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.