Friday, January 23, 2009

Artist’s statements

I decided to do a little research on this having confessed ignorance in my last blog! Artist’s statements are a frequently requested item and whether you agree with the notion or not, I think it’s always good to show willing!! After all, the goal is to make good work and get it shown, if a few hoops are required, I’ll jump through them rather than question their presence and save my energies for the design wall!

Here are some general guidelines for the AS which I think make sense:

1. It should be readable (!) not too much claptrap – though I must admit that I wrote one some years ago that was intended as a total pastiche of claptrap and while it was funny to me to do it, probably didn’t do me much good with the AS reading public!!

2. It should answer the questions you would want answered if you were viewing the piece for the first time, with little knowledge of the artist’s process or body of work. I think this is particularly important in those shows where they only ever include one piece by any one artist – I really wish they’d stop doing that!!! As a viewer, I’d rather have 3 pieces by the top 30 people than 90 separate pieces ….I think you can get into the artist’s head much better and it’s a much more satisfying gallery experience for me. Of course as an artist entering, I’m glad I have a higher chance with the 90 separate artist idea!!!

3. It’s helpful to recall questions you have been asked at previous shows, and include those answers – where relevant! Obviously “where did you buy that fabric?” isn’t one of them!! But it is helpful to state if the fabric is painted/dyed etc.

4. It should help a person stay with your piece a little longer and discover things that they might otherwise have missed.

5. The best advice for the writing of it that I came across several times was to brainstorm on describing the piece, almost as if you were standing in front of it…and likewise with the process…obviously brainstorming yields great lists of words and then you have to clean these up a lot!!

6. Once you have the information you wish to give: Put it into coherent and dynamic sentences – as in any good writing. Which means largely grammatical sentences unlike this one! As well as getting the grammar right especially the possessive its (oh how I hate all those extra apostrophes floating around these days!), some variety in verbs and adjectives is more interesting to read. Edit, edit, edit – whenever I write a blog I try to go through and excise all the words that don’t give information e.g. “and I think it’s really important in this day and age to thoroughly consider…” Also be sure to get rid of all redundancy! I really hate it when people tell me the same thing three times!!

7. It’s important to be very economical – people are not going to stand and read a lecture!!! I’ve found that I’ve been asked for “a page” (i.e. 3 paragraphs), 500 words, 300 and 100. It would be a lot easier to do them all at the same time, save them, then you can easily snatch up the relevant one.

8. Opinion seems to be divided on 3rd person versus 1st. I think you should choose which you prefer when you are reading a statement. I like a personal voice…but not every single sentence starting with “I”!

9. Address inspiration (why you made it, your Main Idea) in one paragraph, process in another, and where the work fits into your body of work in a third. Keep the themes separate. I have always found it quite fascinating to know which artists really inspired the person – then I can go and look them up. So if there’s room for a 4th paragraph, that would be what I’d want to know.

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!!
Now I’m going to go through my AS and see if I can’t improve it following my own advice!
here it is :

"On the designs:
In my work I attempt to address both conceptual and formal issues. I wish to explore the beauty of everyday environments; in troubled times it is especially important to be aware of beauty and wonder. Even a brief history of man reveals both the importance and the endurance of art. I want to reference archetypal memories to assess our own place in the history of time and I believe that in the quilt format such ideas can be expressed with repetition and serialization.

Furthermore, I love to play with the balance and color, space and light seen in landscapes (whether urban or rural). My quilts reference traditional quilts but I try to push the concept much further, to use the medium to its maximum – relishing in its ability to reflect texture, depth and luster of color as well as hue. Reflected light, translucency and the effects of time are recurring themes; I want to translate into fiber the marvelous effects of light and color. Repeated patterns of windows and architectural forms have been a leifmotif. Recently more ephemeral patterns such as those created by water and shadow have also become a source of inspiration.

The aim is to make work that glows with light and is rich with color and nuance: work in which the unified composition is satisfying, but the details are fascinating.

Technical details:
An “Art quilt” is defined as several layers of fabric stitched together to form a whole - usually two dimensional and hung on the wall. I take plain white (occasionally black) cotton (polyester or silk) fabric and color it by dyeing and painting with multiple and various applications: immersion dyeing, pole wrapping and/or other resists, direct dyeing/pigment application, painting and screen printing, heat transfer/disperse dyes. The fabric is then cut up and re-assembled and fastened together with multiple stitches to create the texture I desire.


Jane Moxey said...

The word "furthermore" in your AS sounds a bit like a legal proclamation! Thank you for sharing your expertise.

Elizabeth Barton said...

yup! one of those redundant words!!Elizabeth

Nina Marie said...

I love a well written artist statement. I feel that it makes the work that much stronger and draws me in that much more. That said, I don't often see statements that do that. At first, I thought it was because the truly creative just didn't know how to put their thoughts into words. After a while though, I thought maybe it was because they were trying to create an art piece with their words and it was obviously not their media of choice. Either way - I like statements that are under 200 words.

Rayna said...

I hate artists' statments: I don't read them and I don't like to write them. I don't want the artist to tell me what I am (or should be) seeing; I would prefer to have a dialogue with the piece, myself. The same goes for my own: I don't want to tell the viewer what he/she is/should be seeing...or what I saw when I did the piece. They should talk to each other.

That said, the best advice I ever got on writing an artist's statement was from a gallery director who said "Just tell me what you did and why you did it." Another version of Keep it simple, stupid.

I have a piece on exhibit now without a statement - but at the opening, several people came up to me and said "tell me about this piece." I engaged in conversation with them, giving them insight into the history behind the piece and what what the genesis. I could never have put that information into a statement - and those who wanted to know more, asked me.

PaMdora said...

I like the quilt at the top of this post, in fact I really like the whole Cityscape series, esp. also "Looking Back."

There's a lot of depth, something I don't often seen in art quilts, but when I do, they really pop for me.

Actually I Should be working on my checking my own Artist Statement, haha but prefer looking at art.