• Carol Wiebe

The Artist Statement Can Be an Exercise in Indecisiveness


The distillation of purpose required for describing one’s work is immense: you want some profundity without pompousness, sincerity without preciousness, honesty without unnecessary exposure. When I try to explain why I do art, indecisiveness assails me. Am I bravely exploring my inner landscape, or wallowing in excessive introspection and self-indulgence? Am I thinking too hard, feeling too much–or not enough? Would it be more succinct to say: “I just love doing art, dammit, and can’t seem to stop!” Or “I just do it, and try to figure it all out later! ” Or maybe, “Gosh, my guess is as good as yours! Hit me with your best shot!”

Perhaps a timer would be appropriate: stream of consciousness writing until the ding, and it’s done. Hmmm, that could get pretty hilarious. And probably quite revealing. I dare you to try it: I double dare you.

A number of years ago I met an artist who refused to tell others what his paintings “meant.” My observation told me that this annoyed people, at least those I saw asking, to no end. They were insulted that the artist would not honor their curiosity, which they seemed to consider a compliment that he should “repay.” Either he was withholding out of a sense of “superiority,” or he really didn’t know, wasn’t able to say, and was, therefore, a sham.

When I think back to the discussion and hurt feelings, coupled with my marathon writing session for writing five lines to describe my wall hanging, I wonder if he wasn’t just trying to conserve his energy!

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