Like an introduction to a book, your statement presents the fundamental underpinnings of your art; write it for people who like what they see and want to know more, not those who already know you and everything your art is about. In three to five paragraphs of three to five sentences each, provide basic information like:
WHY YOU MAKE YOUR ART
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE IT
WHAT IT SIGNIFIES
WHAT'S UNIQUE OR SPECIAL ABOUT HOW YOU MAKE IT
WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU
Don't bog readers down, but rather entice them to want to know more.
As with any good first impression, your statement should hook and invite
further inquiry, like a really good story is about to unfold. Give too
little, not too much.
* Make "I" statements rather than "you" statements. Talk about what
your art does for you, not what it's supposed to do for the viewers.
This doesn't mean you start every sentence with "I," but rather that you
respect people's autonomy and allow them to respond to your art however
* At all times, give readers the option to agree or disagree with you. Never pressure them or attempt to dictate outcomes.
* Avoid comparative or evaluative comments that have been made
about your art by third parties such as gallery owners, critics,
collectors, or curators. These belong in your bio, resume or curriculum
vitae. In your statement, they're name-dropping; in your curriculum
vitae, they're testimonials.
* Connect what your art expresses with the medium that you're
expressing it in. For example, if your art is about world peace, and it
consists of twigs protruding from pieces of clay, explain the
connection. Arbitrarily stating that twig/clay protrusions represent
world peace leaves people wondering. If of course, the object of your
art or your statement is to leave people wondering, then that's OK. In
art everything is OK, but in order to succeed as an artist, someone
beside yourself generally has to get the point of what you're doing.
* Be specific, not vague. For example, if your art is "inspired
by assessments of the fundamentals of the natural world," tell which
fundamentals you're assessing and how they inspire you.
* Avoid obscure references to music, art, literature, history,
or anything else that requires detailed explanation or gobs of previous
knowledge. If you have to make such a reference, explain it fast so
that people know what you're talking about. If you can't do it fast, do
* Tell the story about what led up to your art ONLY if it's
short, compelling, and really really relevant. People are generally not
interested in progressions of antecedent events. Something leads up to
everything; we all know that.
* Avoid comparing yourself to other artists. If other artists
influence you, fine, but don't say, "Like Picasso, I do this" or "Like
Judd, I do that." Instead, say something like "Picasso's Blue and Rose
paintings influence how I use yellow." Better yet, leave other artists
out of your statement altogether. Let the critics decide who you're
like. Plus you don't want to invite comparisons between yourself and
the greatest artists who've ever lived. We all know who the victor's
gonna be there.
* Don't instruct people on how to see, feel, behave, respond, or
otherwise relate to your art. Nobody likes being told what to do.
Instead of saying "You will experience angst when you see my art," say
"This art expresses my angst" or "I express my angst through my art."
Or go see a therapist and work it all out.
Before you go public with your statement, get feedback. Show
your art and statement to friends, friends' friends, and maybe even a
stranger or two. Make sure they get it, that they understand what you
want them to understand. When they don't, or you have to explain
yourself, do a rewrite and eliminate the confusion. If you need help,
find someone who writes or edits and have them fix the problem. Many
times, a little rearranging is all that's necessary to make your
statement a clean clear read.
No matter how good your statement is, know up front that most
people will read it and move on; only a few will want to know more,
fewer yet will want to know everything, and fewer yet will ultimately
progress to the point where they actually buy something. That's simply
the nature of art and personal taste. Having said that, never
underestimate the power of an effective statement to intensify, enhance
and advance how people experience your art.