Sarah Hotchkiss’ post about how not to write an artist statement, and what people in marketing can all learn about artist statements

There’s a famous book by Seth Godin in which, over and over again, he writes, ‘You are an artist.’ I forgot if it was Linchpin or something else. Sorry, I can’t recall the details of this author whose works are so, so popular but I can’t remember the point of the books after I read them because they’re so general. Kind of like, ‘Really?’ But yeah. I do think everyone is creative, though the ‘artist’ label is a tough one for me to accept, personally. I have had art shows and participated in artist-in-residence programs, now, which felt cool and interesting, but I learned something too about the arts administrators.

Sometimes they just like to talk about art and waffle a bit much. More than my engineering-trained self can really stomach, if I’m totally honest. Hm, that might have been the same reason I dropped out of art school in New York City after I got in. Or maybe more realistically it was an awareness of the poisonous and competitive nature of graduate school, generally speaking. I mean, I’ve heard tons of stories. Why bother, when the world is waiting, to be explored? Or, wait. New York was interesting, on paper, but I’ve learned that I prefer smaller cities with less… uh…  stuffiness. Excepting the jazz clubs I frequented, I felt somehow that there was too much pretentiousness. In general. Then there was that time this guy who said he was a writer tried to talk to me about it and then started crying. (True story.)

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for art, art-making, and celebrating art. Truly. I have artist friends who work really hard and make amazing things. I have a deep respect for people who create things that can move others, because they are truly interested in that other-connection, not just their own ego.

You know what I mean?

But there are some things you read that make you kind of wonder. What the heck is this? 

Here are some examples of things not to do, when articulating your work, if you are an artist, courtesy of Sarah Hotchkiss‘ post about How to Write an Artist Statement.

‘Your artist statement should feel like it’s written by you, the artist—not by a critical theorist or an art history professor or a dealer or a curator… They want to hear your voice—not that of some formulaic art-jargon robot. So, some things to avoid:

‘Extreme binaries. Is your work really “examining the strangeness of both interior and exterior spaces?” Is it “both casual and formal?” “Light and dark?” (Similarly, ask yourself, is your work truly “blurring the boundaries between text and subtext?”)…

‘“International Art English.” Chances are you’ve seen it, read it, and felt unsettled by it in press releases, wall labels, and other people’s artist statements. This muddled and imprecise language seeks to elevate what it describes through nonspecific word choices, invented “spaces” (the space of the real, the space of the dialectical), and complicated grammatical structures…

‘False range. Does your practice “range from drawing to sculpture to video to artist books” or do you simply make “drawings, sculptures, videos, and artist books?” False range is a rampant and completely accepted form of writing these days, but the discerning reader will notice it and judge you for it. A false range creates a continuum between one thing and another when there is no actual continuum. Yes, your palette can “range from blues to reds” (color is a spectrum). But your influences cannot include “everything from Wanda Sykes’ stand-up to Tamagotchi pets to tinsel” (there is no middle point between Tamagotchi and tinsel).’



Clear language and clear communication matters. For now, just this comment. And!, if you are in branding or thinking about how to position your product or yourself, I think it might not be a bad idea to follow the author quoted above’s advice on How to Write an Artist Statement. Here is the link.

How to Write an Artist Statement.

I’m working on mine, today.

New directions.