I always struggled with artist's statements, the kind expected and required by galleries and grant applications, the kind that explains what I'm doing and why.
Writing and rewriting and starting again, trying to articulate thoughts that are visual and spatial for external, rather than internal, reasons, it always seemed to me a perverse sort of exercise, bound to produce something forced, like a pony wearing a skirt.
Rarely have I read a statement that had half the sincerity or believability of a child's declaration about what they want to be when they grow up.
Mass Pike From Back Bay, Acrylic on Paper, 9"x12", 2003
In the purest sense, I always felt, visual art is exactly that - visual - and to require the artist to explain it with words is like requiring a writer to create a dance in order to explain his novel, or a composer to design a building in order to explain her symphony.
It's a common artist's complaint.
"Rembrandt never had to write one, neither did Matisse, why should I?"
Well (the answer comes), the thing is that for one, you live now, in the wake of all the -isms and movements of the 20th century, many of which, like Futurism and die Brücke and de Stijl, for example, were founded on or accompanied by passionate, written creeds.
You live in the wake of the 70's, when conventional art was questioned, attacked and all but tossed out, and new ideas required explanation.
You live in a time where the words of critics and art historians and gallerists and taste-makers have swollen in importance to such a level that artists are required to pull their weight in credible talk in order to help sell the work.
You live in a time when you are required to explain yourself heavily to even graduate from art school.
Therefore, artist, be prepared to stand up and submit a blurb about your work. Be prepared to communicate with an elevated elevator pitch what drives and motivates and excites you, to get across immediately and succinctly what it is that you do.
Over the years, I've come to see that it is necessary, out of context of the work, to be able to describe what you create to strangers, to gallerists, to fellow artists, simply in the interests of conversation and connection. And I want to hear the same from other artists – not an explanation, but something descriptive and specific, with a hint of what they love about what they create.
Give me some lines to read between.
And so over the years, I have found myself writing about my painting. I have no idea whether those words have added to or detracted from anyone's experience of the work.
But you'll notice that there are no lengthy statements on my new site.
As I grow more comfortable with marketing my own work, the need for formal statements gives way to a conversation. The more I converse here, the more fun I have talking directly about my work and related topics, and the more natural it feels to describe what I'm up to, almost as a separate body of ideas rather than as a prop or adjunct to each painting's own silent, visual voice.
In addition to what I share here, you will find on my site a series of what I consider true "artist's statements", or declarations made by the artist, such as "All art is abstract."
These are ideas I have come to slowly, carefully, for myself alone.
Each of them is the encapsulation of a train of thought that goes back years, perhaps to the beginning of myself as an artist. They relate to my work, but they can be applied to any work.
They are what they are and they do not wear a pony skirt.