Share your "Artist Statement"

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by MurrayMinchin, Jan 13, 2005.

  1. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Communicating via an Internet forum is so informal, almost conversational. I'm interested in reading the Artist Statements from the exhibits of other photographers...to see what they wrote about their work, when they had time to fully organize their thoughts. I'm also curious to see if they spawn any debates! To get the ball rolling, here's mine from my last show:

    "I have always been unwilling to explain why I photograph as I do, or to define what meaning my images hold for me. I believe that any artist who feels a need to tell a viewer of their work how it should be interpreted, has failed.

    Every person brings with them a life experience through which they understand and give meaning to their interpretation of the world before them. Ansel Adam's photograph, Northern California Coast Redwoods, can be seen as massive columns of strength, an ancient rain forest, natures perfect expression of endurance, of life. Another person may recognize the scene as the edge of a clear cut, the face of yet another remnant piece of ancient forest doomed to fall, a requiem.

    I had an experience when I first attended art school in Vancouver. After several months of living in a big city for the first time, feeling utterly removed from any contact with wilderness, I found myself at an Emily Carr exhibit. Months of concrete made my senses keenly aware of Carr's vision of BC's coast. One painting however, The Red Cedar, held me. For fifteen minutes I stood before the painting utterly taken in by it's rhythms - the crowds in the gallery faded away; it was just the painting and me. I have returned to see The Red Cedar but have never had that response again.

    Our experience of art is as fluid and unpredictable as life. We see what we see, when we are ready to receive it.

    The Artist's Statement ultimately and necessarily is the work itself. Some will recognize what an artist is attempting to say, some will spin off towards other equally valid interpretations totally unexpected by the artist, while yet others, either unready for or unmoved by the works will scan them as meaningless.

    My intention by stopping before and composing these scenes out of the totality and infinite possibilities in nature, or what technical and manipulative processes were used to create these images are moot. They will or will not live, on their own."

    Looking forward to reading yours!

    Murray
     
  2. bmac

    bmac Member

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    I hear Jdef has a nice one :smile:
     
  3. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    I have never one to shrink from placing my head on a block - this is my current statement:

    Concepts, Ideas and Themes

    David’s main interest is in creating abstract images. His primary motivation is to produce work for the 21st century in the spirit of the great abstract photographers of the past. He is particularly interested in the concept of the artist in post-modern society as a kind of shaman or spiritual guide.

    Processes and Techniques

    Having experimented freely in a number of styles since his return to photography some 10 years ago after 20 years of inactivity, he now feels able to use large format equipment fluidly, without any feeling of encumbrance, and is very much enjoying doing so, particularly the capacity of large-format photography to allow exploration of texture in a way which is very difficult with smaller-sized equipment and in the additional temporal dimension with this type of work, both in the time required to produce an image and, in the case of landscape, in the slight degree of movement of certain parts of images resulting from the relatively long exposure times used.

    Influences and Aims

    Jazz musicians, especially Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Duke Ellington. The Goon Show. The classic abstract photographers, such as Edward Weston, his son Brett Weston, and in particular the Weston disciple Minor White. Painters such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. In general, any artist who is committed to making a statement about today rather than repeating him/herself.

    Regards,

    David
     
  4. KenM

    KenM Member

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    In my experience, artist's statements are generally pretentious, regardless of medium. They tend to be written in some foreign language called 'art-speak' that involves the use of large words and long sentences. To me, an artist's statement like this tells me that I should like the art presented since the artist is 'smart'. I don't buy it, and I tend to completely ignore such statements...

    My statement is a bit more down to earth:

    Today's world is a very difficult place.

    The recent activities in Iraq, the consistent unreset in the West Bank, SAR's...each of these, and the many other issues that we as humans must deal with ever add to the burden we carry. This constant strain can make our lives a very depressing place. One almost without hope.

    What I'm trying to do with my photography is show people that beauty is everywhere around us - in the usual, and in the unusual. From grafitti under a bridge, to a snow-covered river bank, to a bridge support structure. Everywhere we go, everywhere we exist, there is always something that is beautiful - we just have to look for it.

    And, above all, there is always hope.


    And, why are artist's statements written in 3rd person? Did the artist write the statement? If so, why present it as if someone else wrote it? Is this to appear even more 'smart', by having 'someone else' say these things about the artist?
     
  5. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    I was asked to contribute my artist's statement, so I did. If you don't like it, go to another thread.
    My particular statement was on a group website, I copied and pasted it. To save time, I didn't re-write it in the first person. I don't know if this offends you - and I really don't care!
     
  6. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I have never written an artist's statement. Since I am not The Queen I certainly would not write one in the third person. If I ever do write an artist's statement it will probably be something like:

    'These are my photographs. I hope you remember them.'
     
  7. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I had never thought about this until very recently, and came up with this:

    Ole is a Norwegian photographer who started photography at the age of 9 when he was given a Kodak Instamatic. Deciding that this was fun, he quickly graduated to a "real camera", his father's 1949 Welta Welti.
    After the usual progression through ever more advanced equipment he decided something had been lost, and returned to simpler manual cameras, in sizes from 6x4.5 to 18x24cm. Since much of his equipment is approaching the century mark, the logical next step would be to return to the techniques then in use.
    Most of his images are "one-offs", since he values experimentation more than consistency.


    Pretentious bullshit in 3rd person? Of course!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 14, 2005
  8. KenM

    KenM Member

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    You misunderstand - I was not slagging your statement, but artists statements that are pretentious. There's nothing wrong with your statement - it's better than most!

    But I am curious- why was it written in 3rd person? Were you trying to avoid seeming like you were 'blowing your own horn', or was there some other reason? This is a serious question, not being asked to start a flame war. When I wrote my statement, I had to decide on how to write it, and I decided on 1st person. It seems more intimate (to me) to write it as if I was talking to the viewer directly, rather than have a narrator do it.
     
  9. KenM

    KenM Member

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    Hey, he get's it! :D

    You da man Ole! Even if you are dumping your 5x7...
     
  10. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    How's about this....

    "I like the old, the hand crafted, the authentic. Anything that stands on its own merits and does not rely on posturing, theorizing or convoluted explanation. I choose my subjects based how these authentic objects influenced our life. With the general rush to get things done and move on to the future, we are in danger of leaving behind the wonderful things of the recent past. My goal is to preserve the images of these things before they are gone. The general store and one-room Prairie schools are the latest inspirations for my images. These are photographs of places, absent of humans, but profoundly marked by their passage."

    It's from the front page of my web site. (See link below) Not bad for an overview of what I do. My preference is to have an statement or introduction for each body of work I do. You will find them in each body of work in the web site.
     
  11. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Dear Ken,

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Writing in the 3rd person is not the prerogative of royalty (royals, and indeed our beloved ex-Prime Minister and mother of international criminals, Margaret Thatcher) tend to speak in the first person plural ("We are not amused", etc.). As mentioned, I wrote my statement in the 3rd person because it was intended to appear on a group website:
    http://members.aol.com/salon67/
    which is administered and edited by someone else. The style of this is that each member's name appears, followed by a statement in the 3rd person. It could equally be:
    Name
    "Statement in 1st person ..."
    It's just a question of house style!

    Writing in the 3rd person is the norm in certain academic circles ("It is the opinion of the present writer that ....", "The author believes that ...", etc.). As such, I find it unremarkable.

    Above and beyond this, it does seem that the principle of an open exchange of ideas has broken down on this thread. Its title is "Share your artist's statement", so I would hope that anyone reading this thread would actually be interested in reading these statements. I would cordially invite readers to comment on what I (and others) have actually SAID! To contribute to a thread of this kind and merely say that you consider artists' statements in general to be garbage seems to be missing the point.

    Yours (in the first person singular),

    David
     
  12. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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  13. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'm not "dumping" it - I'm replacing it! With another 5x7" of the same vintage, too...
     
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  15. KenM

    KenM Member

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    Oops, I missed that. I just saw the ad and thought you were moving away from 5x7...glad your sticking with it!
     
  16. KenM

    KenM Member

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    Ditto. It's always nice to hear another perspective.
     
  17. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    In hopes that something positive may yet emerge from this thread, may I offer a (positive! honest!) comment on the above:
    Ole states that he has "not thought about this until recently". This is underlined by the fact that what he offers as an artist's statement is in fact nothing of the kind - it is a brief history of the cameras he has owned. The only indication he gives of his artistic intentions is when he says he "values experimentation". To understand these intentions, we need him to go a lot further in this direction and amplify what he means by this, what form his experiments take, how he feels about the result, etc.

    Let me just go on to say this:
    Photography as a hobby can tend to be male-dominated and as such dominated by a bias towards the mechanical/technical rather than the emotional, with a definite behavior pattern of obsession with technicalities as an attempt to mask an unwillingness to engage with subject matter on an emotional level - which is the one thing you have to do to be an artist, as opposed to a technically superb but emotionally void craftsperson. This is why I have kicked back so hard at the "Oh, my God, artists' statements are all bullshit" idea. Some of them ARE, but formulating an accurate statement of intent in the simplest possible terms is a vital process for any artist.

    Goodwill towards all [wo]men, malice toward none!

    David
     
  18. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Hi there Andy,

    I did do a search before starting this thread. I was interested in not just a discussion on artist statements, but actually reading statements by other artists. What words did they leave on the gallery wall that represented them and their views to gallery patrons in their absence? There is no right way or wrong way to write an artist statement...each one should be unique to the artist...just as their art should be!

    Murray
     
  19. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Sorry, but I believe an artist's art should do their talking for them. If they need to explain it, then maybe their art isn't saying much?

    I don't recall reading Michelangelo's statement, or Da Vinci's or Raphael's or Monet's or Beethoven's or Mozart's... those people were concerned with creating, not explaining. Their art did their explaining for them.

    When I go to a Gallery, I have zero interest in being told what I should think or how I should feel when I look at the photographs. An artist's statement is an attempt to do exactly that. I want to formulate my own opinions and feelings about what I am viewing.

    I generally have no interest in the artist's life story or why they do what they do. I am only interested in the art. I really don't care about Beethoven's life story, but I adore his concertos.

    This is why I feel artist's statements to be superfluous.

    Ps, David, the original post also expressed the wish for debate. Not just for people to post their statements:

     
  20. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Hi Andy,

    I'm sure Micky, Leo, Raphy, and Eddy all played the Game and used all manner of schmoozing to weazle funds out of the Establishment of their day. It's just that their art was strong enough to last the ages...the words they used to win the favours of the rich didn't.

    When I see a show I always look at the artists work first, then read the statement last, but I do read them.

    Murray
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 14, 2005
  21. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi Member

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    To me, an artist's statement is a form of advertising. It can be written in third person, repeating the person's name, in order to reinforce it in a potential buyer's mind.
    It can be a way of sidestepping the problem of "Damn that work is good, now who was that?"
    It can be used to explain a body of work, but like jazz, "If you don't get it, you never will".
    I never had or used a statement, due to my scattergun approach. I simply shoot what I see.

    Maybe if I had one, it would go something like this:
    "I use both color and black and white, not wishing to be limited or categorized. This runs the gamut from 35mm to 8x10, including color, black and white, and the occasional alternative process. Each picture exists in and of itself, but may speak to a particular medium better than others. There is beauty everywhere if you only stop and look."

    Hell, maybe I only need that last sentence(?)
     
  22. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    One thing I see missed here is that even though people to not want to do an artist statement ( as I do not as I think the work shoudl make the statement ) some galleries require it. So what do you do?

    This is a problem I have. I do not now to write one but the gallery wants one. Catch 22.

    Kev
     
  23. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    This has turned out to be a real train wreck of a thread!

    Is it that not many people have had a one man (person) show that needed an artist statement? I've only shown in our local museum - at three pivotal points in my growth as an artist - but it did force me to define in as few words as possible why I photograph, or, as with the statement in my first post, why I wouldn't explain my work. A worthwhile excersize in and of itself. Oh well...it was worth a try...

    Murray
     
  24. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    As I see it, artists need first to strive for technical mastery and then connect with their emotions as steps along the road to the ultimate goal:

    Finding your own voice

    Writing an artist's statement can be a useful means of facilitating this process. I am sorry that no one felt able to comment on the content of my statement, which as simply and concisely as possible reflects where I feel I am in this process. I would particularly re-affirm my determination to use my work to say something about now and not repeat myself. What I have heard in many of the responses to this thread is simply the sound of people way out of their comfort zone. As a professional, I write and think in the terms used in my statement every day. I have no desire to dictate to others how they should behave or think.

    Regards,

    David
     
  25. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Practical suggestion - to get away from staring at a blank sheet of paper, try this:

    These pictures are of [simple description of subject matter]. The reason why I felt drawn to this was [just a few simple words describing your motivation]. Having completed this project, I now feel [simple down-to-earth description of your feelings about the finished work]. I hope you like the work.

    Try this template, personalize and change it as much or as little as you want, and you should find that an artist's statement has mysteriously appeared! If you want to run it by someone, try a friend or PM me.

    Regards,

    David
     
  26. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Somewhere in here, my "ornery" glands would kick in. The idea of a Gallery DEMANDING an "Artists Statement" rankles my fur.
    Sounds like someone has a slightly off-kilter desire to dominate... "Do what we tell you, or you can't play".

    I'm trying to visualize the response of some of the most respected photographers that I've had the good fortune of knowing.... I can't think of one who would go along with this... not that they couldn't ... but as a matter of principle and maintaining a one's image... and a balanced relationship with the gallery.
    One thing is certain ,,, the Galleries NEED your work ... more than you need them. We can survive without participating in that fraction of Galleries that would make a demand like that ... they CAN NOT survive without the participation of the Artists/ Photographers.

    A shade softer ... I might write something like, "I came. I saw. I photographed. What else is of any importance?"

    If *I* was informed of the mandatory requirement of submitting an "Artist's Statement" ... I would reply, "My WORK is my "Statement". Period.