Garrison Arts Center class looks at ‘Art Blogging’ and ‘Artist Statement’
By Alison Rooney
Talent or expertise in one art form doesn’t always translate into the same in another. Although many visual artists also enjoy a great facility with words, many others are filled with dread at the thought of coming up with the “artist statement” usually requisite for submitting and promoting work. Providing an accurate and provocative description of the work in a succinct, communicative way is a necessity nowadays.
A new workshop at Garrison Art Center, “How to Write a Good Artist Statement,” taught by Faheem Haider, offers artists an opportunity to consider their work in linguistic form, and shows how to chisel and shape excess verbiage into something they feel accurately represents them. The workshop will meet twice, Nov. 13 and 20, from 6 to 9 p.m. Haider, an artist, writer, art blogger and art critic, will also be teaching a separate workshop on art writing and blogging, Oct. 30 and Nov. 7, also from 6 to 9. Each costs $40, with a reduced rate of $20 for Art Center members.
Haider feels that artist statements function as an extension of the art itself and should, when done correctly, resonate and become a part of the work overall. Having heard numerous organizations “bemoan the state of communication,” he hopes to galvanize workshop participants to “think / do / make and disseminate.”
Both series of classes are aimed at “artists, non-makers, curators — it’s pitched at makers, but can be conceptualist too,” and focus on common pitfalls one should become aware of and avoid. This can extend to phraseology; Haider notes that “art cannot ‘do’ — it can mimic, or represent, but not ‘do.’”
He has also seen his fill of “people with MFA training, who have read the great writers and then themselves write in a faux style, in a way which doesn’t reach people. I’m judging from the perspective of the gallery-goer. Your art must function in the real world, so it by itself does not have ‘spiritual resonance,’ although it can evoke a spiritual resonance in you, the artist.
“I’m aiming for sharp thinking … meaty, rather than supercilious and superficial. In the same way you might talk about your art, you can reanimate your statement — in just three or four sentences … basically it should be what the work comes from, what motivates it and how you hope others will interact with it … The statement should talk to people at different levels. Don’t think any curator is any more educated and cultured than you are, and instead use your own words and not words to impress.”
Haider describes himself as “deathly afraid of subjecting my work to judgment, and maybe that’s why I started writing about my own art.” This writing led him to write about others. Emulating renowned art critic Robert Hughes, whom he paraphrased as saying something like “use words to track the truth,” Haider, living for stretches of time in Paris, London and New York City, “saw canonical pieces and started blogging about it.”
He did this for several years before returning to the Hudson Valley, where he grew up, and writing about art for Chronogram. “I didn’t actually have many connections with artists themselves, but I spent a great deal of time looking at the work; my privilege was to be in front of art, and I had carte blanche to see a lot of it … I took it upon myself to convey to an audience I didn’t know, my experience — this is what I think of the work, and this is why it matters to me. I grounded my writing from the point of view of a critic. Most artists don’t have that privilege and need guidance in how to articulate their experiences in their communication about their art.”
In crafting statements, Haider said it is often important to describe how past experiences inform present work and not just “tell” but show how and why. “Writing about their art becomes something that many artists feel they have to drudge through,” he said. “Facing a blank page can be deadly difficult, but what I hope to do is to impart a part of the passion that led to the creation of the art to the statement about it. The way the statement is written should reflect the art itself; for instance if you’re a realist painter, your words shouldn’t be floating in the clouds — you need nouns and you need to be grounded … Every bit of it should come from the core and shouldn’t be this thing you have to do … It’s equipping people with a bunch of tools that they have to keep sharpening.”
For more information and to register for either workshop, visit garrisonartcenter.org or phone 845-424-3960. Other classes also start soon at the center:
Silkscreen Printing/Teens and Adults with Michael Mueller starts Oct. 30, 6 – 8 p.m.
Comics – Drawing and Writing with Summer Pierre resumes Nov. 1, 2 – 4 p.m.
Fused Glass with Barbara Galazzo starts Nov. 4, 6 – 9 p.m.
Pre-K Arts with Kate Daley resumes Nov. 5, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Introduction to Watercolor with Linda Barboni resumes Nov. 7, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Portrait Drawing with P. Emmett McLaughlin starts Nov. 10, 6 – 9 p.m. (new start date)
Collage and Sculpture for 7- to 10-year-olds with Jaynie Gillman Crimmins starts Nov. 18, 3:30 – 4:45 p.m.
Collage & Assemblage for Adults with Jaynie Gillman Crimmins starts Nov. 18, 6 – 8 p.m.
Beginning Fiddle & Mandolin with Harry Bolick meets Thursdays 7:30 – 9 p.m.
Discover Abstract Painting with Martee Levi meets Wednesdays 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Drop-in Drawing and Painting From Life, monitored only, meets Mondays 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.