The Artist’s Statement and the Critic
What I will tell you about an artist’s statement will be different from what you will read in other books on the topic. There is a New York art critic, Jerry Saltz, who has a Facebook page, and one day he told all the artists that he would edit their statements on Facebook or give commentary. He got tons of replies and, for the most part, was very critical and even began cursing at artists and calling them mediocre! As a critic, he can often be mean and hurt people, but at the same time, the ones who are not getting hurt find that attractive. I mention this because I think it sheds some light on critics and how you will view your artist’s statement and responses to it.
When I was in the Whitney Biennial exhibition, I was thrilled to find that Arthur Danto wrote about my work in The Nation and, in general, said wonderful things about the show. Danto is one of the most powerful art critics in the world. He has written many books on art, theory, and art history and is a profound thinker that many in the art world reference. I asked the curator at the Whitney why there were so many terribly angry reviews of the show, but Danto loved it. She said that Arthur Danto was very powerful and could write what he liked because he has nothing to prove. Isn’t that an interesting thought? Perhaps the reason that some critics as well as artists can be so negative and even downright mean is to boost their own status because, in general, that impresses people. Kind of like the bully in the school yard—that is, if he isn’t beating you up, you consider him a friend. The reason to talk about that before I discuss how to make a good artist’s statement is that you should be interested in what others say about their work, be curious, be open, be aware that all the artists that have ever written statements are writing something very personal, and it should be handled gently.
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