I’ve edited artist statements for several artists whose second language is English. I appreciate how each of them recognized the need for an editor – as should all writers of artist statements – and carefully selected their words.
A recent client was a South Korean photographer in the southern US, and she was submitting her work to the prestigious photography competition – PhotoLucida Critical Mass 2014.
Below is one juror’s advice about the artist statement, contained in the entry guidelines. This is just an excerpt. The longer version conveys more exasperation, a tone I see over and over again from art professionals who are fed up. I understand the juror’s viewpoint; I’ve been there myself. However, my sympathies are with the artist, most of whom cannot find clear instruction or information on How To Write an Artist Statement!
I’m sharing the juror’s notes because they convey the importance of words + visuals. Without a doubt, words help your work get noticed and respected.
CRITICAL MASS 2014: ONLINE ENTRY GUIDELINES
Notes from a Juror on the Artist Statement –
One of the biggest problems I have seen consistently during the reviews that I have participated in over the last ten years is that many photographers do not know how to talk or write cogently about their work…
While I believe strongly that the work must speak for itself, and that no amount of verbal deconstruction will make up for a poorly-conceived or executed idea, a good artist’s statement is essential if the photographer has any desire for recognition or progress, as well as to gain as much as possible from the review process. I have found over the years that the photographers who can speak or write clearly about their work also produce the most affecting and powerful images.
One could argue that there is an inherent paradox in asking photographers to speak or write about their work; presumably if they could do it in words they would be writers, not visual artists. However, just as the best works of fiction or non-fiction engage the reader on a number of different levels, so do the best works of art and photography. To read something really clear about the artist’s vision and process enhances the viewer’s experience of the work and, in the review setting—where often a photographer is presenting the germ of an idea as opposed to a fully-realized project- can make the difference between the reviewer not having a clue what the artist is up to and therefore giving a less favorable comment, and being able to provide constructive feedback. This is why I always read the artist statement. (continued)
–Joanna Hurley, Juror, Critical Mass 2014