In continuing where I left off yesterday in discussing Artist's Statements, I'm reminded of a friend who dismissed them as a seller's marketing tool. She's quite right of course. She might also have added that they're something of a crutch for jurors as well. And, to a lesser extent, they're also a guide for viewers and a confidence builder for buyers. I would compare the exhibition of an artist's work requiring an Artist's Statement to a kind of final exam in a college painting class. It's a formal critique. Sellers and jurors, being somewhat academic types, want MORE than just the work itself by which to "grade" the artist. Art (especially non-representational work) is SO subjective they want something more concrete upon which to base whether or not the artist succeeded or failed in his or her assignment.
In effect, the Artist's Statement is a WRITTEN EXAM portion of their evaluation. And since buyers, sellers, and jurors are in a commanding position, they tend to get what they want from their artists. When the non-representational artist paints, he or she is in control, speaking a language largely of their own making, saying what they like and as much or as little as they like. But when someone demands they put their thoughts in the form of an Artist's Statement, suddenly they must translate what they have said in THEIR language into more general (though sometimes highly esoteric) terms. Suddenly, they're no longer in control. Sellers, buyers, and jurors (and to a lesser extent, viewers) in viewing a work of art, consciously or unconsciously ask themselves, "Did the artist accomplish what he or she set out to do?" Without some idea what this "goal" might be, there is no way they could answer such a question. That's where the Artist's Statement comes in.
One might say it's "where the rubber meets the road." People who want and read Artist's Statements use them to separate the sheep from the goats--those artist who KNOW what they want to do and DO it and those who are merely making "stabs in the dark." This is true of ALL art but especially that which is most subjective in terms of interpretation and analysis. We may HATE them, and hate writing them, and feel insulted that our work is seen as insufficient in speaking for us, but they DO serve to tell the rest of the world that there is more to our art than mere visual images. This is what buyers, sellers, and jurors want, art with depth--art which represents depth in terms of the artists comittment, and art in which there is MORE than meets the eye. Artist's Statements help identify this type of art.