An artist statement is a document often included with your CV for galleries, museums, grants, residencies and teaching positions. A well-written artist statement will provide background information to enhance a viewer’s appreciation of your artwork. Information can include but is not limited to origin, process, artistic influences, or purpose.
What you say can depend on the use of the statement. If it’s submitted for a specific exhibition, then the statement may be specific to that work. If it’s combined with grant or residency applications, for example, then it may be more generalized about your work and creative process.
It can be tough to summarize and articulate your creative process in several paragraphs, so consider approaching your statement like a critique. How would you explain and defend your work in a critique at RISD? To start, jot down your thoughts in a free-form manner so that you can begin to get them organized for a final document.
Focus on the things that matter most to you such as color, mark, composition, materials, concept, and process. Include some concrete details correlated to the work that is to be seen. Note influences, if applicable, including other artists, historical references, relevant current events, etc.
It’s very helpful to review the statements of other artists before you write yours. You can often find examples of these on artists’ websites, so check those of RISD alumni and students or explore the websites of galleries you admire, as many of them include CVs and statements from the artists they represent.
Be descriptive and personal, but clear in your reasoning, and substantiate concepts and ideas. Use care with artistic terms and jargon, and avoid excessively stereotypical ‘artsy’ language.
One page is the standard and usually 2 to 4 paragraphs will suffice. Although an important reflection on your work, the statement is simultaneously a bit of promotion and should be long enough to have substance but short enough for a quick read.