Friday, October 30, 2009
I hate writing them. I think they are silly and serve no purpose except to keep the viewer from thinking for him/herself. But just once, writing an artist's statement changed my understanding of my own work. When a gallery director asked me 5 or 6 year ago to write an artist's statement for a mixed media show she had curated, I rolled my eyes and asked what she wanted. "Tell me what you do and why you do it," she said. I spread out the work from three years earlier up to the (then) present and it was a revelation. When I looked at a lot of pieces together,I knew immediately what my work was about. Granted, my processes and subject matter were not always the same. On the surface, they were very different, but there was a common undercurrent that colored my work. Once I saw what I was doing, the "why" was easy and the artist's statement wrote itself. Since then, I have modified it slightly and wrapped it into my bio, but it gave me an insight that is either worth its weight in gold, or, as we used to say in my family, "that and a nickel will get you on the subway." I don't have to spread out my work now to know that it is going through a transition and that the undercurrent has changed in the past two years. We all go through these transitions, during which we experiment and may change not only a point of view but visual context. It's part of the deal when you are an artist, I think. Nevertheless, I urge you, if you haven't done so, to spread out your work on the floor from at least the last 1-3 years and find the common thread; the subtext that makes your work yours alone. And then write a "tell me what you do and why you do it," just for yourself.
at 1:21 AM