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5 Things To Avoid In Your Artist Statement

For many artists, writing an artist statement is a daunting and often frustrating task. How can you meaningfully articulate your art practice in just a few paragraphs? This article is here to help you navigate the process, specifically focusing on what to avoid. When considering the do's and don't of artist statements, it is important to acknowledge what an artist statement is. At its core, an artist statement is a concise document describing your artwork, why you make it, and how you make it. All artists should have one, as it's often required when applying for a residency, grant, academic program, and more. In this article, we will go over five common mistakes to avoid in your artist statement.

1. International Art English

International Art English is a genius term coined by Alix Rule and David Levine. Essentially, IAE refers to the bizarre artspeak that exists in the art world. It uses vague yet wordy over-complicated language, among many other things. Many words—for example, space and reality—become nondescript and empty placeholders in a sentence, often leaving the reader with a sense of nothingness (and at times, pretentiousness). We see IAE jargon everywhere, including exhibition texts, artist statements, press releases, and more. There's much more to IAE—to avoid falling into its claws, give Rule and Levine's original writing a look.

2. Excessive Length

The more concise your statement is, the better. Generally, artist statements should fall somewhere between 150–350 words. Finding the right words and avoiding overly flowery language might be challenging, but it will serve you well. A concise, to-the-point statement also tends to sound more confident and professional. Tip: Some artists might have shorter and longer versions of their statements on hand.

3. Clichés

Using unoriginal language such as profound and controversial isn't likely to strengthen your statement. In the same vein, avoid using obtuse language. The statement should act as a stand-in for you, as the artist—run-of-the-mill clichés won't help with this goal, because they are too general and overused. Instead, try to find language that is more specific to your art.

4. Focusing on the Wrong Things

Some things shouldn't be the focus of your artist statement unless they directly pertain to your artwork. For example, details about your life shouldn't have much emphasis in your statement (that is what an artist biography is for). Additionally, consider leaving out art theory unless it is crucial to understanding your artwork. Instead, focus on your present work. Talk about why you are motivated to make art. You may opt to include (briefly) your influences or other inspirations. Touch on the themes in your work. If you use an uncommon technique, you could include that—however, if you have a very straightforward process, leave it out.

5. Weak Language

Generally, you should avoid weak phrasing in your artist statement. For example, I am trying or I hope to are both weak. Instead, opt for straightforward and active language, such as I examine or I question. This phrasing exudes more confidence (in addition to being less wordy).

The Art of the Artist Statement

That said, you can do what you want with your statement. Many people take risks with their artist statements. It is, of course, up to you as the artist to choose how you communicate your work. These are simply some suggestions to help guide you through the process. The fact of the matter—whether you like it or not—is that artist statements are necessary. Give yours the time and attention it deserves. Brainstorm ideas, create a draft, let it sit, and go back to it. Wrestle around with different wording and formats. It might take many edits to get it to where it should be. Read it aloud to a friend or yourself. Lastly, remember that your artist statement can change as your practice evolves. A good statement can give viewers powerful insight into your work—take advantage of that opportunity. In conclusion, when crafting your artist statement, remember to avoid the common pitfalls of using International Art English, excessive length, clichés, focusing on the wrong things, and weak language. Instead, strive for clear and concise language that reflects your unique voice and art practice. Your artist statement should showcase your artwork and the motivation behind it, rather than being a list of art theory or biographical details. Remember that it's okay to take risks with your statement, but make sure that it's a genuine representation of your art. With these tips in mind, you can create an artist statement that effectively communicates your vision and adds value to your art practice.


Artful GIfts

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