For grant applications and grad school applications I’ve written a number of Artist Statements, which are supposed to be a kind of distillation of what I believe as an artist, and how that informs the art that I make.
Everyone I know complains about writing them, and so do I – it can be an agonizing process full of “I” statements, and it can also be a really valuable exercise in simply articulating, for myself and for anyone else who cares to read it, what the heck I’m doing, and why I think I’m doing it.
Sometimes the huffy, entitled artist in me will rear his ugly head, and start making noise about how it all proceeds from instinct, from the Muse, from something deep-down and inexplicable. But those spells are shorter and shorter as I get older. On one hand I actually have some answers to those questions, and on the other hand, I’m curious myself about the reasons, conscious and unconscious, behind what I make.
So now I’m actually in art school, enrolled in the MFA program at the University of Minnesota, and that’s the whole point of the program, basically. To make a lot of stuff and talk about it a lot. And I have many layers of ideas on this topic, after writing dozens of Artist Statements over the past ten years, but what seems really important is that get through those layers and get to the heart of it, so I can make it a part of the evolving process itself.
One thing I realized recently is that a lot of the highly successful artists I know of were and are good at talking about their work – and I don’t think that’s an accident. Stan Brakhage writes really eloquently, and Jonas Mekas actually wrote about film for the Village Voice for years. Their films are brilliant, but I don’t know if they would’ve received the attention they did, and still do, without all of the writing they did over the years. Writing and teaching, and talking.
I like to talk about my work – so it’s only one step to writing about it. And I have this handy blog already, which has been neglected for the past few years, and a blog is kind of an ideal venue for this sort of writing. On one hand nobody ever needs to read it but me, but on the other hand the stakes are raised just a little bit, because the possibility always exists that someone will wander through and read everything. So it’s like decorating your front porch – it can still be very personal and somewhat private, even though it’s also visible from the street.