Thursday, March 1, 2012

guest post - genevieve williamson

An Unexpected Turn

I have a confession. I spent years thinking of myself as an artist without ever writing an artist's statement. My excuses were many and probably not uncommon. I've compiled a list and have used all of them at one time or another.

1. Why do I need a statement? My art should stand on its own.
2. I can't put art into words - after all, isn't that part of why I make art anyway?
3. I don't know how.
4. I'm an artist not a writer.
5. I don't have the time.
6. Artist's statements sound pretentious.
7. No one really cares about artist's statements.
8. I work intuitively; I never really think about why I do what I do.
9. What if I dig deep into my soul and find that there is nothing there and my work is shallow, pointless and a waste of time? (the scariest of all!)

And so, with all of these excuses at my disposal I successfully avoided an artist statement...until one day when I was presented with a creative opportunity that required one.  It was time to do this. I figured a statement doesn't need to be my life story. It just needs to sum up in 2-3 paragraphs, the basics of what goes on internally that leads to external.

I started with free writing, jotting down anything that came to mind about my work and my process. No sentences, not even complete thoughts - I just wrote anything and everything that I thought of over the course of a couple days. "Strong contrast of shape, size, color; repetitive pattern; groupings; interesting connections..."  I kept a piece of paper on my desk and covered both sides. I saw patterns develop, bit and pieces became sentences and several sentences turned into two short paragraphs. I did it!  It was amazing how just putting it all out on paper made me see how that my work, while informed by my many interests and experiences, eventually comes down to relationships, visual and human.

So surprisingly writing a statement wasn't that hard, didn't stop my work, or slow me down or prove to be a waste of time, in fact its actually been quite energizing, like looking at something from a completely different perspective. And it turned out to be less about fulfilling an obligation for a gallery and much more about self discovery. And I think it will probably mark a turning point in my work.


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mairedodd said...

thank you so much, genevieve... your work is just beautiful and you make really excellent points... i always love to read an a.s., i find them to be fascinating... where a person comes from, what they draw from, how they relate, what they relate to... gives a deeper appreciation of work than just viewing it can... i find mine has been written and tweaked, but there are constants... and i agree, that writing it almost helps you to see what you are doing in a bigger picture... and you can even learn a bit about yourself...

Spirited Earth said...

Thanks Genevieve for this post,I've used most of what is on your list as reasons not to write a statement..and like you, I have avoided doing one forever..good tip for getting that statement out there, think i will try that.

Artisan Beads Plus said...

Thanks Genevieve! I agree that writing about what you do as an artist, the whys, the whats, etc. can be tough. When I put together a statement for LMAJ, it made me realize that art has always been a part of me..... even during the years that I practiced it informally while rasing my kids.... mostly in school with my students. I did have to learn for myself to back off when they are creating their own work and let them express who they are.... not who I am! lol!

Izzy said...

Wonderful information! Thanks so much for stopping in today. Love your work!

NuminosityBeads said...

I also have bristled at having to come up with an artist's statement, I think I'm still using one that I came up with under pressure years ago. I really do need to refresh it.
Thanks for some ideas on letting the thoughts flow toward the composing a new one.
xoxo Kim

Sharyl said...

This is such a wonderful post--one of the most helpful and encouraging I've come across! I like your list of "why nots" and then how you did it, that in the end, seemed so simple.

This is just the way I tend to do things too! And after putting off a task, I'm always so surprised it wasn't so bad after all... and what a relief to have it done! :-) Thanks again!

P.S. Love those beads!

Genevieve said...

Thanks for making me feel so welcome here today!

Thats right, don't be afraid! Even if you don't have to write one, try it anyone. You will find something good no matter what!

Kelli said...

Sounds oh so familiar! I wrote mine very quickly years ago . Remember stressing about having to talk about myself. Good tips! Guess I need to revisit mine

Barbara said...

This is a difficult subject to tackle, isn't it??? I know I've used any or all of those excuses too....and I think, I've perpettually tweaked the one I've made and used in college for the last 10 years...

I like what you said about keeping a little piece of paper while you work to jot down thoughts and ideas of the work to help build a framework of sorts about the work.....I think that one of the larger mistakes made when writing an AS is people confuse and make it a biography or a resume, rather than about the work.

Thanks for visiting us Genevieve!

Genevieve said...

Yes Barbara, I read somewhere (and I would give credit if I could remember) that you really want to give just a bit of information, beyond vague but not to the point of a life story, exactly. Anywhere from 1-5 paragraphs was suggested.

stacilouise said...

Great advice! So nice to meet you, I hopped over to your site, your work is amazing!!!!!1

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