An artist’s statement is a continually evolving introduction to either the artist’s work in general or to a specific body of work the artist is currently working on and it, in final form, can be it’s own work of art. I have heard/read statements that were a rambling barely coherent mess and ones that were tight and light while others despite seemingly incredibly informative told you no more than you knew when you started reading. Sometimes the statement matches the work, and sometimes it doesn’t.
My own artist’s statement seems to need updating every 3-6 months but not because my work is changing that much or because my personal views about my work are changing. It’s because I haven’t gotten it right yet. It is like it is perpetually not right. I’m a pretty good writer – at least that’s what my wife, teachers, and professors have told me so over the years and I’ve had a professor and an adjunct, in two different fields of study, tell me they hated the ideas I was expressing in my papers but they HAD to give me an A because of the quality of the writing. So the fact that creating a good artist’s statement has continued to elude me is a source of some frustration.
I most recently used this:
I am creating multi-layered acrylic abstract paintings with bold colors and textured surfaces that are visually compelling and show depth and complexity of space. After the death of a close family member, I started to realize how little I actually knew about people I cared about and how, although I knew a lot of facts and had shared experiences, I didn’t know much about their internal lives. I started to conceptualize people as onions – layer after unseen layer. The layers in my work represent that concept. Some elements are fully visible, some partially, others are only alluded to, and a few are completely obscured to convey the idea that things, events, and people are never quite as straightforward as they might initially appear. There is almost always some other component under the surface and despite invisibility that component still contributes to the overall picture. Originally, I tried to express my idea while continuing to depict representational images. However, human figures and their everyday items proved difficult because it was also important to me to avoid contaminating the work with culturally loaded objects, cliched arrangements, and the stereotypes and prejudices of both myself and my audience. Abstraction was the natural choice as it is stripped down and simplified, to the most basic elements of visual art: color, texture, space and balance.
But I’m not happy with it.
So I think I’m going back to a previous version which was:
I am experimenting with color, texture, and composition to create abstract artwork that is visually compelling and shows depth and complexity of space for the purpose of communicating the concept that most things, but particularly people, are never quite as straightforward as they appear. Abstraction allows me to to avoid contaminating the message with culturally loaded objects, cliched arrangements, and the stereotypes and prejudices of both myself and my audience although, due to my own life experiences, my work often contains incongruities or outright conflict between the strata which can heighten the tension within the piece. In the spirit of experimentation I use palette knives, acrylic paint, computer software, pen and ink, water, cameras, scraps of paper, rulers, painter’s tape … really any item at hand (as long as the music is loud) because what I use to express my message is inconsequential at the end of the day.
The reasons that I’m switching back are:
All the sentences about the layers of people and onions is wordy and likely disturbing to some individuals because I call people onions, basically.
I mention representational art and this is problematic in two different ways. If a viewer likes representational art then I’m reminding them that’s not what they are going to get to see right now and if they like abstraction they either already know why they like it and if they don’t well … I’ve completely distracted them.
Plus I mention death and the concept that there are, possibly, a whole series of secret personas inside your loved ones.
But I don’t know.