Make a Statement

Mark Robert Barry
UH 210 – Studioless Art & Creative Process
The University of Alabama


This assignment requires students to study a body of work made by an artist other than themselves, and then write an artist statement for that work as if they were, in fact, the artist.

This forces a level of critical and conceptual engagement not often given toward another artist’s work. This type of artistic inquiry aims to collapse distinctions between a creative and critical practice.

An artist statement is less about physically describing the work and more about contextualizing its creation story and offering insights into the possible meaning and purpose behind the artists inquiry for the viewer.


  • Pursue critical interpretations of art.
  • Practice researching and writing about art.
  • Increase exposure to unfamiliar artists and ideas.


  • Students are directed to a collection of images that contain work from 3 artists. It is important that the students are not familiar with the artists or their work. The artist’s names and the titles of the artwork are withheld.
  • Each student selects 1 of the 3 bodies of work with which to proceed.
  • Students then write an artist statement about the selected artworks as if they were their own.


Write an artist statement about the chosen body of artwork. The student’s statement should be written as if the artwork were their own and they are the artist. For the student’s artists statement to be believable, they will need to do a great deal of looking and time will need to be spent making considerations as to how and why they made this work. What questions were they investigating through the making process? How does this body of work answer those questions? Does it, or does it just conjure more questions? These are just some of the questions that students could ask themselves when writing their statements.

The final statement should be written (100-1000 words), and submitted to Blackboard.

**Students are encouraged to elaborate upon their statements with other creative explorations (video, art, music, etc.) if they so chose.**

Required viewing

  1. “The Question Why” – Interview with Bill Viola
  2. Richard Tuttle: Art & Life (Art21 excerpt)
  3. Judy Pfaff: Making & Feeling (Art21 excerpt)
  4. “Writing an artist’s statement” by Gwenn Seemel

Required reading

  1. The Anti-artist-statement Statement
  2. Art Narc: Bad Artist Statements
  3. Your Artist Statement: Explaining the Unexplainable

A range of artist statement samples

Robert Rauschenberg

“Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.)”

Link to source.

David Hockney

“The computer is a useful tool. Photoshop is a computer tool for picture making. It in effect allows you to draw directly in a printing machine, one of its many uses. One draws with the colours the printing machine has, and the printing machine is one anyone can have. They are now superior to any other kind of printing, but because its very slow, of limited commercial appeal.

I used to think the computer was too slow for a draughtsman. You had finished a line, and the computer was 15 seconds later, an absurd position for someone drawing, but things have improved, and it now enables one to draw very freely and fast with colour. There a advantages and disadvantages to anything new in mediums for artists, but the speed allowed here with colour is something new, swapping brushes in the hand with oil or watercolour takes time. These prints are made by drawing and collage, they exist either in the computer or on a piece of paper, they were made for printing, and so will be, printed. They are not photographic reproductions. My idea is to make them in small editions between 7 and 25.”

Link to source

James Surls

“Looking at art is like receiving messages from a special perspective artist like Magritte, Kahlo, Cornell, or Calder, all speaking with clarity and pushing me further. But my art is not about anyone else. It is about me. Great art is a true portrait of its creator, a part of the whole from which it springs. (…)

But things are not always what they seem. Life is the paradox between the edges. So, if you must judge me, judge me by the truth of my existence. I belong front-and-center to the American landscape. If you must place me, place me in the bones of Louise Bourgeois. She has spoken from the beginning in a clear and strong voice. She still sweeps dust from the art world with a fine cloth. If you must place me, place me in the heart of Clyde Connel. She is one who looks and listens and sees and hears and knows. She is the one who gifts our world with the purity of truth. If you must compare me, compare me with them.”

Link to source

Aaron S. Moran

Works that explore tension between materials
Works that explore tension between objects and space
Works that address the art object in relation to commodity
Works that draw on the uncanny or absurd as viewed within the everyday

Link to source

Charlotte Young

Student Statment Samples


Sample Artist #1
Ron van der Ende


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“Deception: Tricking a person into thinking one thing when reality proves another. What is reality though? Is it the piece of artwork itself, the form of portrayal of the object, or the object that is being portrayed?

Geometry: Math that focuses on the lines and points. How often is geometry used, and how often is it noticed?

Depth: Distance or complexity. What happens when these two combine? Which would people notice first?

Perception: Ability to be aware through the senses and a way of interpreting something. How do we use one for the other?

Dimension: A measurable quantity and an aspect or feature. How can we create a measurable quantity that turns into only one feature of the whole piece?”

- Abby J.

“A house, for shelter. A piano, for audible pleasure. Cardboard boxes, for storage. A bus, for transportation. A diamond, for engraving. While the objects have tangible uses, they can also have special hidden meanings to each person. The house you grew up in. The piano that made you fall in love with music. The boxes filled to the brim with pictures and mementos of your high school and college years. The bus where you met the man you would spend the rest of your life with. And the diamond that he would give you years later as a symbol of his love for you. While some of the objects are manufactured, like the bus and the boxes, the feelings that all of these objects evoke are completely natural. Fondness, passion, love.”

- Rachel T.

Sample Artist #2
Dan Christofferson

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“All too often a nation is swept away in patriotism, glorifying their culture and dipping even into xenophobia. America is known for its nationalism and love of the stars and stripes. Yet while America celebrates its melting pot heritage with many European countries, Native American culture is often overlooked, forgotten in this country’s short but eventful past. Glanced over in history books and overly simplified in Thanksgiving traditions, I wish to draw attention to these unique peoples. To the bison, a way of life. To the matrilineal system common in their culture, yet rare in most others. To the concept that altered their culture forever in irreparable ways.”

- Maggie W.

“History is merely a sequence of events; we are the ones who make it a narrative. Good and bad, oppression and power are not mutually exclusive. Harsh things can happen in our histories, and our narratives can still be triumphant. A people can be mighty and strong in spite of brutality and coercion. Art can express pain and loss, while exuding energy and vitality.

We never need to be conquered by the past, present, or future.

We can, and do thrive in conditions that we are not meant to thrive in. We are told we cannot and we do. They tell us this is not for you, yet we tell ourselves it is. Then we use art to tell the rest of the world.”

- Johanna O

Sample Artist #3
Alec Soth

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“I look at everyday life as a scene that needs no editing nor fancy camera angles to capture the beauty of the moment. People typically believe that they need an elaborate life in order to feel beautiful or happy. I contrast this common misconception by photographing common scenes from a common angle. My photographs are taken from eye level to create a sense of intimacy with the present. I want my viewers to feel as though they standing in my shoes when the photographs were taken, so they can experience the same sense of awe that I experience when I look at the world around me.”

- Shawdi R.

I am the American Dream.

I am a different way of life.

I am white picket fences and two and a half kids.

I could be a mansion or a double wide.

I spend money I don’t have because I can.

This does not mean that I’m broken.

You see me when you drive to soccer practice and PTA.

You sit next to me and don’t notice me.

Or at barbeques on the weekend.

Because we really aren’t that different.

I am there when you discuss politics with your in-laws,

I am every book on the banned literature list,

religion with your friends,

and I am every other opinion.

and sex with your teenage daughter.

You feel uncomfortable around me

I am comfortable, conservative, and capable.

Because you think we are from separate worlds.

But I am not the definition of happy.

You look at me but don’t really see my beauty.

And I am not the only way.

- Sarah B.


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