How to Write an Artist’s Statement

Working at a nonprofit organization means that I get to work with artists at every stage of their careers. Some have never shown their work in public before, some are just starting to gain a following, and others have twenty years of national and international work behind them. One thing we like to do at Xico is help emerging artists with their questions, mostly by referring them to other artists who’ve been there. In that spirit, here’s a guide to something that scares a lot of new artists: writing an artist’s statement.

1. Yes, you need to have an artist’s statement. Even if you’re like local artist Susi Lerma who says ” I hate writing artists statements…can’t lie. Every painting has a different story and everyone who sees it bring their own point of view.” Galleries will want to see it, art collectors will want to see it, and you can put it on your website when you get a website. It’s also great to have something already prepared when someone asks “What kind of art do you do?”

2. What is an artist’s statement? It’s a paragraph or two that answers the questions “who are you and what do you do as an artist?” Don’t feel like you need big words and high concepts here. Carolina Kondo from the CALA Alliance says “I think the hardest part about writing one is trying to sound fresh–I would try to avoid cliches such as: “exploration of….” “meditation on..” or describing your own work as “striking” or “moving.” I would much rather read a very personal account of your art work than a high-brow justification of it.”

3.  Tell  a story. People like stories. When someone buys your artwork, they’re not paying for paint, or canvas, they’re paying for the story behind the work. Local artist Manny Burruel put it neatly: “Don’t talk about yourself in third person. Write as if you were explaining your art to your friends. In my opinion, the goal is to be genuine and inclusive.”

4. Bonus Question: What is the difference between an artist’s bio and an artist’s statement? A bio is usually longer and includes the artist’s statement but also has additional information about the artist’s life and highlights from the artist’s resume.

Finally, check out great examples of artist’s statements from a couple of Xico’s participating artists: Joe Ray, and Frank Ybarra

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