There’s often confusion among artists over what their artist statement, biography, and CV (curriculum vitae) should contain. Furthermore, how do you make your biography, or artist statement, interesting and readable?
I’ve read some artist statements that were nothing but gobbledygook—’artspeak’ as I like to call it. The words were proper words, the sentences were properly constructed, but I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what they were talking about. They came across as pretentious and meaningless.
Those kinds of statements do nothing to endear artists to the general population; just the opposite, they create an elitist rarified atmosphere where the average person does not feel welcome. Not exactly what one wants to achieve with their statement.
First of all, let’s talk about the difference between the statement and the biography. The main difference is this: a biography is about the artist, while an artiststatement is about the work.
The artist’s biography
The biography sets out where the artist is from, the educational background, exhibitions, affiliations, awards, and so on. This can include why you paint and what you hope to achieve.
The biography should be a one or two-page document. It should be short and concise, but informative and up-to-date. Details of your childhood experiences with art are not really relevant. Do talk about what led you to paint (or whatever your art form is), but keep it current and interesting, and please, use regular, ordinary language.
The artist statement
The artist statement is about the work. It can be a general-purpose statement that relates to all your work, or it can be a specific-purpose statement that relates only to part of your work.
For example, if you are applying for a show at a gallery, you would be presenting a specific body of work, so for that purpose, the statement would pertain only to that particular series.
Your artist statement should set out why you produce the work, what led you to making this work, what the work means or represents, and how it is relevant to viewers, or to society as a whole.
The CV (or curriculum vitae)
The CV is an expanded biography. It can start off the same as your biography but should also include details of your past exhibitions, publications, collections, etc.
A CV is like a resume, in a way. It should be more business-like in format and appearance, making use of bullet points and lists where appropriate.
The combined statement
In many cases, the most versatile and convenient way to impart our information is to combine both the biography and the statement. In other words, talk about both yourself and your work.
This combined statement should remain short and to the point. Make it current and interesting; informative and meaningful. And remember to update your combined statement as often as possible—that, more than anything, will keep it from getting stagnant, boring, and obsolete.