Talking about art is like dancing about architecture

I’m working on a new site, and have been thinking about different ways to present my work, and thinking about artist statements.  Even if you don’t end up sharing it with anyone, the exercise of thinking and writing about it can be really helpful, bringing clarity to what you do, and where you want to go.

But do you really have to articulate what your work means?  Is this even possible with words?  As Steve Martin said, “talking about art is like dancing about architecture.”

That said, I’ve been looking around at how other people talk about their work.  I am drawn to statements that sound like a normal person talking.  Like this one from House Hunter Todd Hido, via 20×200:

“People ask me how I find my pictures. I tell them I drive around. I drive and drive and I mostly don’t find anything that is interesting to me. But then, something calls out. Something that looks sort of off or maybe an empty space. Sometimes it’s a sad scene. I like that kind of stuff. So I take the photos and some are good. And I keep driving and looking and taking pictures.”
Does this tell us what the work means?  Not really.  But do we have a deeper understanding of his work?  Sure.  So does this really count as an “artist statement?” 

Who cares?

It’s frustrating to have to pick up a thesaurus to get through a really wordy, esoteric statement.  Getting caught up in layers of “artspeak” seems like a great way to alienate and exclude people from formulating their own ideas about the work. 

Emily Shur (amazing floating donut pic) wrote about this conundrum a while back:

“Why can’t we just take pictures?  I always feel as though there’s supposed to be some deeper meaning behind my pictures, a meaning other than ‘Something inside me connected with what I saw in front of me, so I pulled out my camera and took a picture.’  That does not seem to fly as an artist statement.  Why, I’m not sure.”   

Or as ninja master Garry Winogrand said, in fewer words:

“I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs.”

Enough said.

See full post here: deconstruction2010-12-16.