Artist's statement  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

An artist's statement (or artist statement) is a brief text composed by an artist and intended to explain, justify, and contextualize his or her body of work. Artists often have a short (50-100 word) and a long (500-1000 word) version of the same statement, and they may maintain and revise these statements throughout their careers. The writing of artists' statements is a comparatively recent phenomenon. In some respects the practice resembles the art manifesto and may derive in part from it. However, the artist's statement generally speaks for an individual rather than a collective, and it is a form not as strongly associated with the polemic. Rather, a contemporary artist may be required to submit the statement in order to tender for commissions or apply for schools, residencies, jobs, awards, and other forms of institutional support.

Negative aspects of an artist’s statement

Artist statements can be viewed as having a negative and/or detrimental effect on the artworks and art world. In a contemporary art setting it is usually a requirement/necessity to have an artist statement to accompany the artwork. When an artist is required to use text to explain his or her artwork it could be seen as an argument for the language of art being inferior or unable to convey those ideas: using text to help the viewer understand the artwork makes a statement that the artwork is unable to be understood. Attribution theory predicts that if a person is told long enough that they are unable to interpret or perceive art that they will begin to believe and agree.

Calvin and Hobbes and art and academia

Calvin and Hobbes

Watterson has used the strip to criticize the art world, principally through Calvin's unconventional creations of snowmen but also through other expressions of childhood art. When Miss Wormwood complains that he is wasting class time drawing incomprehensible things (a Stegosaurus in a rocket ship, for example), Calvin proclaims himself "on the cutting edge of the avant-garde." He begins exploring the medium of snow when a warm day melts his snowman. His next sculpture "speaks to the horror of our own mortality, inviting the viewer to contemplate the evanescence of life". In further strips, Calvin's creative instincts diversify to include sidewalk drawings (or as he terms them, examples of "suburban postmodernism").

Watterson also lampooned the academic world. Calvin writes a "revisionist autobiography", recruiting Hobbes to take pictures of him doing stereotypical kid activities like playing sports in order to make him seem more well-adjusted. In another strip, he carefully crafts an "artist's statement," claiming that such essays convey more messages than artworks themselves ever do (Hobbes blandly notes "You misspelled Weltanschauung."). He indulges in what Watterson calls "pop psychobabble" to justify his destructive rampages and shift blame to his parents, citing "toxic codependency." In one instance, he pens a book report based on the theory that the purpose of academic scholarship is to "inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity," entitled The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender Modes. Displaying his creation to Hobbes, he remarks, "Academia, here I come!" Watterson explains that he adapted this jargon (and similar examples from several other strips) from an actual book of art criticism.

Overall, Watterson's satirical essays serve to attack both sides, criticizing both the commercial mainstream and the artists who are supposed to be "outside" it. Not long after he began drawing his "Dinosaurs In Rocket Ships" series, Calvin tells Hobbes:

The hard part for us avant-garde post-modern artists is deciding whether or not to embrace commercialism. Do we allow our work to be hyped and exploited by a market that's simply hungry for the next new thing? Do we participate in a system that turns high art into low art so it's better suited for mass consumption? Of course, when an artist goes commercial, he makes a mockery of his status as an outsider and free thinker. He buys into the crass and shallow values art should transcend. He trades the integrity of his art for riches and fame. Oh, what the heck. I'll do it.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Artist's statement" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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