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Pondering the Artist Statement

Is brevity the soul of wit, or just a cop-out in the face of a time crunch?

In one of my many lives, I am a portrait/event photographer. I have taken pictures of families, graduating students, Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, and sports events. In May, I will be having a show of some of this art at a local art center.  (More on that as it gets closer.)

What is worrying me today is that I have to submit an “Artist’s Statement” for this event, and it’s been a struggle.

It turns out that the only thing less pleasant than reading an artist statement is attempting to write a decent artist statement. It’s ridiculously challenging to put into words why one is moved to create art or the thought processes that are expressed in a particular set of artistic pieces.

Inevitably the writing is either too florid:

“My mosaic marks the unfinished engagement of a myriad of reflecting lights, a chiaroscuro where the resplendent effulgence of the morning star struggles with Herculean vitality against the Cimmerian shade, where a glistening crystalline nimbus confounds tenebrous murkiness, or at least makes an uneasy peace with her ...”

Or sometimes, too academic:

“For thousands of years, pottery has been a practical form of artistic expression. Like the biscuit molds of the 5th century Etruscans, or perhaps more like the slipcasting common in the T’ang dynasty, my pottery attempts to preserve in perpetuity the images of everyday life, while retaining a decided utility. I myself follow the ash glazing process pioneered by Catawba Valley, though I favor ash derived from arable crop wastes to the more common kiln-combustion waste.  I believe this makes for a more arresting image on the lower third of the final product.”

Or just plain boring :

I started painting when Aunt Helen gave me my first set of watercolors on my ninth birthday. For the next few years, I focused on replicating realistic renditions of the family pets. In high school, I began painting bucolic scenes from nature. By the time, the college years rolled around ...”

Er, what? Where was I?

You get the idea.

My mistakes tend in yet another direction; I often err on the side of brevity.  Recently, I sent this winner of an artist statement in to the Belmont Gallery of Art for their portrait show “See You, See Me!”, in which I had three photographs on display:

“Lisa Gibalerio is a Belmont mother of three, wife, writer and photographer.  Lisa specializes in family photography and you can find her weekly column ‘Slices of Life’ at Patch.Com.”

While less is often more, I must confess that I was simply short on time and opted to take the easy way out.

To build on that those two sentences, I’ve been attempting to pull this together for my upcoming photography show. Here’s my current draft:

“Shortly before my third birthday, my mother became gravely ill with lupus, a chronic and debilitating illness. It follows that the most central figure in my world was a person whose health was constantly vulnerable. I grasped early on a sense of how fleeting life is.

“When I was 12, I received my first camera as a Christmas gift. Then as now, taking pictures was about preserving memories and freezing images.

“I remember realizing long ago that while the people I love will not always be around, I can cherish the photographs I have taken of them. Photos became a source of comfort in the face of permanent separation.

“So, I guess you could say, that death has been a driving force for me as a photographer. But I prefer to think of photography as a quest to capture life, to seize a moment in time, and hold on to it forever.

“These portraits of my family and friends represent such moments in time.

“Thank you for coming and I hope you enjoy the exhibit.”

That’s not so bad, I guess.

But should this fail, I am resorting to an artist statement in Haiku:

Photography is -

Capturing light and loved ones

Forever, always.

If the Haiku fails, it’s hari-kari. I hear that can be an “artist’s statement” as well.

Anne S. Katzeff January 05, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Lisa, I like your current artist statement. It's very personal and people can relate to what you're saying. Looking forward to your upcoming show. best wishes, Anne S. Katzeff
Lisa Gibalerio January 07, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Thank you, Anne, I appreciate the support!
Sandy Kane January 11, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Lisa, the Haiku is perfect. Go with it. Keep it short and light. Nobody reads the long bios, believe me. I'm psyched you're having a show soon!

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