Artist Statements Need Shorthand!

Now that Autumn is on the horizon and universities are revving back up- its grant writing time! (Artists write statements for jobs, teaching gigs, galleries etc.)


Ok so some people enjoy writing, but I’m convinced no one likes writing about themselves. It’s boring, arrogant and self-centered. But as an artist, and sometimes even for job cover letters, we have to talk ourselves up! Because I write such docs often I scourge the statements of nearly anyone I come across in my field of art and design online and sometimes in person. Hey man, can I see your last artist statement? Just curious…

As an artist, my ideas, projects and materials change often, so I highly suggest updating your statement every 6 months. What the hell have you been doing this week? Not sure, but I can promise you it’s likely not exactly what you were thinking about or reading or attending last year.

Some artists write a sentence, while others write 4 pages. Some give their life story, while others mumble on and on about how science, philosophy and goats intersect–ramblings and rants that only make sense in your head do not help anyone understand what it is you do in your studio.

A lot of people think the more complex your statement sounds, the more impressive it must be. Not true. When someone is trying to determine whether you should get their money, time, job, or gig, this is the time to be clear. The art world itself has a certain vernacular for describing things and many people believe we have to keep using keywords like: identity politics, interdisciplinary, inspired by pop-culture, a performance or happening (just because someone saw you talking or drawing doesn’t make it a performance) I mean, was it even deliberate or planned ahead of time?

Artists also seem to love claiming their birthplace or ethnic history just to sound more exotic. (Which if this were more sincere and relevant to your interests I wouldn’t even bring up.) Take me for example, I’m not a Black artist born, “in a city I never grew up in but think is cooler than the place I actually did grow up in and why did my parents have to move? Oh, and I paint,” I’m an artist who develops paintings that discuss Black history and heritage. At this level it seems like simple semantics, but when an artist is showing at the Whitney it directs how the work will be “considered.”

A clear message is what I will be posting here today. I want the world to know just what I mean when I tell you I’m an interdisciplinary artist with a focus upon autobiographical content regarding race, class, feminism and myth. It’s truly as simple as this:

“I am a visual artist. I make things. A lot of things.

Many of these things are made about my family.

Some are made for my family.

I like to share the things I make with people.

It’s fun to know your family is a lot like mine.

It’s exciting to learn of the differences.

I really just want to make things, and talk to you about them.

Then, you can show me what you make, and we can talk about them too.

From there, we can make something together.”

It’s really that easy. So now what I’m going to do is take this simple truth and articulate it for the academics and foundations with money to burn.

-More to come on this topic soon! -C.Long

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