The artist is required to speak and write about her work. I am asked: “What kind of painting do you do?” An artist’s portfolio must include an Artist’s Statement. We are told to speak of the why and wherefore of what we make visible with our tools and materials. As the artist changes and grows, so must the statement.
Needless to say, for most of us the written word is a greater challenge than the art we produce. Especially when the words are meant to give understanding to what we have already made visible. We want the work of art to speak for itself, to stand alone, strong, needing no props.
But we are told that the words are necessary so we write them and insert them into the packets we present to the galleries and art consultants that we want to connect with. We print out the words and hang them on the walls of the galleries when we exhibit the work. We use them for press releases and other kinds of promotional outreach. And we revise and revise and revise. We change; the work changes.
I recently found in my files a statement I wrote I don’t know how many years ago. It might as well have been written by somebody else. I am no longer that person nor am I that painter. From that old statement: “My painting is about some of the things I find beautiful. Mostly it’s a shape, a mood, a human gesture.” From a later statement: “My painting is about color. I present it without reference to anything outside the painting.” And from the statement I am using now: “The focus of my work is luminous color. I paint on paper which I assemble into paintings by composing the panels into groups and adhering them to canvas or board.”
Same painter metamorphosing into the painter she wants to be.
The image above, The Good Apple, painted in 1978, is of the same mind as the oldest statement excerpted here. I still like the painting and am proud of it. But I don’t want to do that kind of painting now.