I was speaking with my wife last night about artist statements….OK, let’s be honest, I was telling her how I needed an artist statement for a competition and how I was going to pastiche a paragraph together to get it out of the way. I’m not a fan of artist statements. It isn’t the act of writing one that bothers me, I can do so with ease, it is the function they serve that bothers me. Why as a visual artist do I need to describe the work you can see in front of you? Why should I be responsible for providing the artistic and theoretical context for my work, isn’t that what art critics and art historians get paid to do? And why do I need to convince anyone of the value of my work?
Having an artist’s statement wasn’t even a “thing” until I was already showing my work publicly. It feels like one of those institutes of the art world that have been around since the dawn of time, but they didn’t appear, at least in their current form, until the 1990s. They are in essence an individualized version of a manifesto, but lacking the thing that gives a manifesto power. The key to a manifesto is that it represents, or is meant to represent, the views and goals of a group or movement even when written by an individual. It is about trying to establish a community of like-minded individuals aimed at a specific purpose. The artist statement, on the other hand, is only about that individual’s belief and work. Although others may find resonance in what is said, it is at its heart about that individual’s point of view.
I would prefer my art to be viewed without my interference, let them get what they will out of the pieces. I am not trying to create a movement or make a grandiloquent point and feel no great need to expose my hubristic beliefs about my artistic and theoretical context. If someone would like to know they can ask me, after they view my work. I’ll tell them. Besides, I have this blog.