Art Narc: Bad Artist Statements

by Beth Secor June 3, 2008

Please Never Say That Again or I Am Going to Have to Kill You

Every one of us who has ever entered a juried show or had an exhibition or applied for a grant has had to write an artist statement. Some may argue the validity or purpose of the artist statement, but I think that as a whole, writing an artist statement is a good idea. It can help you articulate your work to others, but just as importantly it can help you figure out, among other things, what it is you are trying to speak to in your work and what is the impetus that drives you to create it. It can also help you become more aware of what it is you are doing while you’re doing it — for example, next time you paint white dots on a blue spray painted background, you can think about how each dot represents one of the maggots you found in a Hershey Bar when you were four years old and went ahead and ate anyway.

When you write a statement, you should consider that a statement is “a communication or declaration in speech or writing, setting forth facts, particulars, etc.” (From, a highly respectable source that I keep in the Bookmark Bar on my computer because when I bought a real dictionary, I accidentally bought a crummy one, and although I thought about taking it back the store to return it, I never did.)

To me, that means “think about what you are going to say before you say it, and say it in such a way that the person reading it will fully understand what you mean.”

Unfortunately, beggars cannot be choosers, and that being the case, some people (not you of course!) approach writing an artist statement as if they were:

  1. Writing a High School Essay entitled “I Think I Am Tricking You Into Believing I Read This Book, When I Actually Didn’t, But Maybe You Won’t Notice If I Keep Talking In A Really Annoying Voice That I Imagine Sounds Intelligent”
  2. Picking a series of words that they might have seen at one time in their life, but aren’t really quite sure because maybe they just dreamt them or thought they saw words, but really saw their neighbor’s kid petting a squirrel carcass and taking the series of words/squirrel carcass that they think they saw and throwing them/it into a blender on high before they pour them/it out in the driveway and run over them/it a million times.

I can’t really claim that I can honestly tell you what to write in your own statement, because that would be obnoxious. However I can help you, in my own small way, avoid some of the pitfalls you might encounter the next time you are asked to articulate your artistic vision. I have looked through literally thousands and thousands and thousands of artist statements from all over the world and found a few gems — i.e. large painful kidney stones — to share with you.

Sentences (or things that look sort of like sentences) to never ever use in your artist statement

I love art, for me it is a way to live.

A way for me to live is to never read this sentence again.

Self proclaimed “Artist for Life” [Jane Doe] feels that her art is derived from living.

It’s really hard to paint when you are dead. Unless somebody tapes a brush in your hand, and then I guess you could, kind of like de Kooning, but more dead.

Painting is my real life’s path.

You should really wait until it dries, or else you are going to track that shit all over the house.

I believe we can see beautiful art everywhere we look. I believe that by opening people to new experiences and ideas, it can open their arts to others.

Also their ivers and their idneys.

The most important thing is to be truthful to your own expression, to your own unique life.

I think in this particular instance, it would help you more if you lied.

Like this person for example:

Her works are found in private collections and some of the most famous museums in nations throughout the world

…but don’t ask me which ones because then I would have to kill you.

Somebody please save the world by releasing marine bacteria to devour this out of control oil spill.

Be that in the battles of the self or the overwhelming and confusing chaos that is our modern times, I seek to find the essence of what it means to be human today; be that the fragility or the resilience of the human animal in the face of endless and impossible questions of life itself.

Overwhelming chaos indeed.

I propose specific intervention within the experiential fabric of our surroundings, [Boston], designed to temporarily yet subtly disrupt posited “standard’ systems of experience, and thereby heighten the understanding of the unique structure of our city and our environment, etc. etc. etc.

I think an intervention is definitely a step in the right direction.

I’m sorry, but were you actually talking or were you throwing a bunch of spoons into a fan?

His different feelings or the present climate conditions, nothing less than human and day-to-day life, these are the fundamental elements that inspire creation.


His work reflects, reacts to, and collects emotions and situations.

I’m kind of imagining a mirrored pit bull with shelves and drawers.

I see myself as simply a creator of things and situations that are …the essence of everything participatory in their creation.

I wonder if the other guy collects the situations that this guy makes.

I am the artist of Nature’s Soul.
I think Nature is in trouble.
Every wrong moral concepts will be punished by God later on…

So watch out Mr. Nature’s Soul.

What is it you are really trying to say?

…it is my desire that my paintings be bought and preserved by the genuine art lovers and art collectors of the world so I have kept the prices low for each of the paintings. I have kept the prices low so that my paintings remain affordable to genuine art lovers and collectors and they can purchase them and benefit through their assets of art. .. It is my desire that some of my exquisite creations of art be bought and preserved by genuine art collectors and art lovers. [However] I think the paintings are worth a lot more. I am sure this exhibition opportunity will help me in building a bright carrier and take my life to great heights which I leave always driest of.

It’s not really very humid up there in your colorful backpack, now is it?

Oh now I understand…

My solution is that there is no solution. I will never reach Nirvana, but I am content, for finding it would mean the end of my search and that would be the most devastating day in my life.

Get ready to be devastated sweetie.

I often look around me in bewilderment.

Good, I thought it was just me. And by me, I mean you.

The moment like a silent scream will seem to last for eternity…

My thoughts exactly.

Beth Secor is an artist and a writer who hopes she is a lot nicer to people than her evil typing fingers are.

According to Ms. Secor, the first bad art image depicts her distant cousin. The next two images were painted by said distant cousin.


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McArtist June 27, 2008 - 14:20

wow…witty…sarcastic…intelligent, and writing about actual art related stuff. Marry me?

daynadehoyos July 2, 2008 - 10:19

what’s my entire artist statement doing disected like that up there?

Nauhaus July 7, 2008 - 19:03

“Don’t turn around”

Dan could feel the cold steal revover pressed neatly into the back of his scull like a roll on deoderant without the ball or the pretty smell. He had to think fast. This dame was going to be trouble, he spun around so fast he took the night away with him ….. Beth put down that gun! Pen, keyboard … whatever.

Love you Beth!

another tired cowboy July 15, 2008 - 18:55

I’d like to marry your distant cousin just to be near you and your long beautiful typing fingers.

another tired cowboy July 15, 2008 - 18:59

I’ll marry you too. In a heartbeat.

Beth July 15, 2008 - 20:01

I hope my distant cousin isn’t as obsessive and conceited as I am because then she will google her own name and find out I used her goofy dog pictures without her permission.

jimb November 13, 2008 - 09:44

Glad to see you’re branching out!

earl staley February 20, 2020 - 18:32

Not a fan of artist’s talks either


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