WRITING AN ARTIST STATEMENT
- a brief guide to what and how -
“Just about all artists want as many people as possible to appreciate their art. A good artist statement works towards this end, and the most important ingredient of a good statement is its language. WRITE YOUR STATEMENT IN LANGUAGE THAT ANYONE CAN UNDERSTAND, not language that you understand, not language that you and your friends understand, not language that you learn in art school, but everyday language that you use with everyday people to accomplish everyday things. An effective statement reaches out and welcomes people to your art, no matter how little or how much they know about art to begin with; it never excludes. Rest assured that those who read your statement and want to know more will christen you with ample opportunities to get technical, metaphysical, philosophical, personal, emotional, moralistic, socially relevant, historical, environmentally responsible, political, autobiographical, anecdotal, or twisty with jargon-- LATER, NOT NOW.
Like an introduction to a book, your statement presents the fundamental underpinnings of your art; write it for people who like what they see and want to know more, not those who already know you and everything your art is about. In three to five paragraphs of three to five sentences each, provide basic information like WHY YOU MAKE YOUR ART, WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE IT, WHAT IT SIGNIFIES OR REPRESENTS, WHAT'S UNIQUE OR SPECIAL ABOUT HOW YOU MAKE IT, and briefly, WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU. Don't bog readers down, but rather entice them to want to know more. As with any good first impression, your statement should hook and invite further inquiry, like a really good story is about to unfold. Give too little, not too much.
People have short attention spans. When you overload readers with details, you risk drowning them in minutia, and discouraging those who might otherwise persevere if you keep it simple. Address and answer commonly asked questions about your art. Save the complicated stuff for those who progress to the next level. Don't worry about having to satisfy your dedicated fans. You won't bore them and you won't lose them; they already love you. And if they have questions, they know how to get them answered. Remember-- your statement is about broadening your audience, not keeping it static. You'll have plenty of time to give your most recent converts the grand tour-- LATER, NOT NOW-- you have to convert them first.”
-from Your Artist Statement: Explaining the Unexplainable by Alan Bamberger
You can choose to write in first or third person. Writing in first person may appear more endearing, anecdotal, and preferable if your work is such. Third person may seem colder but will also sound more professional. Depending on the type of work you do, the public persona you wish to cultivate, and the market you seek to reach, you may find one preferable to the other. If you’re unsure, try both. It’s easy to switch, and you can always discard one later.