Developing an Artist's Statement
by Diane Fitzgerald
Writing an artist's statement may be easy for some people, but it's not for me or for most people. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't put the effort into it or that it isn't worthwhile. An artist's statement puts into words your heartfelt thoughts about your goals, your desires, your ideas of how you would like the world to be, or your belief structure. It's not so much facts about you as it is about your own form of craziness or the exciting way that you are different. Make it as personal as you feel appropriate.
An artist's statement is generally about 2-3 paragraphs long, but not more than one page, typed single-space. It is a good idea to encapsulate your entire statement in a single sentence or quotation and set it off at the beginning of the statement in a different typeface. Write your artist's statement when you are not hurried and get lots of feedback from those who are supportive and know your work well. Don't forget to include your name, address, telephone, fax and/or e-mail or website, and a picture of yourself if you wish. Date your statement so that when you look at it a few years down the road you can determine whether you have changed over a period of time.
Who reads an artist's statement?
Those who see your work, either the actual work or in publication, may read your artist's statement. It will verbalize for them what they may not be able to understand in your work. It may help the viewer connect with you and share your feelings or to know their own feelings in a new or different way. If you are entering your work in exhibits you should provide a general artist's statement, but you may want to provide a statement about an individual piece as well.
If you have trouble getting started, you may wish to lay out several pieces of your work to see if there are any common elements among the pieces such as use of bold or muted colors, humor or other theme. To help you in the process, see if you can say what your work is not about...for example, frivolity, politics or whatever, although this information would not be included in the artist's statement. Have a pad of paper and pencil handy and write down any thoughts you have as you look over your work. It doesn't matter at this point what order they're in. Just start getting words on paper. You may need to do this more than once and don't hurry the process. Think about it again just before you fall asleep so your brain can process these thoughts while you sleep.
Then begin jotting down answers to the following questions. At this point, don't worry if your responses are polished. That can come later.
1. What am I trying to express in my beadwork?
2. How has my beadwork evolved?
3. What new challenges am I trying to achieve in my beadwork?
4. What is my background? How has my background and experience influenced my beadwork?
5. Describe your work in general.
6. How do you approach color?
7. How would you characterize your work? (abstract, realistic, whimsical, beautiful. . .)
8. What kind of a visual, emotional, tactile or narrative statement are you trying to make with your work?
9. How has your work affected other areas of your life?
10. Where do you get your ideas?
Let your notes settle for a day or so, then read them again, possibly out loud or to someone who supports your work. Read other artist's statements in magazines such as Ornament. Add new ideas, then rewrite and remove anything that isn't important. Try to single out an important idea for the first sentence and put it in a form that will grab the reader's attention.
Finally, rewrite again and maybe even a few more times. In this process you will come to know yourself better and your work will become stronger for your self-knowledge. Hmmmm...now if I could just follow my own advice…..
© Diane Fitzgerald, 2001