Writing the Artist Statement

Last Tuesday, our class had the unique opportunity of working with Sterling’s Studio Practice class where he prepares studio art majors to work as a professional artist after graduation. The combination of our classes not only provided Sterling’s students with a chance to get feedback on their statements, but gave us art writers a chance to practice talking with other artists and editing their written work.

Class began with a presentation from Professor Duganne in which she went over helpful “do’s and don’t’s” when approaching the artist statement. The whole room grumbled as she highlighted the importance of not beginning a statement with “My work explores,” or “I am exploring,” myself included who had just written a statement that started with that very phrase. We also discussed using art jargon, an issue we’ve gone over in our own class with Chad Dawkins on the second day of class. Art jargon can be any type of long or fancy word that isn’t necessary for getting a point across but is used instinctively in the art world, ie. metaphysical, dimensionality, juxtapositional, etc. Although these make sense to fellow artists and art historians, an everyday viewer may find them cumbersome and confusing, therefore moving on from the work as a whole. The goal for a concise statement is to make it short and clear enough that a reader will not be tempted to skim through it and move on from your work too quickly.

The exercise with Sterling’s student’s was a lot of fun, and his class seemed to find it helpful. We each were able to work with three students in about a 45 minute long rotation. My approach to these short interviews was to, at first, read the statement silently to myself while marking any areas that needed to be addressed. This involved grammatical errors, but was mainly focused on content. I would write questions next to ambiguous descriptions. Another thing I did that students seemed to find helpful was circle repetition; many people would use the same words over and over. I then would begin speaking with the artist and asking them about what their work looked like. Luckily I knew most of the work from the students I was interviewing as a studio major myself. Overall, we discussed what questions still needed to be answered, what information was unnecessary, and what areas could be expanded upon. It was an entertaining and helpful exercise that I think both classes enjoyed and benefitted from.

Lauren Lerwick

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3 comments

  1. Yes, I believe it was very helpful to meet with the other class and work on their artist statements with them. In meeting with three separate students, it benefitted each of us with viewing different perspectives and also gave us the unique perspective on what it is like to actively argue with an artist. Each of the artists that I interviewed were very intent on defending why they wrote their ideas the way that they did, and were very intent on getting the same message across without changing too much of their artist statements. It definitely gave me a new perspective on how to speak to other people about their ideas and on how to encourage them without being too harsh or stepping on their toes too much with their ideas.

    -Kendall Mealey

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  2. This class was really fun and eye opening. I took a lot away from sitting down with each artist and workshopping their statements. They were always open and receptive to what I was saying, but more often then not, was ready to defend why they worded something a certain way, etc. It really challenged me to think of new and different ways to try and say something, keeping true to the artists intentions and wants, but also having it said more clearly and concisely. I don’t envy artists having to try and explain the concept of their work in a paragraph or two. It was challenging enough just trying to help them edit them!

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  3. As a Studio Art major my self I know the struggles of writing artist statements. It can be very difficult to express in words what you are trying to express visually (or else we would all be writers). I think Sterling’s class enjoyed getting feedback on their statements as it is a good way to get a sense of how other people perceive their writing and what is being over or understated. I think it was a good exercise for both groups as we benefited as well from seeing the process of writing an artist statement and its difficulties.

    Dylan Draper

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