I teach painting classes and in doing so, my goal for my students is to be successful painters. I see my task as sharing my experiences as an artist, sharing both my success and failures at painting, sharing my skills and knowledge. To move the person from being a student to “being” an artist—though this statement seems slightly bizarre, as if this state of “being an artist” can be “taught” — it’s really a set of skills I’m demonstrating and the “learning to be an artist” perhaps is a bit off topic here anyway…the subject at hand is artist statements.
Recently a student called me needing help, she had taken classes with me, on and off, for about a year. She had entered artwork into a show and the painting was selected for the exhibition, her elation was quickly diminished when they ask her to resubmit her artist statement. So she wanted my help....I thought how bad could it be? I asked her to email the statement and then we arranged to meet for coffee and do some editing. My elation for her success quickly waned as well, the dreaded artist statement…. my mind spun a thousand directions… my weakness was about to be exposed…. crafting an artist statement…. Ugh…….
But I remembered two recent article and my weakness was now a strength as a point of interest…
The link will take to “a blade of grass” website, there you can read two fantastic articles, one by Steve Lambert and the other by Harrell Fletcher. Thought provoking for sure and you will definitely look at your artist statement a little differently.
Steve Lambert on cutting the “I am interested in” bullshit from artist statements.
“Artists aren’t interested, they’re building reality.”
“You may wonder, why shouldn’t an artist be a little vague and leave some mystery to the description of their work? And so what if an artist uses language inaccurately – we all do it. (I admit, after years of effort I still have a difficult time avoiding “interested” in my speech.) And who cares if the language is a little imprecise, we’re talking about artists, not writers – what’s the harm? Because it changes the work we make. Saying you are merely interested in something is being non-committal. If I’m interested in something, I’m not necessarily taking a position on it, much less any action. But most artists are not just passively observing. They make work that challenges our view of everything – from shape and form to concepts and beliefs. Most artists don’t stop at being interested, they are truly changing the way we perceive, think, and act in the world – thus changing our very reality – in deliberate ways. To believe any less continues to falsely undermine and diminish the power of artists and art in our culture.” Steve Lambert.
Harrell Fletcher on Growing Dialogue: No Longer Interested – In Defense of Interest.
“Perhaps we are just dealing with semantics, but I don’t think the problem is the use of the word “interested” (though I agree it is overused) and even less in the activity of being interested. What I do totally agree with is the unfortunate condition that most artists seem to put themselves into (with great systemic help) of being disempowered and disengaged with real situations and issues. I feel, as I think Steve does too, that artists should become more engaged with making work that has direct function in society (which includes a wide variety of possibilities, but my own particular direction and interests has to do with site-specific, participatory, and educational practices) rather than focusing so dominantly on obscure, ineffective, theoretical, inaccessible, and strictly commodity based work.” Harrell Fletcher