Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Dreaded Artist's Statement

There were the words. The ones that bring about that inner groan. Grrr. I hate these words. Oh, I understand them and the need for them, but I still want to take them outside and kick them to the curb every time I see them. Seriously, as much as I love what I do. Well, love hate sometimes, but mostly love. There are parts of this profession that just make me want to pull my hair out. I have thrown more than a few pace the room talking to myself tantrums over this part. I know, I know, hard to believe. I am such a mild mannered, low maintenance person. It's probably very hard to imagine anything upsetting me. Ahem.

I got an invitation to enter a competition. A really cool one for contemporary artists. And the organizers are doing it right. Long lead time, intelligent user friendly compliance mechanisms, and a great venue at an optimum time. Not expensive either. These people are feeling the love for the artists. In fact, they are loving us so much they want to share our uniqueness with the world and trade it for a tidy sum of cash. In exchange for the work AND some words. Yep. That's it. The dreaded artist's statement. They kindly ask us to include words about "what motivates your creative process".

I guess it is the equivalent of the elevator speech business types are used to creating. Or a value statement about what a unique selling point is. And it is not like I don't have a stack of them on file. (All of which sound immediately dated and stupid once written. ) But here 's the thing. Most us do what we do because we cannot imagine doing anything else...except on every third Tuesday at 3am when we decide we should just get a job, any job.

But how is it possible to fully explain why we translate life into blibs and blobs of paint? Why do you choose to love your mate? Or care for your child? Why do you sing a song? Or dance? See. And it's supposed to sound like you know what you're doing. It supposed to impress a judge. Grrrrrrr, see what I mean?

Today I paint a blob of blue because it was that kind of place, and I felt this was the best choice at the time. Tomorrow, I feel that a foray into black might carry a tune. I am compelled to interpret, to amplify, to express and caress with a brush, just as my eyes have done. Yeah, that will go over great with a judge. There is no ism in my work, no avant garde change the world perspective. It is how I go through my days. Oh, I see a great deal. I get it big time. I see options and trends and know what has come before. I am so sure they would love my "good painting is like great sex" statement. That one caused John Ed Bradley to stumble over the bricks in the sidewalk on our way home from lunch. Yeah, that'll work with the judges.

That dreaded artist's statement. Why can't they just send me the check and let me do what I do? The right brain isn't enough. They want our left brain too. What, you thought art just happened? No, we actually have to jump through lots of hoops. I'll have to tell you sometime what I had to do to get "ratified" by a city. But that is for another day. Come on brush. Let's do some dancing.


Kelly said...


The fourth paragraph, And a bit of the fifth. It's a beautiful artist's statement. Janice: Captured, right there.

If I were the artist, I'd sent that heartfelt message to the judges.

It'll look good in the book. :)



Janice C. Cartier said...

She blushes. Thanks. Duly noted with heartfelt appreciation. Going into the file...that's no small compliment.


ParisBreakfasts said...

I concur!!!
You write so well-do it YOUR way
Or the highway
I HATE/detest the whole idea of putting into words what I dos...
Can't they tell from the pictures
But just do yr stream of consiousness things..with no spaces between the sentences too
That's effective! :)

Janice C. Cartier said...

I totally agree, PB!!! Hellooooo. Grumble grumble....I do not think we are alone on this. Seriously what we want to say is Soooo full of expletives deleted, but we are thinking it. Tanks. : )

Bill K. said...

It's kind of funny to read a blogging artist complain about having to use words to explain what she does, but I completely understand. It's bad enough having to make some kind of statement about less creative, more conventional lines of work, never mind something that you throw your entire existence into.

I've done a good bit of fiction, poetry and playwriting and have always felt that the less said by me the better. Creation and explanation are two very different processes.

Janice C. Cartier said...

bill-you said it. In part this blog is in response to all those requests for an artist's statement. The writing part always threw me into a tizzy. I thought, well, just come to my studio, or follow me for a few days. Not that I wanted them around, judges that is..:) Or, hm, just look at the work!!!!! But part of the profession is somehow finding words too.
I agree totally with you, creation and explanation are entirely different things. The work is supposed to be able to stand alone. It has been my experience though that they want, and like, the story too.
I 'd love to read some of your work sometime. I have lots of writer friends.

Bill K. said...

Thanks, Janice, I'll take you up on that. It will have to wait though till I get out from under some of my work. Just looking at something makes me want to revise it, so I have to time that carefully.

Janice C. Cartier said...

I'll look forward to that. It sounds like painting. We can always see the blemishes of our last piece. Well, there are those few that absolutely blow me away that they actually came from my brush. The gods were smiling on those days I think. :)