This post is by guest author, Suzanne DeCuir. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I read with interest the range of opinions about what to say and what not to say about one's work. I've concluded that the decision you make depends upon how you want your art to be viewed and understood (and how you want yourself as an artist to be viewed).
Until this year, my thoughts on working on an artist statement were along the lines of "why bother?" For a long time I resisted even thinking about a statement, figuring my art would speak for itself. I dashed off something about West coast locales and left it at that.
I've since changed my tune. I think that the most important thing a good artist statement will do for you - especially if your art is not conventional - is help the viewer know what to look for and how to think about your work. Some may say they do not want to have any signposts assisting them when looking at art. That's fine. They can decide not to read the statement. (We've all enjoyed museum shows, I'm sure, without renting the headsets, but sometimes the whole experience is much richer with some of the artist's perspective explained.)
At first I had no idea what to write and briefly flirted with the idea of plagiarizing. . . instead I talked with a photographer friend whose advice was simple: be genuine.
So I struggled with the most important step: understanding my own work and the reasons behind my artistic choices. Writing a statement turned out to be a remarkably effective way for me to gain a better understanding of my art. My work is reductive; I like to remove elements. I also like to play with tension and resolution, leaving some areas less resolved, almost unfinished. All this needed to go into the statement. My own preference is not to include anecdotes or personal information, but you may have a different persona you'd like to reveal.
I think an artist statement that sheds some light on artistic decisions can be a helpful guide when viewers are seeing an artist's work for the first time, and for the artist when working on new paintings. Am I still interested in removing elements, playing with tension, exploring color in this way, etc.? Your statement is a kind of GPS system, a map you create and can refine as your art changes. And sometimes a navigational system needs some of your attention if it's going to help you get where you want to go.