Sunday, March 16, 2014

You got some explaining to do……

Nothing but....a gesture sketch

That phrase for my title of this post feels like the perfect way to introduce this blog topic about artist statements. In the cleaning process of late, I came across a file of old papers. Some of which were my tests given to my students when I taught HS art. What a hoot! Evidently I was pretty tough and expected a lot. Yes, I did administer them to myself last night and passed, skipping the essays of course. But those were not what I was glad to find. I had been looking for my 2001 “Artists Statement” that I used for the first time the “women” series (or my colorful acrylics of ladies as you all call them) was shown to the public as a collection. That would have been at Stark State on the 2nd floor (opening 2 days after Sept 11th).  For the record, I really dislike the overall artist statement used to explain a body of work and define/defend its existence to others and prefer to elaborate on each piece of art instead. So what follows is the exact text of that 2001 statement….evidently my first foray into all out snarkiness.

One of those necessary evils of being an artist and having an exhibition is to provide an ‘artist’s statement’. Seems odd actually since musicians do not stand up and announce why they are playing what they are, and dancers don’t stop and say why they chose a certain leg movement for each note, but for some reason, visual art requires and explanation to the viewer as to why we do what we do. So I spent a delightful morning on the internet researching how to write an ‘artist’s statement’. It was a very enlightening experience. First I am to do some warm up exercises most of which consist of reading dictionary and thesaurus entries, sharpening a pencil and locating an egg timer. You see, if I were to use simple words with too few syllables, people might not understand how complicated my work is supposed to be. Commas are essential, too. Not enough phrases and the meaning will be too obvious, so the more phrases I can connect into one sentence, the more confused the viewer will be and I will appear to be a very complex thinker. The next step is to close the eyes and wander one’s mind. I call that daydreaming, but when writing an ‘artist statement’ I am supposed to ‘escort my inner critic through the room of my creativity’ – (do I have to clean it up first?). Another recommendation was to ‘imagine your work coming alive and speaking to you, how does it feel?’ – (hmmm, tired of hanging around?). 

Since these sources were not proving helpful, I decided to read other artists’ ‘statements’ to see how they approached the concept. My favorite was the painter who that said…’I don’t use an artist’s statement, I just want to tell you why I paint…’ – (isn’t that what an artist’s statement is?). Another good read was one entitled ‘artist statement by an original artist’ – (as opposed to what, a copier?). Not finding much success there either, I checked all those ‘how-to-do just about anything’ books that one accumulates. Unfortunately, I found that artist statements are one of the things on that ‘just about’ list. My extensive library of art books weren’t much help either. Seems that the most important artists have someone else write their statement for them, and it helps if there are a lot of letters after their names because they can skip warm up exercise number one. I did find some statements in gallery books I picked up on a trip to NYC; but I don’t think some of those people consulted a dictionary (or spell check for that matter) and by the time I figured out what they thought they were saying, my inner critic had left the building. So, I guess I will have to attempt this so that you the viewer will have some deep philosophical understanding of why I paint what I do…(however, the paintings seem pretty straight forward to me if you read the title).

…..and so it went.

Another treasure (with a big yellow markers smilie face on it) proves that art scams were alive and well before the email inquiries from traveling businessmen who saw your works online and want them shipped overseas…  A letter dated December 2003 says….

Dear Ms Krew (note the missing punctuation) , then in all caps…YOUR NOMINATION AS INTERNATIONAL VISUAL ARTIST OF THE YEAR (no punctuation)  The International Biographical Centre of Cambridge, England is delighted to confirm your nomination as an (in bold this time) International Visual Artist of the Year for 2004. Blah blah blah about the selection process (only a “few illustrious individuals” get chosen you know) which makes me eligible to display an “appealing Commemorative Pictorial Testimonial, a gold-gilt Medal of Excellence or an authoritative Official Sash of Office (oh yeah I am ALL over that last one!!!)  Nothing says authority like a sash which also happens to be “hand finished” and costs $325 US dollars. If I want all three, it is only $895 US (and this is 2003 pricing). Also included was a sheet to fill out that had spots for contact info for 14 others who I feel deserve this honor! Well sorry friends, but only one of us can sashay around the arts district in my hand finished authoritative sash and gold gilt medal carrying my commemorative plaque with its testimonial and my photo as International Visual Artist of the Year! The best part though?...THEY spelled my name right!   Needless to say, I filed this back in with my International Women Artists of America (what?) and the National Women’s Museum nomination for something or other that only cost a couple of hundred bucks…..  

Nope, I will settle for being selected to receive a full reimbursement for a faulty dehumidifier that worked just fine so we actually got to use it for free for 4 years. 

I have to admit, that sash was pretty snazzy looking though.

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