Artist statements are one of the most frequently required documents when it comes to grant proposals, exhibitions and performances, and publications. The artist statement works with the artist biography and curriculum vitae (CV) to provide viewers with a comprehensive overview of an artist and their work.
If the artist biography provides insight into who the artist is, the artist statement describes what the artist does. Many individuals use artist statements that describe why they create, which is an integral element of the artist statement but should not be the sole focus. In general, the artist statement is an objective description of a body of work or an artist’s full portfolio. Similar to a CV and biography, the artist statement is a living document that should be regularly updated to reflect your past and present artistic practice.
How would you introduce your creative practice to someone for the first time? Write the statement as if the reader has never encountered your work before. Your work may focus on a specific subject matter, revolve around a few core ideas, or involve a unique process. Whatever the case, spend some time reviewing your work from an outside perspective. Pinpoint a few common themes, then expand upon those ideas in sentence form.
Consider the context of this document:
● Why are you writing an artist statement?
● Do you intend to display it in a public setting?
● Will it be reviewed by a panel of subject matter experts?
Using your unique voice, the statement should speak to the type of audience that will view your work. For instance, there are some settings where technical jargon is appropriate, and some settings where it will distance the audience from your work. Use your best discretion. When in doubt, simple, concise language works for every audience.
If writing this statement is challenging, spend some time reading other artist statements. Then, ask a friend for help! It can be difficult to write from an outside perspective, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time working with a particular concept. Ask your friend to describe what they see, feel, and think about as they interact with your body of work.
Ready to jump in? Here are Maura Brewer’s steps for constructing a strong artist statement:
Step 1: Describe Your Work
● Reflect: what 3 projects are you most proud of?
● Describe those projects one at a time, using basic language
○ Consider the medium, subject, colors, composition, ideas, etc.
Step 2: Identify Common Themes
● What recurring motifs appear across all 3 projects?
○ These motifs communicate who you are as an artist
● Use these motifs to make general, one sentence statements about your work
Step 3: Write Your Statement
● Expand each sentence into a paragraph
● Keep the content broad and general, avoid referencing specific work
● Consider the relationship between form and content
○ How does your choice of medium shape the way your audience encounters and interacts with your subject?
■ For example, what does a photograph convey that oil pastel cannot? What does oil pastel communicate that a photograph cannot?
● Bonus challenge: Finally happy with your statement? Now try to condense it into one sentence. This can be repurposed as the first sentence in your artist biography.
Looking for feedback? Send your artist statement to Casey Corritore, Program Officer of Capacity Building: [email protected]. If you intend to use this statement for an Erie Arts & Culture grant opportunity, please request feedback at least 2 weeks prior to the deadline.
Want to keep learning? Creative Capital is a grantmaking organization with the mission to fund artists in the creation of groundbreaking new work, to amplify the impact of their work, and to foster sustainable artistic careers. Creative Capital offers a free, asynchronous educational curriculum that centers professional development and contemporary frameworks in cultural discourse.