With an art show coming up, I pulled some support materials out of an old file: biography, resume, and artist statement. I had several versions of each. They were assembled when I was more actively pursuing employment in the field of art, or looking to broaden my gallery representation. Each would need a serious up-date if I were to use them now. Luckily, none have been requested for this particular show.
It got me thinking, though, about how to define my art. I’ve heard that we should all have an “elevator pitch” ready. Taking into consideration that an elevator ride generally takes less than two minutes, it is a brief statement of who you are and what your best assets are. Or, in my case, what I am trying to accomplish through my art.
In the studio, as long as I’m working regularly there, it is not an issue. Sometimes I have a pre-conceived idea; more often I let the materials guide me. Problems in technique, composition or process lead to new directions. One piece leads me to the next. It all makes good sense…until I try to put it into words. In under two minutes, no less! My elevator pitches tend to be long, rambling affairs that add little understanding of my intent.
An “artist statement,” one would think, would be a better opportunity to explain myself. First, because it is written out, I can take more time to think about what I want to say. Second, I can edit for accuracy and clarity. Finally, there is no stammering over words when it’s in writing. That’s a big advantage for me!
Except for being written instead of spoken, the artist statement is similar to an elevator pitch, but longer. It should explain or contextualize the artist’s work, noting influences or inspirations. Basically, especially for people like me who work largely in the abstract, it is a chance to let people know that it’s intentional, and that I know what I’m doing. I’m still not overly comfortable with the format, but I have managed to hammer out a new statement, that I think reflects my work, and my motivation:
I am intrigued by the calendar, and the numerous ways we mark the passage of time. Other influences come from many diverse sources, including poetry, natural formations of earth and rock, stained glass windows, weather-worn signs and buildings, variegated yarns, and the idea that there is beauty in imperfection.
Though these ideas sometimes direct me, and often guide the progression of a piece, my work is mainly an exploration of methods and materials. I allow myself to be pulled along by the process. The medium, whether paint, printer’s ink, or the scraps and detritus that form the basis of collage, dictate the direction. My training comes in to play in pulling it all together.
In my work, as in my life, I want to convey a sense of structure and security, a bit of mystery, an attachment to the earth, a softening with age and the passage of time.