25 RANDOM THINGS: Action Steps for Your Artist Statement #2

Why you need to jazz up that “perfectly good” artist statement of yours.

You say you have a perfectly good artist statement, thank you very much, and you’ve written it the way everybody else is writing theirs, so what’s wrong with your artist statement anyway?

Or you don’t know where to start, so do I have a template you can use to just ‘fill in the blanks’?

(The answer to that one is no, btw.)

Here’s why you might want to add some pizzaz your statement:

Yours sounds like everybody else’s.

The most extreme example I can give you is an group art show I attended awhile back. I’m going to say it was art made with Play-Do. It wasn’t, but I don’t want to pick on any specific group of artists, and I want to make my point.

There was only the Play-Do art on exhibit, and an artist’s statement on display under each piece.. No one had any business cards, or brochures, or pamphlets, or anything for viewers and potential buyers to take. So you had the art, and the artist statement.

The first one said something like this:

I live in X town, Y state. I have used Play-Do as my art medium for 12 years. I have studied under Mr. Z, the foremost Play-Do artist in the northeast. Last year I won best of show for my Play-Do art.

I have played with Play-Do since I was a child. I love Play-Do because it’s so colorful and versatile as an art medium.

The next one said something like this:

I live in B town, C state. I have studied Play-Do as my art medium for 15 years. I studied under Ms. C for four years, and then studied under Mr. D. I have exhibited in Play-Do art shows all over C state.

As long as I can remember, I have loved working with Play-Do. I continue to work in Play-Do, as it challenges my color aesthetic. I love the colorful interplay of aesthetic and emotional tones in my work.

The next one said,

I’ve been worked with Play-Do for 18 years. I studied with so-and-so at the such-and-such Institute for 8 years. I have won many awards for my Play-Do art.

I used to work with crayons, but now I chose to work in Play-Do because I enjoy the range of colors and tones I can achieve with it.

Every single artist statement had the same bland tone; the same litany of how many years the artist had worked with their medium; the same listing of more famous artists they’d studied under; everyone “just loved color.”

(For the record, it is unusual to find a human being who doesn’t like color, music, sunsets or food.)

Obviously, one member of the group with some academic training, who knew the “right things” to include in an artist statement, who had had some success with their art, had set the tone.

And everybody else followed.

So the compelling Play-Do artist in this exhibit is….the one who’s been working with it the longest??? That’s all we have to go on, from the information we’ve been given.

Acclaimed basket maker JoAnn Russo shared this thought about artist statements once. I don’t know where she got it, but I think about it often:

“An artist statement is something people read after they’ve looked at your work. And a great artist statement makes them go back and look at your work again.”

Here’s an example of a statement that makes you go back and look. Look at the work of glass artist Christina Bothwell.

Now read her artist statement.

After I read it, I immediately went back to look for the “inner image” inside each figure. Did you?

After reading that she works in glass because it does everything other sculptural media does, and also transmits light, I wanted to see that, too.

Side note: I was originally drawn to Christina’s work several years ago. She had a different statement/intro to her work then. It was just as compelling.

So a statement changes. It’s not set in stone. It can change as your work and your focus change, perhaps even to meet the needs of your current exhibit.

There are many reasons people buy art. It can be because they simply like the subject matter. Or they like the colors. Or they like your style. An artist statement probably can’t override their initial “like/don’t like” reaction to your work.

But if they like it enough to want to know a little more about you….

And if what you tell about yourself is compelling enough to make them look again….

Then why risk boring them to death, when instead you could be forging an even more powerful connection?

Make them look. Twice.

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7 Comments

Filed under art, artist statement, craft, marketing, self promotion, telling your story

7 responses to “25 RANDOM THINGS: Action Steps for Your Artist Statement #2

  1. Luann,
    This was a fun exercise. I went to Christina’s site when I got to the link in your article. The thumbnails didn’t really draw me in, and I wanted to continue reading what you were saying anyway, so I came back and then clicked on the statement, and came back again to finish reading. Then I went back to her site and started going through the individual photos and couldn’t stop looking and looking! Her work is wonderful, but I probably wouldn’t have noticed it all without something else directing my attention to look closely. I think it’s a matter of some level of trust…the statement gives a window into a part of the artist that authenticates the work…makes it more real in a sense (especially since I am viewing it through a computer screen which has a large level of unreality/impersonal-ness to it.)

    Today I came across the work of a photographer who I think would be just as compelling to read about based on what I see in her photos, but her statement was pretty flat and a disappointment since I was hoping for something more compelling after Christina’s lol!, and after your article.
    So, you’ve made a very good point here :-).

  2. Oh, I LOVE what you said about authenticity, Cindy–beautifully put, and a wonderful addition to my article. Thank you!

  3. Hi Luann – Thanks for reminding me that I need to see how I can spruce up my own statement! It’s so hard to write about oneself and put it out there for the world to read. But I guess people really do want to know what makes artists tick. So many times at an art show I’ll notice people peering intently at me as though I’m some sort of wierd and exotic species…. I suppose to them, I am, lol!

    PS – love your bear quilt collection! (I love working with fibers too).

  4. Well, I _am_ a little disappointed that you don’t have a template for me. :)

    Wonderful post! Thanks for giving me permission not to recite my resume. I need to get back to work on my statement. :)

  5. Pingback: 25 RANDOM THINGS: Action Steps for Your Artist Statement #3 « Luann Udell

  6. Pingback: Weekend Reading: Link Sharing « Musings from the Moonroom

  7. I just found your blog, and i love it! This is a great article. I cannot seem to tear myself away from your blog! Thank you, for writing, it is one of your gifts!

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