- On October 26, 2015
Is Talking About Your Art Painful?
Strategies for Artists to Communicate Intent
In a previous post we discussed the idea that artists and viewers are connected in an informal collaboration which completes the interactive experience which we call “art”.
This addresses the idea that no matter the artist’s intention, every viewer will bring their own life experiences and biases to the table and experience the artwork in unique ways.
As magical as this can be, there are times when it is desirable to direct the viewer’s perception (as much as possible) down the paths you intended. This is where the artist’s ability to communicate becomes critical.
Whether this communication is in the form of an artist’s statement, lecture, or speaking with potential patrons at an opening, the ability to clearly communicate your intent, motivation, and process can greatly impact the viewer’s ability to align their perceptions with your vision.
If there is hidden meaning behind your work, say so- don’t keep your art a mystery unless that mystery is necessary to the art.
An artist’s statement is an excellent starting point, which helps you to refine your ideas and find comfortable language for expressing them. As a tool for communicating your vision, it should “feel” like you and your art. Use this to guide you in presenting your art.
There are as many approaches to writing an artist’s statement as there are artists, but the goal remains the same: give your viewer information which will encourage deeper access to your work. We will be addressing this in a future article, so please send us your thoughts on what makes a strong artist’s statement in the comments below.
If you are naturally shy or uncomfortable with public speaking, the thought of speaking to patrons might seem daunting. If so, use your artist’s statement as a guide and practice at home with your mirror or with friends who can give you supportive (but honest) feedback. Consider joining groups like Toast Masters, or Speakers In Colorado, which endeavor to polish their member’s speaking skills.
However you present the information, there are a few key ideas you should be ready to communicate:
- An overview: Your “elevator speech” should convey your essence as an artist and what drives you to create. This should feel genuine and is not a verbal CV. Resist the urge to name drop or go too in-depth. Every artist will have a unique voice and you should stay true to yours.
- More Detail: This is another layer deep, so more detail is generally welcome. You might discuss a particular project or series and explore some of the ideas that drove the work as well as the results. You won’t engage every person you speak with at this level, but those with whom you do, will appreciate the look inside your mind.
For example: “I’ve been interested in creating temporary, unexpected, intimacy between people. To explore this, I built a “confessional” which was installed on the streets of NYC, inviting anonymous strangers to share intimate secrets. Participant entered the booth, unaware that others entered from another direction and alternately served as either confessor or cleric. As they left the booth, both participants were discharged into the same short (but still private) hallway where some level of interaction was nearly guaranteed. The unexpected connections between these strangers, who now knew something very intimate about the other, were beautiful.”
- What’s Next: Many collectors thrive on feeling included and “in the know”. By talking about what you are working on now and the directions your thoughts are running for the future, you bring someone inside your confidence and build connections. Remember, that while you must maintain authenticity and integrity, you are at work and must represent you art to the best of your abilities.
For example: “This fall I’m excited to have been invited to Toronto to create a temporary installation which will engage the public through cooperative music-making. I don’t want to give too much away, but I just teamed up with a robotics expert and a cellist, so good things are in the works!”
This doesn’t give away all of your process or come across as boastful. It inspires intrigue and shows that you are a dynamic creator without becoming overly self-centered. As with any conversation, this is a two-way street, so remember to be a good listener as well as speaker.
Whatever your comfort level or the means of communicating, remember that your goal is connecting your audience with your art in a deeper, more personal way. Bear this in mind and look for genuine ways to facilitate this connection, while still maintaining your wonderful uniqueness.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas