Friday, August 3, 2012

Artist statements

Zack Arias on his Tumblr Blog, Ask Me Anything About Photography, answered a question asking advice about artist statements this way:

Artists statements are usually the biggest load of crap one can ever read. I find they range anywhere from pompous loads of crap to humorous loads of crap. I won’t ever go to MOMA in New York again mainly due to the artist statements. I remember one hanging next to a blank white canvas that talked about the innocence of trees.

Just keep it on point and short and sweet. You aren’t reinventing the genre. You aren’t curing cancer. You aren’t offering deep and powerful statements about social injustice. Because if you happen to be doing any of those things with your photography, the photos will be proof of that and you won’t have to say a word.
If I made an artist statement it would be something like…

“My goal is to make photos that people stop and look at for a second and say, ‘Damn. That’s cool.’ Then they buy one or go about their day.”

I once came across an artist statement that said, "I make the pictures, you do the rest."  I wish I could remember the source.  I think both Zack and that anonymous artist are saying that photography is a type of visual expression that, with competent and creative execution, speaks clearly in its own voice, and that voice is non-verbal. 

How do you verbalize a non-verbal statement?  If art needs to be explained, then, in my opinion, it's too mirky and doesn't fully succeed as an expression. I avoid artist statements like food poisoning. But when absolutely required to write a serious artist statement, will write a little about the subject of my image and my personal reaction to it. That would provide some background that can add to the experience of the viewer without attempting to pretend to give a philosophy of aesthetics.

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