This article is written by Guest Blogger, Y. Hope Osborn – reprinted with permission from Fusion Art.
"Blessed are the weird people: poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters, troubadours for they teach us to see the world through different eyes." - Jacob Nordby
If you are like me and your art education consists of a lifetime of hobby photography and expression through a multitude of avenues not typically connected to art as it is to artisan, you may balk at the idea of writing an artist statement or biography. You either avoid those competitions or grants where they are required, or you throw something together afraid of your own writing because you remember all those red ink pen marks in English class.
Artist Lisa Golightly wrote, “There is no ‘right’ way to make art. The only wrong is in not trying, not doing. Don’t put barriers [such as a red pen] that aren’t there—just get to work and make something.” There are a lot of good guidelines Fusion Art and Light Space & Time provides in their blogs and newsletters, and I could get into those, but this is about the importance of writing the artist statement and bio. Get to work and make something.
Think like artists’ Georgia O’Keeffe, “… Making your unknown known is the important thing” and Jacob Nordby, “Teach us to see the world through different eyes.” Think of your artist statement and biography as an extension of you and your art. How you write about you and your art is important because they show the juror or curator that you are an intentional artist. This is not a whim. The juror or curator wants to see what true artists like yourself can do, making your unknown known—who you are in your life in your bio and teaching us to see through different eyes—how you see the art in your artist statement.
“Every artist was first an amateur.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am not a ‘typical’ artist with a degree or a lifetime of experience to introduce myself in a bio. However, I have all my life been interested in photography and crafting things. I also had the tenacity to get a masters’ degree though it is in writing nonfiction. Make what you have been doing as a person and as an emerging artist work for you, because if you are truly an artist, you have done something all your life to prove it, even if in a different medium. Show your audience of art lovers, curators, and jurors who you are as a person, including your quirks, your loves, and the latest, and you connect with them personally. Introduce us as if someone else is introducing you before you go on stage.
"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light, and shadows." - Jim Jarmusch
Art lovers, jurors, and curators want to converse with you over your art in your artist statement. Georgia O’Keeffe “found [she] could say things with color and shapes that [she] couldn’t say any other way—things [she] had no words for,” so it can be difficult to write an artist statement. Did the sun glint off a stained-glass piece hanging in your window? Did the wind stir windchimes making you feel alive or sad? Find those keywords about yourself that represent you and your art. We want to know the essence that comes from you both in general artistry and specific art. What do you feel? What do you know that we don’t know? Leave room, though, for the art enthusiast’s imagination. Welcome them into yours as a pitstop on the way to their own.
Your bio and statement are important for opening doors. It introduces you to the general art lover, juror, or curator, and other artists. Think of it as something that influences beyond this art competition or this experience. This is what they might discover of you in our web-fueled world, and it may just be your ticket in for you to get a call about another opportunity.
Think of the artist statement and bio as the third leg in a three-legged stool of your art. Your art falls flat if we don’t know who you are and what you are about as an artist. Forget the red marks, make your own art education, tell us who you are, and you will stand tall among fellow artists.
Y. Hope Osborn is a photographer, digital artist and writer. She helps artists and other creatives with writing, editing and revising their artist statements and bios. Hope can be contacted through her email or her website, where you can also see her photography and digital art.