06 February 2011

Artist Statements

Art Amiba post - does art speak louder than words?

I am of two minds when I think about artists statements... primarily I think crafting an artist statement is a good exercise for undergraduates and emerging (gag, I hate that word, but for lack of a better one...) artists IF it helps them focus their passion into good art. And by good art I mean art that communicates something to anyone who invests the time to really look at - or listen to - it.  (Great art, in my opinion, is art that captures the viewer, art that insists the viewer invest the time...)

I believe that an artist statement should be about the artist, not the work. The work, when executed well, doesn't need an explanation. And in fact, I think the explanation usually gets in the way of the audience's experience with the art.

I think people worry too much about getting "THE" message of a work. When I talk to my students I tell them that every piece of art has a message for them and that their responsibility, as the viewer, is to discover that story. It will be an individualized story, the work tells a different story to each viewer, each viewer creates their own story. It may be the story that the artist intended to tell, but probably not. And that's the way it should be.  

I do think an exhibit should include an artist statement. But it should be tucked away in a unobtrusive, out-of-the-way place, available but not front and center, a way for the curious audience to get a glimpse of the artist's persona (note - persona, not person - very few people - artists or not - are secure enough, honest enough, or even self-aware enough to offer up a one page window into who they really are).

An artist or curator, who puts the words before the art is simply egotizing.


Caron said...

I tell my students that it is impossible to really get into the mind and intentions of the artist and that we bring our own experiences into art and understand it in a way that is personal to us. It's a place where the story begins.

MontaGael said...

I agree Caron. Intention is such a slippery slope. We all fall into the trap that discerning the intent is how we must approach the art.

I think that the art perhaps doesn't exist with a preconceived, incontrovertible story (although I think as artists we sometimes like to think their stories trump others' stories), but rather exists to make the stories that others create possible. That might be the true communicating that art is supposed to do.

Karen Ami said...

Hi Monta-
I do agree that artists statements can allow viewers to go deeper into the intentions of viewpoint of the artist. At the same time- that work can change when I am told what to think. I thrive on the experience of visual discovery- to be taken to a place by my eyes and mind and guided by the artist. Some would say that if the artist is guiding the experience by controlling what the viewer reads, either in the artists statement or by the description of the work. I would agree with that assessment. There are endless examples of mediocre art work trumped up by brilliant interpretive descriptions, it is conceptualist methodology.
I think a viewer can appreciate well done and work on its own. Visual art -.work meant to be seen, not seen and explained because the work is inaccessible without verbage- needs little explanation next to it.