Thursday, October 22, 2009

Writing an Artist's Statement


        Detail: River of Longing 8   24x80" oil on panel     ©2009 Janice Mason Steeves

How often have I rewritten my artist's statement over the years?  Endless times.  It's a work-in-progress.  As my painting changes, I have to rewrite it.  As I complete another grant application or apply for a residency or have an exhibition, I have to rewrite it. Although I enjoy writing, working on my artist's statement feels like a form of torture.  There is something about the process that is incredibly difficult. It requires objectivity to write it.  I paint intuitively.  I don't conceptualize the work or the project beforehand, which makes it difficult to be objective.

A couple of years ago, I bought an e-book from Alyson Stanfield called "The Relatively Pain-Free Artist's Statement.  It took me through a 20-day lesson plan.  It's step-by-step approach to looking at your art and your life, which is helpful for any artist at any stage in their careers. At the end of it I had a much-improved artist's statement.  Thing is, it's a never-ending process.

Writing an artist's statement is in a way like writing a mission statement.  It's writing about what you want your work to be, what you want others to see in the work, what you mean to say visually and it pushes my comfort level to expose the depth of my work through words.  I find that my work is in a sense beyond my words, it is ahead of my words.  My words have to catch up to my work. I search to find the words to describe it and they come only reluctantly and over time. It's as if I'm getting to know my own work through the process of writing about it. The more I write about it and the more I read other artists' statements, the clearer I can be about my own work.  I recently rewrote my artist's statement yet again, at the prompting of my artist friend, Anne-Marie Kornachuk, who offered to read my statement,  sent me hers, and then offered a few penetrating questions to nudge me in my rewriting.  I worked on it off and on for a couple of days.  Here's the latest version.  It describes as clearly as I can be at this time what my work is about and what I intend.

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