open gallery door.

      Inside, I stood transfixed. 

      It was July 1992 and I was taking a break from the graduate school grind. This gallery had felt unimposing, a place to be quietly invisible. And, anyway, I loved looking at art.

      But something other worldly was happening as I stood in front of these paintings. Even though the subject matter and execution didn’t seem exceptional, a force poured into me from those canvasses. From top to toe that force held me captive.

      The longer I stared, the greater this force became. 

      I began to merge with the paintings as if all the power of nature were dragging me into the riotous explosion that grew from an initial calm and ended in a salty tangle of driftwood, seaweed, and the deep thrumming of a storm’s aftershock. 

      The energetic fingerprint of this artist was undeniable.

      When I turned away, all I wanted was more connection with the person who sparked such a visceral response that the very boundaries of my skin were expanding out into the universe…

      The gallery owner, inconspicuously attentive, immediately looked up from his desk and came toward me as I approached him.

      I’d love to know more about this artist, I said.

      Of course. And he walked over to a tall filing cabinet (do you even know what that is?), pulled open a metal drawer and pulled out a single sheet of paper.

      Eagerly, I reached for the paper, excited to find out who had skillfully, and fully, used the elements of paint, brush, and canvass to affect me so deeply.

      Only, instead of connection, I was met with the dry dust of resume names, dates, and references. It was like following a spectacular sip of fine wine with sawdust.

      I looked up, confused. 

      No, I mean, I want to know more about this artist. You know, what that’s all about. 

      And I flicked my hand toward the seascape trio on the back wall.

      Oh, he gave a wry laugh, you want an artist statement.

      Please, and I held out my hand.

      Sorry, I don’t have one.

      Really… why not?

      Because artists don’t like to write them.

      Really… why not?

      Because—and here he hesitated, looked up at the ceiling, gave a long sigh—it’s like pulling teeth. I ask and I ask and I ask.

      Even if it makes the difference between a sale and no sale? I was struggling to understand.

      Yes, he said, even that doesn’t move the needle.

      And that, my dear artists, was when my graduate work in creativity took a long, winding detour down Artist Statement Lane.

      Suddenly, in-between classes, I found myself popping in and out of galleries. Luckily, in Western Massachusetts, galleries are more abundant than colleges and universities!

      Each time, I spoke with a gallery director or owner. And each time I heard the same story:

      We love artist statements. Artists won’t write them. Or, if they do, they’re terrible. Full of art speak, convoluted sentences with arcane language, or self-deprecating, or wildly egotistical. They give us artist statements we can’t use.

      Or they don’t give them at all.

      Since most of the art in these galleries was really good, I knew these artists were professionals, which in my mind meant they were also mature, educated, and dedicated to their work.

      So Why The Heck Do Artist Not Want To Write Artist Statements?

      You might think that in the next round, I’d be talking to the artists, yes?

      Sadly, no. Tracking down contacts, setting up appointments—all of this would take too way too much time away from my intense, Creative Behavior and Human Development doctoral program.

      Instead, I became curious, even obsessed. For no reason I can sort out, statistics was the easiest class to think it through. I had two notebooks: one for statistics and one for Why don’t artists want to write artist statements? 

      Not realizing it at the time, I was writing the nuts and bolts of my future book. Each time I had an aha about the why not artist statements, I would start imagining a simple process to turn the why not into a why, of course! 

      Within a couple of months, I’d figured out a process I thought could move artists from reluctance and resistance to a finished, compelling artist statement.

      Now all I needed was an artist laboratory.

      I turned to my local arts association and offered to give a free workshop, even though I’d never given a workshop in my life.

      Over five days, with a two-hour class, seven artists and I refined the process of writing an engaging, authentic artist statement based on the principles I’d crafted.

      When the process worked for every one of them, no one was more surprised than I.

      These seven artists proved that artists are perfectly capable of writing an authentic, engaging artist statement that hits all of the benchmarks.

      Now, Let’s Unpack The No.1 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Writing An Artist Statement

      I’ve been surfing the web, looking at the myriad of material different organizations have put together on artist statements.

      A favorite seems to be the artist statement Dos and Don’ts list. Like this one that offers the kind of basic information an artist just starting out might consider. 

      Or another one where the esteemed staff of the New York Foundation for The Arts (NYFA) backs up their basic list with years of experience reading artist statements. 

      The challenge here is that so many artists are either beyond the beginner stage, or don’t consider their beginner stage a reason to undercut their intelligence or maturity with simplistic approaches—yet still find themselves resistant to writing an artist statement

      Oh, dear, did I forget to mention that your artist statement is considered a professional addition to your portfolio? And that any portfolio is immediately diminished if your artist statement is missing? And when your portfolio is diminished, so are the opportunities open to you on your path toward selling your art. 

      That said, simple lists, like simple explanations of an artist statement, aren’t going to crack the artist statement reasons de resistance. 

      Why not? 

      Because resistance is a cover story for so much else that’s going on in our creative psyches. 

      Once I began looking under the artist psyche hood, I found seven core “reasons” artists use to rationalize away any need for an artist statement.

      Today, we’ll look at four of these.

      Far and away, the most emphatic and dismissive reason that comes up time and again is this: 

      No. 1:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

      Besides the overtone of confidence, and a deeply felt self-assurance and support for one’s work, there’s the paler undercurrent of arrogance—which many not be the best tone for engaging your potential buyer, m’ thinks…yes?

      This No.1 reason for not writing an artist statement is a true push ‘n pull that offers little opening for another perspective. In fact, this “reason” has very much closed the door, if not actually slammed it shut.

      This reason works by virtue of an unspoken hierarchy: visual language bests word-language, as in a picture is worth a thousand words.

      However, since everyone loses when exclusion takes over, the more effective perspective is not this or that, but this and also that.

      It reminds me of a lesson I learned in graduate school when I took a course in Group Dynamics that experientially proved how more brains are better than one. 

      In this case, visual language and word language are better than either by itself. (I’ll make the entire case for this assertion in another post.)

      So, maybe Reason No.1 isn’t what it seems to be…

      Right now, let’s go through three more reasons (#2, #3, #4) you might give me for not writing your artist statement!

      Reason No. 2: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      No. 2 – Reducing my intuitive, reflective, and emotional creative process to words feels like caging a magnificent beast.

      First, what’s up with “reducing?” 

       

      Isn’t this what you do every time you choose one color over another? Haven’t you just “reduced” your color scheme?

      Or you cut into the wood at this angle and not another angle?

      Or you select the angular stone instead of the rounded one?

      Or you layer in these coarser fibers instead ones with a finer weave?

      Or you shift the angle of your camera this way instead of that way?

      Or you slice the orange in your still life horizontally instead of vertically?

      How, may I ask, is this any different than selecting one word over another? 

      Pause. Think about it for a few seconds. Just think about the logic here.

      Words have a range of characteristics in the same vein as the range of materials from which you select every time you start your creative process.

      Maybe Reason No.2 isn’t what it seems to be…

      Reason No.3: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      No.3 – I want my viewer to draw their own conclusions. I don’t want to interfere or impose on  their interpretation or experience.

      Goodness, such concern you seem to have over the power you hold when it comes to words, but absolutely no concern when it comes to your art?

      And while I applaud concern when it makes sense, I can’t applaud the rationale.

      For one thing, none of us are in control of what another experiences. Each of us brings a constellation of past conditioning—what our mood is that day, do we have a headache, or just backed into a car, never mind our complicated DNA—to the viewing of a piece of art.

      For another, Reason #3 completely misses the point of an artist statement, which is not an explanation of what your work means, or a roadmap to what someone should be experiencing when they see it.

      If you are doing it right, your artist statement is not telling, or explaining, it’s revealing your relationship to the piece they’re viewing.

      Maybe Reason No.3 isn’t what it seems to be…

      Reason No.4:  Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

      No.4 – I don’t want my work judged by an artist statement when my true medium is visual. I want my work to stand on its own. 

      This is Reason No. 1 (visual language vs the language of words), but with a couple of twists: judgment alongside the stand-on-its-own rationale.

      Let’s start with the latter: I want my work to stand on its own. 

      This one has always puzzled me because your work, from inception, does not have any way to stand on its own. You, the artist, are implied by its very existence.

      The work is you and you are the work. That’s one of the powerful aspects of creative work: the creator and the creation are essentially inseparable. This is also one of the mysteries that draws people to you and your work.

      What I really hear, here—and this is echoed by the “judged” aspect—is a fear of artistic intimacy vis a vi your viewer. You want your artwork to do all the heavy lifting—by itself.

      And this when the best thing that can happen to your artwork is to have an extension of its magic in word language so the viewer experiences more bonding with what you do, not less.

      Maybe Reason No.4 isn’t what it seems to be…

      What’s Next:

      Maybe all four of these Reasons  aren’t what they seem to be.

      Next week, let’s peek under the artist psyche hood and see what’s simmering behind all these rational arguments against writing an artist statement.

      There just might be someone under there whom you recognize…

      ———————————————————————————————————

      Whenever you’re ready to update your artist statement, or even write your first one, join my waitlist for: Writing The Artist Statement eBook & Ambitious Bundle.

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