Artist Statement Writing Guide

WRITING AN ARTIST’S STATEMENT
Matt Siber
Photography Seminar
Columbia College Chicago
Revised, September 2009
WHAT IS AN ARTIST’S STATEMENT?
An artist’s statement is a short written piece accompanying your artwork that describes what you
do as an artist. Artist’s statements are used to help communicate the artist’s ideas, concepts and
motivations to the viewer. Writing an artist’s statement can be very difficult and can be as much of
a learning experience for the artist as it is an informative experience for the viewer. They are an
important aspect of an artist’s professional life because they are used to promote their work to
gallery owners, museum curators, photo editors, publications and the general public. A clear and
intelligent artist’s statement will make you stand out and will show people that you are a
thoughtful and deliberate artist.
As visual artists we rely on our art to communicate our ideas, but visual art communicates much
differently than written language. By this token, it is not expected that the artist’s statement
explain every detail and nuance of the artwork. If it did, we wouldn’t need the artwork. Instead, it
should provide insight into the artist’s concept and motivation behind making the work.
FORMAT
Your artist’s statement should be one to two paragraphs and no longer than a page. Brevity and
efficiency of language are key. Your statement should deal primarily with the ideas and concepts
you are concerned with as an artist.
Begin your statement with one or two sentences that broadly describe your concept. Think of it
as a thesis statement. Use the rest of the statement to fill in the details and background
information as needed. Do not begin the statement with background info or detailed explanations,
and definitely do not wax philosophical in your first sentence. Be direct and confident with your
lead-in, get the viewer interested, then back up your idea with details and background
information. A wishy washy intro will give the impression that you dont really know what you’re
doing.
Statements should be written in the PRESENT TENSE. A proposal is written in the future tense
because you are talking about what you will do in the future. A statement accompanies existing
work so the present tense must be used.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Here are some questions to ask yourself when developing the concepts to include in your artist’s
statement (you do not need to address all of these issues to have a successful statement):
• What is your motivation for making the work? (personal connection, social/political
awareness, etc.)
• What issues or ideas are most important to you (be specific)?
• What do you want the viewer to learn or come away with after viewing your images?
How are you different from other photographers dealing with similar subject matter (be
specific)?
• What kinds of questions does your work raise?
• Who is your audience? This idea may be important to you but is it interesting to the
audience and why?
How do your techniques work to best communicate your ideas?
• What photographers have inspired or influenced your work?
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