… a plea: leave the artist-statement clichés down in hell where they belong. Please do not, under any circumstances, include the words “I’m inspired by nature” or “My work is about memory.” Because who isn’t inspired by goddamn nature??? If your work is based on the natural environment, give some specifics. Same for memory. Let’s all just agree to reserve vapid generalities for Top 40 lyrics.
The above quote is from an article with some excellent advice for that dreaded but necessary enterprise of writing artist’s statements: HELP DESK: Making a Statement by Bean Gilsdorf (via Daily Serving).
At my job, I frequently have to edit other artists’ statements and bios. Taking a page-long document and chopping it down to two or three concise sentences for a press release can be a difficult task. I’m much better at doing it for other people than I am at doing it for myself so please, “let at least one other person read/edit your statement before it goes public.” I have a bit of an addendum to add to that gem: have someone else whose knowledge and taste you can trust edit your statements.
If you don’t have a friend whose knowledge and taste you can trust regarding artist’s statements, I offer my editing skills for a fee. Get in touch with me via the contact form on my services page if you’re interested. (Have I mentioned that I wanted to be an editor when I was twelve?)
Writing statements is just something that fine artists who want to exhibit their work have to do. Even in the unlikely event that no one looks at them (you might be surprised how many gallery visitors actually do read them), it helps you, the artist, articulate your thoughts. This helps gallerists talk about your work to collectors, and this absolutely does help sell work, though overdoing your statement with abstruse concepts and specialized language is off-putting for most patrons.
In the end, the work should speak for itself. An artist’s statement is just a seed; it’s a way to frame the work so that the art-going public is clued in on how to approach the subject matter. A piece of art lives half (or less) through the intention of the artist, and half through the experience of the people who look at it. Now go read that Help Desk article, if you haven’t already.