It’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to make other people laugh. And it’s okay to write an artist statement about art-that-makes-us-laugh, too.
Many people have left comments or emailed me with concerns about my artist statement series. They say they don’t make “heavy” or “serious” art. They make art that is funny, or cute, or whimsical, or charming, or clever. So they don’t need an artist statement, right?
I’ve always said, if what you’re doing is working for you, don’t change anything.
But I still encourage you to think about why you’ve chosen–or been called–to make that kind of work.
And I encourage you to think about what would happen if you shared that reason, that realization, that insight, with your audience.
Remember when I said your art doesn’t have to be serious, but understanding why you make it is still important?
Here are the reasons:
1) It makes you step up to the plate and take what you do seriously.
2) Joy and laughter and sweetness are passions, too, just as important as more “serious” passions.
3) Your reasons for making this art, whatever they are, are still personal and powerful. People will respond to those reasons.
When I first started making stuff, I, too, made “whimsical” and “sweet” things. I made things simply because I enjoyed it. It was fun!
Then I attended a workshop for blocked or emerging artists. We had to bring examples of our work and talk about it.
I was in a tizzy. I thought of everyone else present as “real artists” and I was not. I just made stuff. There was nothing “heavy” or “serious” about it. Even if you could call what I did “art”, couldn’t art just be for fun?
But something happened when I was forced to really look at my work, to really think about why I made it, and then to talk about that to an audience.
Here is a reconstructed version of what I said about my work:
I make tiny dolls, only 2″ tall, made from recycled sweaters. I make small knitted sheep, too. I crochet small “pouches” on cords, so you can carry a doll or sheep around your neck. I also make small wall quilts based on traditional patterns and made with natural fabrics recycled from used clothing, so they really look old.
I imagined my body of work as something that would intrigue and delight at the same time, little “toys” newly made with old materials, giving them a timeless quality.
I used to think of these pieces as children’s toys, but adults are just as fascinated with them. I think it’s important to have joy and delight in our lives, so I guess in a way, I love making “toys for adults”–tiny little marvels, beautifully made, that enchant and delight.
Almost everything I make would fit in your hand. That is very important to me. I guess it’s so you can have these little gifts with you all the time, and take them out and hold them anytime you need to be happy. Because I want them to make people happy, and joyful.
I laugh when I look back and see how tentative I was about my work, even as I felt so compelled to make it. “I guess…” “I think….”
But in that first “artist statement” (because that’s exactly what it was), I can see the shape of things to come. I can see some of you who are familiar with my work, already nodding and saying, “aha!”
Small artifacts…made to be touched and held in your hand…carried with you as jewelry, as talismans…recycled fabrics and artifacts giving an aura of antiquity to the work….intriguing…connection…
….and passion. Joy.
Within a year, I was making an entirely different body of work, with the same qualities, the same aesthetic, almost the same story–but with a powerful message.
I began to make fabric wall hangings made with recycled fabrics. I made artifacts to put on these quilts; artifacts of ancient horses galloping through endless grass lands, their hearts full of joy and freedom. Artifacts that carried a message for us, that spoke to us across the ages, that told us how to live with more joy and freedom in our hearts.
I learned not to be denigrate how I felt. I learned to respect the reasons why I make what I make. I learned to really love and celebrate the artist in me.
I stepped up to the plate.
Does your whimsical art have to evolve into something more serious? Absolutely not!
In a world full of hardship and horror, pain and destruction, sorrow and sadness, there a profound need for art that makes us rejoice, and dance, and celebrate, and love. There is a time for being silly, for laughter. There is room for all our art.
Joy. Laughter. Delight. Silly. These are all part of the human condition, too. And they are just as important in creating a rich, loving and wonderful life.
There is power in joy, and laughter.
I am only asking you to think about that power, and acknowledge that power, and ultimately, to respect that power in your art, and in your heart.
Coming soon: How to get to that all-important WHY.
8 thoughts on “25 RANDOM THINGS: Action Steps for Your Artist Statement #4”
I love what you wrote…lately I’ve been feeling that creativity is REALLY calling me. I am starting to incorporate that into my business more – but your line “respect that power in your art, and in your heart” is beautiful!
I know that you wrote this just for me (… and them). :o)
Acostantine, thank you for sharing the effect my words had. That’s really powerful, too!
Hey Denise, I tried not to single you out, and I hope this gets you thinking. Thank you for giving me a good idea for this blog article today! :^)
Thank you Luann for this as it has always been a sticking place for me. Why do I do what I do???
It’s a snow day here and a good time to sit down and re-write my artist statement.
Luann, This really HELPS. I’m starting to develop an understanding of why I’m influenced to create what I do and I am feeling less timid about discussing it. Wonderful insights; especially the part about respecting the power in your art and heart. Thanks.
I am very clear about the music I make with my husband, that we are there to take people away from their troubles. We sing songs of an earlier time. All times have trouble, but the 1920’s did not sing about them much.
We choose funny songs and love songs. There are a few songs in our genre scolding an errant beau, a few more about being broke. We typically skip those. We are in love and we sing about that, and let others go on a little journey with us for a while.
With my knitting, it is harder to clarify in words what I do. I use color intensely, which often brings a smile to others. Strangers address me several times a week, saying that my colors have made them smile. I know this does not happen to others much.
I knit colorwork, not only modern and from my own mind, but inspired by historical pieces. My first adventure was Turkish Socks and now Andean Hats (Chullus).
Why? I can’t wait to read that column. I only know that this work moves my heart.
I loved what you wrote in an earlier post… that which brings us to tears reveals where our heart lies. I cry in art museums when I get to them. The last one was the Textile Museum in DC. Breathtaking. A Zoroastrian embroidery blew me away, I did not want to leave.
Thanks for the posts. I have read back to October in the last week. Your writing is a gift to the world.
Lynndy in Lansing, MI
This time I have to leave a link to an artist’s statement….this made me laugh, and I love how he doesn’t seem to feel that he has to follow any rules.
I found his work through a photo on this blog…
listening to your song, your cave, takes me ponder the very things of me that I hesitate to share. like some fragile long stemmed vase, very much a part of who I am….afraid about being handled by others. is it privacy I value or anonimity?