The Artist's Statement:
Nowadays art lovers (and galleries too) want the full package. Not only do they want an intellectually engaging and technically amazing never-before-seen art exhibit, now they want you to write about it. While it may seem like a low blow to expect artists to be proficient in writing as well as visual art, the artist statement (maybe even artists' statement if you are in a group show) is a relevant part of what viewers and curators come to expect when they see a great art show. In this article, I will attempt to explain what to put in an artist's statement and what to avoid.
The good news is - THERE ARE NO RULES. Artists love to hear that. My advice in this article is just that ... advice. You can take it or leave it. Generally, there are no hard and fast rules to include in an artist's statement. Different galleries may have different suggestions, but I am going to point out the kinds of things I look for in a solid artist's statement.
First off... What NOT to do.
Do not put off writing your artist's statement until the day before you turn your work over to the gallery curator for hanging the show. People can clearly see your work is great and you don't want to undercut their expectations by having a rather poorly written artist's statement. I know artist's love to procrastinate and some creative minds even thrive under the pressure of deadline, but waiting until the last minute to compose your artist's statement is an insult to your audience.
Do not leave your artist's statement so broad as to say, "I paint what I'm feeling at the time." You would not believe the number of critiques I have sat through in which artists tried to pass that excuse off as an actual artist's statement. Even if you do paint what you are feeling at the time, please... please... come up with a different way of saying it.
Do not make your artist's statement so convoluted that the average art lover can't read it. Many artist's statements are so muddled with art jargon that viewers are left feeling that this art must somehow be beyond their understanding. This windy language is one of the primary reasons that most people feel completely alienated by art. There are actually automatic artist's statement generators that show how ridiculous art language has become. Here is one called "500 Letters" that I found on a Google search. Try it. You simply plug in your information and it randomly completes the most over-the-top-sophisticated-terrible fluff you could ever imagine. Also, do not actually use this to write your real artist statement.
And now for the DO's...
Do prepare your artist statement well in advance of any upcoming exhibit. Almost all exhibitions (particularly solo exhibitions) will expect an artist's statement, so don't be surprised when they ask for one. If you have a consistent body of work, your artist statement can cover all of your work, but if you have created a brand new body of work specifically for one show, you will want to write an artist statement that focuses on what makes your latest work a bold new direction for you.
Do be specific about your work in your artist's statement. The artist's statement is written by you about your own work. This is one situation in which you can't possibly be wrong. You are the utmost expert in this field. Tell people what the work is about, how it relates to you, your experiences and (maybe even) your techniques. This is your chance to tell everyone why this work means so much to you - your opportunity to invite your viewers into your world. If your work is influenced by Van Gogh, Mongolian throat singing, or the Three Stooges--the artist's statement is a great way to help the audience make the connections that may lurk beneath the surface. Even though these connections may seem obvious to you, they may slip past even the most observant art lover if you don't explain yourself to them. If you haven't thought about your art beyond, "painting whatever you are feeling at the time," you may need to examine your work in greater detail. Take a bit of time for introspection and try to find what medium, images, moods, colors, techniques or shapes you are drawn to and try to figure out why your work so often approaches these themes. I once read about a famous artist (I can't remember which artist) that said he would paint for six hours a day and then spend six hours looking at the work. Just looking... While this could be dismissed as navel-gazing (and I certainly don't have that much time on hand), I can appreciate that this artist took the time to reflect on his work and really figure out what made it tick.
Do make your artist statement make sense. Use the most basic words you can. I know that you want to seem intelligent to your audience and big words seem like a quick way to impress them, but there is no greater skill than to explain complex ideas in a simple, meaningful fashion. Although your flowery art-speak may have gotten you through critiques in college or art school, people in the real world can't be bothered to try to wrap their head around such confusion. Keep it short. Brevity is appreciated in artist's statements. You want your entire statement to fit on a single page, if at all possible. You can write books by the shelf-load or manifestos about your work, but for the sake of an exhibit a single page will do nicely. If you can't say it in a single page, you need to rethink how you say it.
In short, your artist statement is your chance to fully explain your work to the audience. It is a conversation between you and the viewer. If you have never written about your own work before, give it a try. I often find that writing about my work - transferring what is in my head onto the paper (or screen) helps me to better understand my own working methods, themes, and reasons for creating. Although "making stuff" is generally considered more desirable than writing for artists, taking the time to be honest with yourself about your work and committing it to paper will no doubt yield greater insight to who you are as an artist.
Welcome to Artists Only, a newsletter produced by the Community Arts Center in Danville, Kentucky with the artistic audience in mind.
We'll keep you posted with tips from working artists and gallery curators, exhibition opportunities, and must see exhibits - all within a short drive of the bluegrass region.
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If you are having difficulty with a work of art, try taking a picture of it. Looking at a photograph of a piece can often change the context in which you are viewing it enough for you to be able to see and fix the problem.
The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.
But whatever the nature of your work, there is an art to what you do, and there are people who would be interested in that art, if only you presented it to them in the right way.
Austin Kleon, Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
Art is the only field where re-invention is a step forward.
There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.
Community Arts Center
401 W. Main,
now through through Saturday, Sept. 27
Weathered and Reclaimed
mixed media by Marco Logsdon
My Year with Monet: Paintings Inspired by the Impressionist Master by Donna Forgacs
Here, There and Everywhere photography and digital art by Geri Trinler
Open Mondays - Fridays,
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Horizon: Contemporary Landscape
Oct. 1 - Nov. 14
Artists Reception: Thursday, Oct. 9, 6 to 8 p.m.
VISUAL ART EXHIBIT OPPORTUNITIES
Creative Art League of Jessamine County (Nicholasville, Ky.) is currently accepting exhibit proposals for its new gallery space. Email [email protected] for more info. Deadline: Ongoing.
INTERESTED IN PLEIN AIR PAINTING?
Artists in the Danville, Ky. area formed a plein air painters group to capture the beauty and splendor of our surrounding landscape. If you are interested in joining the group or attending any of their upcoming paint outs, please contact Pat Fretz at 859-319-2008.
ANNUAL FALL ARTS FESTIVAL - MERCER COUNTY
The Arts Council of Mercer County presents the 6th Annual Fall Arts Festival Saturday, Oct. 11 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This juried event features original, handmade art and craft. The 2013 festival drew more than 2,000 attendees and is expected to be even larger this year given its new location in the heart of downtown Harrodsburg. Download an application online or contact Carrie Truitt for more information.
MICRO-LOAN PROGRAM FOR VISUAL ARTISTS IN JEFFERSON COUNTY
Louisville Visual Art Association offers a micro-loan program to artists who are seeking funds to further their professional and business development. Any visual artist over 18 living in Jefferson County may apply for a loan for any purpose that furthers the applicant's professional career. Learn more
REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS FOR EXHIBITS
The Gloria Singletary Gallery at the Living Arts and Science Center in Lexington, Ky., invites a variety of artist proposals for 4 - 8 week exhibitions. Independent curators, collaborative teams of artists and individual artists are encouraged to submit proposals for exhibition. Learn more.
ART SPACES, INC. OPPORTUNITY
Art Spaces is issuing an RFQ for a sculpture to be located on the Arts Corridor in downtown Terre Haute, Indiana. Practicing professional artists over 18 years of age that work with durable outdoor materials are needed. The artist budget is $16,000 and existing works will also be considered. Deadline for receipt of materials is October 3, 2014. Apply online or contact Art Spaces for more information.
REMNANTS: Photography and Sculpture by Amanda J. Cawby. Melissa T. Hall and Page Turner
M S Rezny Studio/Gallery, Lexington, Ky.
Sept. 2 - 30, 2014
"Remnants" is a body of work produced by three artists brought together by a common fascination with the scraps, mementos, leftovers, sentimental objects, and traces left behind by others. Sculptors Cawby and Turner use actual physical remnants from people's lives in their complex assemblages, while photographer Hall uses the idea of people's actions leaving behind a vestige or trace to fuel her conceptual images. Artist Reception: Friday, Sept. 19, 5 to 8 p.m. Learn more.
University of Kentucky Art Exhibits
University of Kentucky Art Museum, Lexington, KY
Aug. 6 - Dec. 23, 2014
Laurel Nakadate: Strangers & Relations
Take My Word For It
Kurt Vonnegut: Madmen and Moonbeams
Learn more about these exhibits online.
AMERICAN BALLADS: THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF MARTY STUART
Frist Center, Nashville
Through Nov. 2, 2014
Although known primarily as a country music star, Marty Stuart is a master storyteller not only through his songs, but also through his revealing photographs. He has been taking photographs of the people and places surrounding him since he first went on tour with bluegrass performer Lester Flatt at age 13. His inspirations include his mother, Hilda Stuart, whom he watched document their family's everyday life in Mississippi. Learn more.
TAIYO ONORATO & NICO KREBS: THE ONE-EYED THIEF
Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati
Sept. 12, 2014 through Feb. 22, 2015
The Swiss-born, Berlin-based duo Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs (both b. 1979) respond with humor and wit to various traditions of modernist architecture, documentary photography and the heroic travelogue. By pecking at such constructions, the artists reveal a more whimsical, ironic, and subjective vision of the structures and technologies that shape the way we see and live. Their work simultaneously explores the subject of artistic collaboration, as well as the expansion of photography as an artistic medium. Learn more.
CONVERSATIONS AROUND AMERICAN GOTHIC
Cincinnati Art Museum
Aug. 30 to Nov. 16, 2014
The Cincinnati Art Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago will collaborate in a historic partnership involving Grant Wood's two masterpieces, American Gothic and Daughters of Revolution. For the first time, the iconic American Gothic will appear in Cincinnati alongside the Art Museum's own Daughters of Revolution. Wood's iconic paintings will be combined with other quintessential works by artists of the Regionalist Movement including John Steuart Curry's Baptism in Kansas(Whitney Museum of American Art, New York) and Thomas Hart Benton's Cradling Wheat (Saint Louis Art Museum). Learn more.
THE DR. DONALD L. AND DOROTHY JACOBS GALLERY
The Dr. Donald L. and Dorothy Jacobs Gallery at Georgetown College includes modern and contemporary works of art by international, national and regional artists, along with an outstanding collection of antiquities. Visitors will enjoy works of art by:
* Djawid Borower
* Louise Bourgeois
* Dale Chihuly
* Thornton Dial
* Helen Frankenthaler
* Ernesto Gutierrez
* Jasper Johns
* Judy Pfaff
* Robert Rauschenberg
* Frank Stella
* Andrew Wyeth
* Georgetown College students, alumni and faculty
The gallery includes antiquities from China, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Indonesia, Liberia, Palestine, Peru, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam. Learn more.
401 West Main Street
Danville, KY 40422
Open to the public:
Wednesdays - Fridays: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Saturdays: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, provides operating support to the Community Arts Center with state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
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