Tag archive for » artist statement «

Words Matter

Sunday, 8. April 2018 23:53

Art agents, marketers and galleryists, both physical and digital, are quick to tell artists that the story behind the picture will help the sale. The story, they say, engages the viewer in a way that just studying the piece cannot. Artists, therefore, should be ready and willing to tell the story behind each image. In fact, Austin Kleon had a recent blog giving writing advice for artists and visual thinkers. Obviously, these art world figures think that words matter.

Because of my theatre background, I have always taken issue with this approach, and have been very vocal about my feelings concerning curtain speeches and program notes. Naturally, I extended this thinking to the story behind the picture. My opinion was that— just like theatre—an image should speak for itself. I may have been a bit hasty.

Since last weekend was a long weekend, I spent some time in Marfa, TX (which I recommend to nearly everyone). One of my favorite things in Marfa is the Chamberlain exhibit in downtown Marfa right beside the railroad tracks. (For anyone interested, the hours/days of opening are quirky and subject to change without notice—in fact, they’ve changed in the week since I was there.) Having seen the exhibit before, I was not surprised by anything except the laminated artist statement that was available for pickup near the entrance.

In his artist statement, written in 1982, John Chamberlain says that his artistic decision-making has to do with “primarily sexual and intuitive thinking.” There were other things in the artist statement that were of value (and may appear here at a later time), but the comments about making decisions based on the sexual aspects of his psyche caught my eye. Two caveats, however, must be put forward: 1. this statement may not mean that sex is the topic of the sculpture but only that the pieces that he puts together to create his sculptures have a “sexual fit.” 2. Chamberlain was possessed of a wicked sense of humor, so he may have put sexual references into his artist statement just for fun.

So it’s difficult to tell whether or not he was being serious. No matter; the important part is how much those words mattered, even when they were somewhat suspect. I found the artist statement after I had made my first round of the exhibit. I read the statement and then went through the exhibit again. The pieces had changed! Or rather my perception of them had. The words had made a difference in how I was looking at the pieces and what the pieces seemed to be saying.  And it was not just the sexual references in the artist statement, but the whole of it. What was essentially a statement of Chamberlain’s approach to making art, somewhat ambiguously expressed, had altered my understanding of the pieces.

Still, I cannot fully recant my position. My position on curtain speeches and program notes has not changed. This is probably because a play by its nature speaks for itself, and if the director feels s/he has to explain the play, it probably has not been done well. And I still hold that visual art, whether it be two- or three-dimensional, should speak for itself. Like performances, if it must be explained, it’s probably not successful. However, if there are notes about artist’s procedures or ideas that are available, and those notes are absorbed by the viewer and then applied to the viewing of the art, they may well modify the viewer’s appreciation and more fully engage the viewer (regardless of the art genre). Whether this is good or bad, I cannot say; what I can say is that it’s true. Words matter.

Category:Audience, Presentation | Comment (0) | Autor:

Artist Statements Revisited

Sunday, 2. June 2013 23:55

A friend of mine teaches an art course called “Professional Practices.” One of the topics covered in the course is how to write a good artist statement. Now I have not been friendly toward such statements in the past, finding them an occasion for pretension and grandiosity, often devolving into meaningless “art-speak.” Additionally, they can be superfluous—if the art is doing its job properly. But a recent conversation with this man has caused me to reevaluate my thinking. He suggested that there exist practical reasons for an artist statement.

One thing he pointed out was that artist statements are useful in preparing to talk about your art. The week before, he had himself, while serving on a committee interviewing people for the chairmanship of his department, been asked about his art (which was not present). Had he not previously developed an artist statement, he might well have been thought inept by his future boss.

Interestingly, at a party that same night, I was asked the same question. It was a simple question from one artist to another (again our work was not present), but my lack of preparation caused me to be less articulate than I might have been.

Still, there are many really awful statements out there. How to avoid creating one of those? Here is my friend’s advice:

  • Explain what your art is about, or, alternatively, what you are about as an artist.
  • Make it short, but not terse. A single page is a good goal.
  • Be direct.
  • Be honest.
  • Be yourself.
  • Avoid art-speak.
  • Tailor your statement to the situation. Is it for a show, for a web page, for your own use, or to prepare you to talk about what you do either in a formal or informal situation? Each use demands a slightly different approach and focus.
  • Remember, this is a dynamic document. It should change when your work does. It is simply a statement of where you are artistically at a single moment in time, not a manifesto.

The artist statement, carefully thought out, can not only be used to explain you and your art to others, but can be used to explain you and your art to yourself. And many of us can benefit from such an exercise. This, to me seems to be the real value of such a statement. The act of writing forces you to verbalize what you are about as an artist. That, in turn, forces you to think about your art in ways that must be expressed in words. Many of us have not done this, or have not done it honestly, simply because it is difficult and unnecessary—or so we thought. As I—among others—have been fond of saying, if words could express it, there would be no need for the art; one could simply write an essay.

Remember that an artist statement may not necessarily apply to all art you do.  For example, the goals and approaches for my photography are far different from the aims and methodology for my theatre work. So if you do several kinds of art, you may discover that they may not be aligned and so will require a separate statement for each.

If you approach the artist statement using the guidelines above, it is not a simple task. It requires thought and self-examination. To my surprise, I am finding the process very useful. The necessity of putting my artistic intentions into words has served to concentrate my focus and clarify my creative goals in a way that I have never before experienced. I have no idea whether anyone except me will ever see the statement. That is not important; what is important is that the process of writing has honed my objectives as an artist and served to focus my creativity. I find myself thinking about my work differently—for the better. You may too.

Category:Creativity, Education | Comments (3) | Autor:

Art Shouldn’t Require Explanation!

Sunday, 29. May 2011 23:46

Last weekend I attended the opening reception for the Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show 2011. There were a number of interesting things about the show, but one of the things that struck me most was the differences in the title cards that were mounted near each piece. I suppose that is to be expected; since the show is an international juried show, the artists would have diverse opinions about what constituted a proper label for their pieces. (As some of you know, artist statements and titles are topics that I have discussed before.)

Some title cards were very simple: the name of the piece, the year of creation, the name and location of the artist. That was all. Several of those titles were interesting or clever and did, in some instances, add to the meaning of the piece; others were obvious, and may as well have been “untitled,” a label that was also used.

Some added details about the work, commenting on materials and processes. These did not add to the meaning of the work, but were interesting and informative.

Others consisted of very long paragraphs (that was all the room there was—all the cards were single-sized) that explained the work. In a few cases, I had to look back at the work and then re-read the explanation because I was pretty sure that the words had nothing to do with what I was seeing in the piece.

Finally there were the longest ones which included a somewhat general statement about human sexuality and the repression or suppression or celebration thereof, which seemed sort of gratuitous, given the context of the show. These were more general artist’s statements that did not aid in understanding the pieces or add to their meaning, but were things that the artist needed to say.

Some have observed that the artist statement gives the artist the opportunity to extend the work, to convey even more meaning. And background on the piece is often useful in understanding the milieu that produced it. But it seems that unless the art is designed to be part image, part text, as in the work of Taryn Simon, the fact that it needs explanation suggests that the piece is weak or somehow lacking. Just as the playwright who demands that there be voluminous program notes explaining the play is acknowledging his/her play’s weakness, so is the visual artist who has to rely on words to make his/her statement. Those artists who really have a need for text should consider blogging or at least a Facebook page.

Additionally, what happens if the little card falls off the wall? What if someone looking at the piece and the card can’t speak the language on the card? What if the viewer neglects to read the artist’s statement? Can the audience not enjoy the play if the programs and notes don’t get printed? There are all sorts of issues connected with art that requires explanation.

All these issues are resolved, however, if the art work, whether it is photograph, painting, sculpture, play, poem, novel, is be complete in itself—without props or explanations or apologies. While explication can, at times, expand or enrich a piece, art must be able to stand on its own.

Category:Audience, Communication | Comment (0) | Autor:

hogan outlet hogan outlet online golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher hogan outlet hogan outlet hogan outlet hogan outlet hogan outlet