The Artist Statement: Second Writing Exercise

Before I get into another strategy for writing your artists statement I want to ask you to watch two videos.  One is of Jackson Pollock talking about his work and the other is Louise Nevelson.  The reason I posted them was not to intimidate you but because I want you to know that everyone can talk about their art in terms that are as accessible as if you’re holding a conversation and that’s what you definitely want.  You want to engage your viewer – as if you’re telling them about your process on an email or a letter or in a phone conversation.
Once late in her career, when pushed by a reporter to say that she intentionally put the sexual nature into her flower paintings, Georgia O’Keeffe said “It’s on the wall and if you don’t get it that’s too bad.”  She got up and walked away.  That was when O’Keeffe was in her 90’s and already an American Icon.  Some people thought she was downright nasty.  My theory is that she was a painting machine and she had to protect that.  The point is that most artists are not Georgia O’Keeffe and don’t have that luxury.  Even Georgia O’Keeffe said “Every artist needs a Steiglitz.”
How did that come to be that she could get away with such a statement at that point in her career.  Words.  Years of talking about her work, of Alfred Steiglitz talking about her work, of critics and reporters talking about her work. Words.  Even that reporter was trying to get words about her art out of her.
Enough about humanizing the greats, now it’s onto the second writing exercise.  I want you to get your favorite writing implement and a piece of paper or a notebook.  That writing implement could be either your favorite pen or a crayon or a quill pen or whatever your heart desires.  As long as you can make words out of it.  Sit in your most favorite place.  That can be on the floor, in an arm chair, or even in a cafe.  If you like Starbucks that will do.
Take 20 minutes and write non-stop. Don’t let your pen stop and don’t pick it up from the page.  This is a wonderful way to get into free writing.  For writers this means writing about anything that comes into your conscious from your sub-conscious.  For you there will be a theme. Writing about your art.  Don’t pick your pen up from the page without the intent of putting it back down immediately and continue for 20 minutes.  Don’t worry about editing, or how it will look to others.  Remember that ultimately you’re the only one that has to see this draft.  You can edit it later.

You may not even use the whole thing but you will definitely get prized nuggets about your art that may indeed blow your mind.  You may be surprised and not even know that you had it in you to write like that.  One of my friends is a wonderful short fiction writer and after this exercise she came up with a marvelous prose poem. We were both blown away.  She didn’t know she had it in her.  It’s an amazing exercise and I hope you find that it is. Remember that the absolute key is not to pick up your writing implement for 20 minutes.