The Artist Statement
It is necessary for you to have a biography and personal statement for your applications, but there are ways around the form’s rigid structures so you can write something truer to your own voice that is easier to understand.
Artist statements are perhaps the biggest stumbling block, and one of the most misunderstood pieces of writing. I owned a gallery for several years and received a lot of letters from artists with images and artist statements. I am, and presumably, so are most people in this business, a visual person, and when I got materials that looked good to me—in other words, that the images were compelling somehow—I was excited. However, many artists lost my interest with poorly written artist statements. When I see art, I know if I am attracted to it or not. I may not know why, but like anyone, I can point and say, “I like that one the best.” It is hard for people to put into words. The cliché is that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I think it is probably more than that. There are so many responses we have to an image on a conscious and unconscious level that it can be almost impossible to understand all the reasons we are attracted to it. So when an artist’s statement tries to explain an image, it can be like artlessly explaining a poem, which removes all its beauty.
Bad Statements Can Be an Artist’s Undoing
When I was a gallery director, I noticed that many times after reading an artist’s statement, the work that I was initially attracted to was no longer appealing. I remember one statement from an abstract painter who described his work as “lyrical abstract surrealism.” It was an awkward phrase, and the statement about how he was creating a new genre was even worse. He would have been better off saying nothing. Although I liked the work, I decided not to show it or continue the correspondence because I didn’t think I would enjoy talking to this artist whose statement was pretentious and unnecessary.
To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here. To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.