The Artist Statement that Opened Doors

When Carmen Mariscal contacted me from France last year about artist coaching she wanted help writing a grant application. Soon, we realized that before working on the application, she needed to revamp and write a new artist statement. That statement took months. The process included my interviewing her via Skype from her home in Paris, then she did several writing assignments, then I edited, then she re-wrote. It was like making a piece of art!

I kept noticing when we talked or when she answered my incessant questions in writing, all the stories Carmen had about her work. It felt right that her artist statement contain these stories especially the one about an accident she’d had that changed her life and a family heirloom given to her by her great grandmother. I also noticed that she made many different kinds of work where objects were “trapped” or “preserved.” The vitrines she refers to below are reminiscent of much of her work.

I was delighted to receive this email from Carmen last week about how the artist statement opened this door for her:

Thanks to the artist statement that I wrote with your wonderful coaching I got an interview at a Museum in Brussels. The space is perfect for my work and that is because before giving me the interview the curator learned about my car accident and my great grandmother's wedding dress. She had previously curated a Frida Kahlo exhibition and the museum where she works now is full of old objects in vitrines. Without the statement she would have never given me an interview and we are talking about the possibility of me doing site-specific work in the middle of the museum's collection!

I tell this story so that it helps you when you feel doubt about all the hard work that goes into writing a statement. At my lowest moments, I think to myself: Why am I doing this? Nobody’s ever gonna read it anyway.

Well, the truth is that people do read statements. And even just the writing of the statement strengthened Carmen’s sense of her work and gave her a clearer picture of how all the threads of her life and work weaved together.

Try this over the weekend: tell a life story that changed you as an artist or write about an object that holds great meaning for your work. These stories may inform your new, revamped statement.