a fundamentally different approach to

Accelerate Your Art Career…

a fundamentally different approach to

Accelerate Your Art Career…

a fundamentally different approach to

Accelerate Your Art Career…

Your Artist Statement … Why Bother? Part 3

by | Jan 16, 2024 | Artist Statements, recent | 0 comments

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! 

From writing the only book on Artist Statements to producing the only art-career conference for visual artists – smARTist – I’m deeply committed to pioneering programs that meet you on the corner of…

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Ariane Goodwin, Ph.D.

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