Imagine for a moment that you have to describe your art to someone who has never experienced it – what would you say? While your creation itself may speak volumes, chances are many people’s first encounter with you and your work will be via a website, news release or grant application. While describing your work clearly and concisely is an important skill, you’ll also want to do it in a way that’s uniquely you. But how do you strike that balance? Join Mireille Eagan, Curator of Contemporary Art with The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, as she offers some pointers during her “Developing Your Artist Statement” session on April 4 at St. John’s City Hall. (This session is preceded by “Developing a Marketing Plan” with KPMG’s Andrea Brocklehurst.) Mireille took some time to chat with Business & Arts NL in advance of her workshop.
Business & Arts NL: What makes for a powerful artist statement – one that will really leave an impact?
Mireille Eagan: Above all, it is important to be clear. Remember that your reader generously decided to spend their time reading about your art, so be generous in your approach. Explain who you are, why you have chosen to create your work, what your process is, and possibly your intentions for the viewer. Avoid “artspeak” at all costs and don’t reference thousand-dollar names (Lacan, Deleuze, etc.) unless you explain why their mention will aid the reader.
Business & Arts NL: Sometimes, people will come across the artist’s statement before they encounter the art itself. Should the statement include enough information to prepare the reader for exactly what they will encounter, or is it okay to leave some things to the imagination? How does the artist strike a balance?
ME: An artist statement should be the invitation for a viewer to begin their own conversation with the work. Start them on the path with what you think they might need, but trust them to continue.
Business & Arts NL: More often these days, people are turning to “creative” resumes to help themselves stand out from the crowd. When developing their artist statement, how colourful or creative can an artist be – or should they err on the side of caution and be more conservative when describing/explaining their work?
ME: As a curator, I dislike telling artists not to express their creative selves. In my experience, however, being straightforward is the best way to approach things in contexts like resumes and artist statements. Although a “creative” approach is often done with the best of intentions, it usually annoys the reader.
For more information on Mireille’s session “Developing Your Artist Statement,” click here.