The Artist Statement: Often Dreaded, Usually Necessary

Why talk when you can paint?
A fellow art student used this as her mantra. I liked it. But as a working artist, it just doesn't fly.

I spent a good part of last weekend updating my Artist Statement. Why? Because. That's why. Because this:

1. The Statement is important. It's a written accompaniment to the visual work, or so one is told. The artist comes to a fuller awareness of this as his/her career developments.
2. My present Statement was not descriptive enough. See #3.
3. I recently had an epiphany about my creative path, my work's focus. An update was needed to reflect this.
4. Quiet contemplation about my work--what I really wanted it to communicate, if I could express it in words--revealed some new truths.
5. Inspiration presented itself, in the literary sense. I had to put into words those thoughts about the artwork, lest they disappear. Surely every writer can relate very well to this.
6. It helps to put into words what the work is "about", so the artist becomes more adept at speaking publicly about his/her art.

The Statement is vital for one's career, whether emerging or mid-career. Those "late"-career artists (it this really an appropriate term? It's a bit like "late" life. Another topic....) Anyway, those late-career artists or young artist rock stars don't appear to use or need the formal written Statement. By the time they've reached a phase of their career- successful artists with mature bodies of work and impressive resumes- they've been interviewed and reviewed so many times, that having to produce a Statement might seem like career back-tracking, redundant in a way. The art world knows who these artists are, and it's well aware of their work. Interviews, lectures and other speaking engagements, texts- articles, books- become enough to render a written "Artist Statement" obsolete for these late-career and young rock-star artists. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong. I'm merely making an observation.

So here's mine:

Throughout my career, color has been the main vehicle for expressing content. I am interested in the aesthetics of color and color’s potential for communicating the intangible. I paint intuitively, guided by dynamic interrelationships of color to space and shape; and by experience, place and time. My vibrant palette is influenced by years of living on a Caribbean island, where the light is intense and colors are used with abandon.

The Paradise Project is my ongoing body of paintings divided into three groups:
The Monochromes are made from multiple paint layers of a single hue, with subtle nuances- uneven ridges, shapes or patterns left during the application process, or in the medium as it dries; areas of thick and thin paint; and varying degrees of color saturation.
The Shapes are comprised of schematic color contrasts forming lines, blobs, squares and biomorphic shapes. My brushwork is informal, as evident in the uneven edges and drips. Positive and negative space, figure and ground, are equally resonant.
The Block Paintings are composed from small monochrome paintings attached to larger painted panels with cradled sides. As three-dimensional works, the Block Paintings are rather like sculptures- blocks of lush, vibrant hues.
In each of these groups, either the painting is an image (The Monochromes); it contains an image (The Shapes); or both (The Block Paintings).

Titles are critical to my work. I use surf terminology and tropical references as metaphors to elicit a guided response, thereby establishing connections between art and viewer, triggering associations and connotations. I view titles as an opening to further thought processes about the work.

Informed by cultural elements, personal experiences and visual stimuli, my art is referential, alluding to escapism, isolation, perception, and longing.

Creative expression is the poetry of life- a record of one’s dedication, obsession, meditation and reason.

-Stephanie Clayton, 2009

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