I Am Artist, Hear Me Roar! (Artist Statements)
It’s stimulating sunday, and in order to get this post started right, we’ll do a few quick word associations to see what happens in your mind. I promise it will be quick, painless, and you just might learn something from the process.
Ready? Okay, let’s go.
I’ve got the eye of the tiger, baby I’m bulletproof, because I’m happy, it’s the final countdown, test your might, everything is awesome, etc.
At least one of those phrases called up something didn’t it? You hear those songs and you just get jacked the f*ck up, don’t you? I think it has something to do with the associations between the audio and the visuals. Especially if it’s a song directly tied in with a movie, TV show or video game.
We recognize the importance of audio in making a proper multi-media presentation, whether we are conscious of it or not. Take for instance this article which goes over the value of music in producing emotions.
Which is why I wanted to write about the importance of tying in ideas with the visuals of the arts and how the written word is so incredibly important in creating richer experiences; if you were to ask any of my friends and colleagues who work in the arts, they would probably all tell you that the worst thing about being an artist is the struggle to find meaning in their work through words.
Unless they are a writer, of course. Then the biggest challenge they face is visually showing what their work represents.
But let’s not lose focus. So, I have this theory that the reason why many artists struggle with the written language versus the visual one is that they’re most interested in articulating ideas which simply cannot be written down, and to try to do so can be an incredible disservice to the work. At least initially. Which is why I wanted to spend some time going over the importance of artist statements for those who are not visual thinkers.
So what is an artist statement?
An artist statement should be an introduction to your work in general, a series, or an individual piece. It should always start by explaining the basic ideas of the work, a shorter paragraph with maybe a few sentences in length. Then you go into more detail about how the ideas are being presented in the work with a second paragraph. You can conclude the statement with highlights of the most important points, but it should strive to be no more than 10-12 sentences in length. After all the words are there to enhance the work, not overtake it.
When writing a longer statement you can include more detail. For instance, your expectations for the work and how the audience should react to it. How your work fits in relation to your previous efforts and where it fits in the larger oeuvre of contemporary art. You can also consider including sources which have contributed to the work, including other artists that influence you.
And of course there are some things that you should not do in an artist statement, unless you want to alienate your audience. Avoid talking about your role in the world and making cliched statements about your work. Long dissertations and personal anecdotes should be avoided too, unless it is directly related to what you are creating. And lastly, if you inject technical terms, be very careful to limit their use and explain them as best you can without carrying on.
The major reason why you should write an artist statement is that it can be an excellent way to clarify what your work is about and make a stronger connection for the audience, administrators you interact with, and of course in submitting the work for any kind of applications process (exhibitions, funding, school, paid positions).
Much like how a good soundtrack can help elevate the experience of watching a movie or playing game, when you can connect your ideas with your artwork, people will have a much stronger appreciation for what your contributions mean in the marketplace.
I know that this is kind of a teaser, because there is a lot more to say about how to write these statements, when to use them, where to use them, etc. And so I promise to go revisit this topic in a future post about how to construct one of these statements in detail.
But for now I’m out of theories friends! I hope you have an excellent Sunday evening, and I’ll catch you tomorrow with a music review! Comment! Subscribe! Share!