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 2

by | Jan 6, 2024 | Artist Statements, recent | 0 comments

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!

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…

ArtLife &
Creative Challenge

Artist Statement

Selling Your Art

Your Creative Mindset

Podcast: Curiosity Cocktails

Ariane Goodwin, Ph.D.

CONTACT

ariane@arianegoodwin.com