Thursday, July 29, 2010


For the last week or so I’ve been working on an artist’s statement to accompany work I am submitting for a sizable award from a regional foundation. I wrote two drafts and then sent it upstairs for DW to look over. She took the red ink to it, suggested some rephrasing and after some discussion, sent it back. I hadn’t looked at it in two days, so when I started re-reading it while incorporating her changes, I took a very shard ax to it, added some glue, farted out a semblance of a conclusion and fired it back upstairs. DW had another crack at it today, and I’ve just put the finishing touches on it. What is that? Six drafts?

The funny thing is that a fair amount of the statement in the original draft was a cut and paste of several other artist’s statements that I have composed in a much similar manner over the last two years. Each one of those were supposedly finished when they were sent out; yet, very little remains of what was dragged into the first draft of the current statement.

I haven’t hit “send” yet.

Regular readers will remember that in June I had the opportunity to exhibit my video, I Love Art but (Part 1), at a Portland gallery. I wrote an artist’s statement for that piece, and while DW did look at an early draft, I spent a good many hours on two short pages of text, and when it came time to give the to the gallery, I was pretty damn proud of what I wrote.

Not surprisingly, DW is very encouraging when it comes to my art. She doesn’t like all of it, or necessarily like some of the work I get excited about, and to expect otherwise would be unrealistic. Still, there is no one who is a bigger supporter for what I do when it comes to my art. Consequently, she talks to her friends about what I am doing, and when they express an interest, she offers to send them copies of images, videos, and the accompanying materials such as artist’s statements. And I oblige her.

Two friends were to receive copies of I Love Art but (Part 1), so I burned DVDs and printed out the statement. That night I found the statements on my desk. There was quite a bit of red. Two drafts later I have to lose a semi-colon and replace it with a period, and I will be done.

I’m not complaining. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find it irritating, and maybe even a bit scary that I can put something out into the world that is less than… I was going to write ‘perfect’, even though I don’t believe in such a concept. Still, the impulse is there.

So, what do I put in place of perfect? Good enough? The best I can do? How about successful? Yeah, that might work. Successful at communicating an idea clearly and succinctly.

While it may seem like I’m doing no more than thinking out loud, as it were, in the back of my mind I am thinking about my other blog, one which is set up and ready to go, but remains without a single entry. The name of the blog is, simply enough, Post Your Artist’s Statement and the idea behind it is precisely the process I have described in this post. Artists are invited to post their statements along with an image of their art, and then interested parties can ask questions and make suggestions, all with the expressed purpose to help that artist through what is often a difficult task. Great idea, huh?

The blog has been up for two weeks or more. I have made announcements about it and others have reposted my PR. Hundreds of artists have undoubtedly seen the pitch. Nothing.

I have my theories as to why this resource has not been met with enthusiasm, one of which I fear is that it is a matter of ego. Not ego in the sense that one thinks his or her statement is perfect just the way it is; more that there might be a reluctance to submit and admit to a certain degree of vulnerability. The internet can be a vicious place, and even though I make it clear on the blog that trolls will be moderated away, that may not be enough encouragement. Another theory, and perhaps the simplest answer, is that submitting one’s statement is just too much of a bother. Too bad.

While discussing the edits to my own artist’s statements, DW suggested that I be my first ‘victim’ and thereby break the ice. I see her point but wonder if it might seem self-serving to do so, as an attempt at getting more notice of my own efforts. Still, in the spirit of camaraderie, and as a show of good will, this might have to happen to get the ball rolling.

I’ll give this more thought in the next few days. And I know I have to do a little more PR. In the meantime, if any of you folks have input, please feel free.

As for the artist’s statement that I have just finished, I suppose I have delayed enough. I’ll give it one more read-through (the third one since the last “save”) and “send” it on its way.

(Note: This post is a first draft.)


NT said...

If, instead of "artist statements," you call them "artists manifestos, I bet you'll have to beat them off with a stick. Everybody's got a MANIFESTO they want to share with the world. (I know I do.)

bastinptc said...

Not sexy enough, then?

I understand the manifesto idea, for certainly artists feel strongly about their art, even if they can't explain it, or why they do it, which is perhaps more often the case, and brings us back to square one.

Anonymous said...

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consider me the life-stunned pubster at the other end of the bar staring into a mug of Guinness wondering if he's had too many.