7/13/07

thoughts/questions re: artist's statement

I can distinctly remember in Jan 06 when I first took work to hang in the gallery that much was made about having an artist's statement. I of course had an attitude, you tell me to go left and I will go right even if it is out of my way. Even if I know that I am being obstinate....I struggle with being told what to do and the artist statement proved to be difficult. I have heard many artists have a similar loathing, even well established artists. I don't have the original statement, they kept it up for about six months ~ it was the typical grouchy 'my art doesn't mean anything it just is blah blah blah'. When I started to sell some work there I was asked to write yet another artist statement. This is what I wrote and they seemed happy with:

Passion. Searching. A deep itch in my being
that can only be relieved by creating art.
The materials I choose beckon me long
before I know how I will use them. In
retrospect it makes sense why I chose the
various pieces of scrap and found objects;
why weeks before I may paint or assemble
something without having any idea what it
will be used for.

To me, the process of creating art feels like
falling into a long tunnel and being swept
through it at a terrific speed. Only in the end
can I see where I've been, that's when I look
at the work and see how it became what it is
When I am spat from the tunnel I am different
than I was before I fell into it. Each piece I
create is a journey further into another realm as
well as into my self, and that is why I make art.

Now, for the July 21 'Live Earth' Gallery opening I am being requested to write yet another artist statement. I wasn't prepared for this show, meaning I had no idea the 'theme' and by the time I found out I only had one new piece made. The owner wasn't sold on it while the assistant who was in charge of this particular venue LOVED the piece. The owner said if I could write a statement that really kicked ass (my words) then he would let the piece stay. I have to admit this was not easy for me, I felt like ultimately if he didn't want the work in there perhaps I should say screw it and not write a statement. Is the statement THAT important? Well, if I want to play this game I better abide by the rules. Here is the statement, and as far as I know my work will be in the show:

The universe doesn't need us. Take it down a notch and there is Earth; it doesn't need us either. Nature is a presence, part of but not all of what makes up the Earth. Nature seems to be what we as humans interact with, interfere with, protect and destroy. As an artist, I find Nature’s effect on what humans make fascinating and beautiful. Were it not for Nature I would not create the art that I do. Were it not for man and his pollution, I also would not make what I make. I need the harsh effects of time and weather; I need the discarded chemically stained metal and steel that is made by man; it is those effects that I am drawn to more so than a blank canvas.

I am inspired by the collision of man and earth. I do not feel dour or torment over the state of the world. I struggle with the meaning of it all so I do the thing that makes the most sense to me. I make art.

(me thinks I like the first one better but this one seems appropriate for the venue)

I of course was bitchy about the whole live earth thing because I don't make art to save the planet. I don't look for recycled things for ecological reasons; it's free, or at least cheap and just more interesting and fun to look for old rusty baubles than to go into a suffocating store. I'm not trying to clean up america or use less. When I expressed that to the assistant and owner they 'got it' and said go for it. That is why I wrote the above statement. This show is all about how art and ecology tie in. I'm sure to some that may sound horrible, but I do believe that it is impossible for us to destroy life. Maybe we are going to screw up this planet yeah, but I question even that. I could go on an entirely different tangent but I wont.

Back to the Artist Statement. I'm curious, do you other artists write them only for galleries? If you work in more than one medium do you have a statement for each work? If you want to share your's and your website or the particular body of work it relates to, I'd love it. I can see where for a particular body of work or particular place in your life they would change. Nothing irritates me more though when I read an artist statement that is full of itself. Full of nonsense meaning and concepts. Too much mind stuff for me. I think I'm not as annoyed by having to write statements but I still don't like it. (me with my big year and a half of gallery representation) I have to wonder if the average joe art looker gets much out of an artists statement, let alone if an art collector does. Thoughts?

6 comments:

Daniel Sroka said...

I used to hate artist's statements as well. It wasn't the concept of the statement I hated, but that so many of them can be vapid or vain. I used to refuse to do one, until I realized that refusing to do one is just as cliched as doing an obtuse artsy-fartsy one.

Now I try to think of them as an introduction. Something I might say if I met someone at a party, and they asked me what I did. (Me? With 2 kids? At a party?) Not about the art so much as about me.

But yes, oh yes, it is tough. Artist's statements aren't static; they are a constantly evolving construct. I'm never happy with mine, but once and a while I'm satisfied.

m.m.crow said...

i know nothing about artists statements. nada. but i really like the second one. no more or no less than the one above but on it's own entirely. i totally get why you might have felt like saying 'fuck the gallery' but you do like it there... whether or not the politics or personality might get in the way. i think what you wrote is evidence of rising above it.

Tori said...

Well I think you did a really great job with your proposed statement. I would enjoy reading it as I viewed your art and like the insight it offered. I had no idea that these artist statements exsisted-what pressure. Isn't it about letting just the art speak?

self taught artist said...

d: i agree completely about the cliche thing and I just now get it about them being not static. good point!
m: thanks :)
t: no, in galleries it is probably less about the art than you could imagine! I've been told several times that when an art collector buys work it is more about buying 'the artist' than the work. they need to know the story about the person. they are trying to fill a void if you will or if not that...to gather the energy that it took from a person to create whatever it is they created. (my interpretation.)...correct me people if I am grotesquely wrong

KJ said...

You are a talented, creative writer... wouldn't be reading regularly if I didn't enjoy your take on the world. Writing a statement is just one more artistic act, one that is constantly refined as new ways of expressing yourself come to mind. I like short statements... if you can get it down in 25 well chosen words or less, all the better, all the more likely to be read and remembered. And that's what it's all about, a hook to associate with your art. It's good to have several versions in your pocket as one size doesn't always fit all. And I should take my own advice as mine is covered with dust... yuck!

Artyfax said...

You seem to have started an interesting discussion here, I have seen many articles on how to write an Artist's Statement but this has given me some real food for thought, thanks. Just what I needed as I have to do one for myself with an exhibition coming up in a couple of months

John