I don't know many artists who actually like writing artist's statements. But artists end up reading a lot of them in the course of looking at websites, going to shows, etc. And most artists have to write one at one point or another, like it or not. But why do we need to write one? There are three clear benefits that I can identify.
First, I've come to realize over time that an artist's statement is as much for my own benefit as it is for my audience's. Writing a statement often clarifies my thinking about my work in a way that creating the artwork itself does not, so I now see it as part of my creative process.
I have also experienced that an effective statement helps gallerists and dealers choose and sell my work. If they have a written document that supplements both what they see in my photographs and have learned from me in conversation and stimulates their interest, then it gives them more reason to choose my work and try to generate sales or buzz for it.
Finally, a statement can also help critics to write knowledgeably and thoughtfully about my work, and is a necessity when it comes to getting publicity for a show.
The result of these insights is that, while writing a statement is still like pulling teeth for me, I now embrace the exercise as an opportunity rather than as a burden.
Byron Wolfe has two statements on the Bio/CV/Statement page of his website. that speak to the above issues. The first statement addresses his general interests and shows the reader the foundations upon which all his work is grounded.
The second he calls a "Mission Statement", which is a visual rendering of "the territory (he finds) most satisfying." For him, it functions as "part manifesto, part guide".
What a great way to discover that which is already inside you, but might have been hidden!
In addition, Joanna Hurley and Kate Ware have written a very comprehensive article on the ins and outs of artist's statements that really digs into the topic and is, in my opinion, spot on.
I'll write more about artist's statements in future posts.