I’ve never had an appreciation for artists’ statements. I’ve read plenty over the years and ended up more confused than anything, leaving with the impression that someone had spent more time crafting the artist statement than time in the studio. I was always fascinated by the art of what I think of today as the great masters, who… as far as I know, didn’t put stock in Artist statements. An artist is not something you choose to be, it has to be something you become after many years of perseverance and struggle to hone your skills to create something that stirs the soul, hopefully “a thing” of lasting value, and the Artists’ statement is in the body of the Artists work, unless the viewer has no idea what he or she is looking at.
Having owned a set of oils from the time I was twelve, I could hardly get my mind around the difficulty of capturing proper tones and values without ending in a muddy mess. By the time I attended art school I made some progress and thought going to the Minneapolis Institute of Art on field trips was exhilarating. When the Picasso exhibit came to the twin cities, in 1980-81 I went to see what all the fuss was about. I had heard plenty about Picasso and was unimpressed to say the least. Someone in the last century had decided to throw out the rule book, I’m sure this was exciting to many who thought it would be convenient to call themselves artists’. No more studying anatomy, proportion, gray scales, color, composition. I remember a red board leaning against a wall in the contemporary section of the Minneapolis Institute of Art a few years ago. I thought it was a discarded piece of construction debris. I was wrong, it had a title, and it was simply called “red board”. I remember thinking this might need some explanation, maybe an “Artist statement” It seems that many in today’s society have turned everything upside down… what once was up, is now down, what was down is now up, what was once right, is now wrong, what was once wrong, is now celebrated as right, what was out is in, what was in is out. Those who used to celebrate free speech now want to shut everyone else down. Those who used to complain of being bullied are now the bully’s. Those who preached tolerance are now the intolerant.
JFK once said that art is a reflection of society, and the artist is the standard bearer of the individual mind of the time. Robert Frost was quoted as saying the artist is often a solitary figure, who often has a lovers quarrel with the world, pursuing his or her perception, often sailing against the currents of the time and not always popular in this role. If the current trend is all in this same direction, I choose to not go with the flow. Its wishful thinking that someday I and others like me will be celebrated for not conforming to the decline of our society but in the very least I hope to not contribute to its demise.