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ARTIST STATEMENTS

It’s that defining thing that you put into print for the world to see.

Once you write it, you must live it … or quickly delete it ... hoping it’s truly gone.  Like caveman drawings, it’s etched into the stony recesses of human history.

In short, you’ve written yourself into a corner.  Damn.

That’s what writing is all about.  It’s about putting yourself out there and making yourself real.  You’re no longer child’s play.  This is serious business.  Of course, your words will be misinterpreted, misrepresented and you’ll be roasted over burning coals, but sometimes, believe it or not, you’ll actually be appreciated.  It all comes with the gig.

Statements are so important, not only for others, but mainly for ourselves.  Take me, for instance.  With every single stroke of my keyboard during these very seconds, I’m reaffirming myself and what I believe for myself ...  come what may.

Making a statement requires courage, if not a leap of faith.  You have to believe that you can live up (or down) to what you’re saying.  If you don’t believe it, who will?  Take a stand.  Stand in your truth.  It’s called, “being an adult.”

Which brings me to my point.  I’ve been meeting more and more artists who are uneasy about their writing … not so much their words, but the writing itself.  This is what happens when you try to write to impress.  Instead of being self-aware, you get self-conscious, fearful and lose your compass.

The next thing you know, you’re getting someone to write an artist statement that reads like an art history doctoral dissertation. 

BIG MISTAKE.

The statement becomes … well … it’s no longer YOU.  Suddenly, the humanity goes out the window right behind your self confidence.

I swear … if I read one more artist statement on steroids, I’m going to puke.  For that matter, if I have to read one more pompous, over-intellectualized art review, I’m going to croak.

Art accessibility begins with words themselves and how we use them to describe who we are and what we do. 

My journalist colleagues and I sometimes read pretentious press releases out loud to one another in the middle of the newsroom.

“Hey, listen to this!” someone yells out.  Seconds later, we all crack up laughing.

It’s hilarious.  When people want to seem brilliant, they tend to write as if they’re planning to present a speech to the Mensa Society’s annual convention or something.  Words they would NEVER use in everyday language somehow make it into their oeuvre.  Yes, words like “oeuvre,” for example.  Funny thing is, many people in Mensa don’t even talk or write that way.

It’s like … everyone takes to their keyboards and morphs into Alastair Cooke on “Masterpiece Theatre.” Really?

You just want to tell people to take the sticks out of their asses.

Needless to say, art publications are notorious for this.  Would you like an example?  Okay, hold on …

On second thought, I don’t want to ridicule anyone.  That wouldn’t be nice, but you know quite well what I mean.  How many times have you read a pompous art review or an exhibition synopsis on the wall of an art museum gallery only to have your eyes glaze over?  Those things aren’t written for the public.  They’re written to impress art world colleagues.  I roll my eyes and crack up every single time I see them.  They're a joke.

It’s such a ridiculous practice because art is about expression, communication and making connections.  Nobody needs to read some artist or curator statement that’s written in the “third person” and it comes off like some blow hard soliloquy.  I know this approach is supposed to be “professional,” but it’s often incomprehensible – on purpose – and pretentious.

I defy any curator or art historian to challenge me on this.  Having said that, I am FAR from being God’s gift to writing, but I do know that warmth, simplicity and accessibility are among the hallmarks of good writing.  Good writing or at least decent writing (I am a decent writer) truly communicates and bridges gaps and should not cause the reader to walk away feeling demoralized.

Remember reading textbooks back in college or even high school?  How many times did you have to read certain pages over and over again and you still couldn’t figure out WHAT the hell the writer was saying?  That was not your early Sunday morning hangover (well, maybe it was).  It was poor writing.

Here’s my personal test.  If you hear anyone reading anything out loud to themselves, that means they’re having trouble understanding it.

Am I right?  You know I’m right!

I don’t know.  I’m just saying that in this 140-character-maximum universe, where we’re taking writing less seriously, we need some sane communication.  Just say it like you mean it.  Get to the point.  I’m NOT saying you should dumb anything down, but don’t make it a doctoral dissertation either.  Get real.  This is ME you’re talking to.  If you get over yourself and write from your heart and soul, you’re going to hit it out of the ball park every time.

To recap … artists, be REAL.  Curators, be natural.  Art museums and galleries, you can still be formal and professional without being stodgy, stiff and boring in your writing. And no, I’m not saying you should use numbers or gang symbols to replace actual words.

There.  I put it out there.  That’s MY artist statement.  I know I’m going to get my head chopped off for this, but I stand by these words … or do I?

Crap.  Is it too late to delete this?  Forget everything I just said!

DELETE.

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