The Artist Statement

I never liked card games much. I became modestly good at blackjack because I had to play so much of it while Bill, my friend, was learning how to count cards. He was going to be the next blackjack millionaire. It did not work out too well, and the trip back to Boston from Vegas was not our usual Frolicking Detour. More like a long slog home over unfriendly roads.
Arriving back in Boston, the last thing on our minds was more adventure. We could do with a bit of quiet. We began to hang around Back Bay art galleries, local museums, and one or two artists lofts. I was not a craftsman then; I was making my beginning efforts at carving. Bill, on the other hand, had an outsized but untrained talent. Socializing as he did more established artists around town, his work began to draw notice. He received an invitation to participate in a group exhibit at a Back Bay Church.
Bill had everything he needed except an artist’s statement to accompany the three works of his going into the exhibit. A few of his artist friends cobbled together an artist’s statement that didn’t reveal his total lack of art school education. Bill liked it. But the Philosophy and English Lit types ( all dropouts from Boston College and Boston University) got hold of it one night at the Harvard Gardens.
It started with a dramatic reading of Bill’s artist statement. Loud peals of laughter broke out. As more beer was consumed, the higher became the conviction that we could do much better for our friend.
It was the Teahead of the August Moon that suggested that we use a Mad Libs approach to correcting Bill’s statement. Mad Libs are books where a storyline is presented, but periodically words are omitted. The objective is to fill the blanks with amusing substitutions. By the time we finished, a rather modest resume had morphed into a monster. As close as I can recall it read like this:

Bill creates existentialist paintings and sculptures. With a conceptual approach, he revels in a multi-layered Aristotelian manner of work. He likes to involve viewers in ways that sometimes are metaphysical with the belief that function and form follow from meta states of reality.
The artists’ paintings directly respond to the surrounding environment and use everyday experiences from the artist as a starting point. Often these are standard references. But, by examining ambiguity and origination via retakes and variations, he engages the viewer in a Socratic dialog regarding objectification, emotions, and the investigation of the duality that develops through interpretational reality.
His works are an investigation into representations of (seemingly) concrete etudes and situations as well as depictions of ideas that can only become reified in painting.
With Plato’s allegory of the cave in mind, his work questions the documentation of real-time events. He tries to express this with the help of psychometrics and scapulamancy. At all costs, he avoids telling a story or creating a metaphor.
His works are uninterested in showing a complete epistemology. The artists’ work can easily be an interpretation without being hindered by any histrionic reality.

As written, it was printed in the exhibits brief Xeroxed catalog, and a handsome placard containing our screed was on the wall near the three contributions to the exhibit.

Of course, we all visited the exhibit opening together as a group – the Monk, the Teahead of the August Moon, the Sadist, Dutchie, English Joe, and me. We had hoped to see visitors scratching their heads over our “masterpiece.” Instead, we saw the cognoscenti sagely nodding heads, and making coy comments. As we moved about the exhibit, we tended to pay more attention to the placards with the artist’s statements on them then the artwork. A sort of sullen realization grabbed us – Bill’s fit right in with all the others. Many artist’s statements are full of hyperbole, vague statements, and references to famous people that no one has read, but that they heard about in an art history course. The artist’s statement Bill’s friends had provided avoided most of that. It was modest. We had changed that. Now it read like many of the others.

Bill did well from the exhibit. Two of the three pieces sold; one of his painted lit shadow boxes, and a triptych with rather sacrilegious imagery. He mounted the card with the artist statement over the mantle in the little basement apartment he rented in Charlestown. More than the proceeds from the show, he seemed to feel that it showed that he had arrived as an artist.
The Artist Statement Collaborative (ARC ) at the Folkie Palace began marketing our services to those less favored artists who needed our rewrite services. It provided beer money.

3 Replies to “The Artist Statement”

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