Yedda Morrison

The artist’s statement can be a moving testament to creativity and integrity. The expression of this commitment will vary, but the potential effectiveness of my statement stems from the authority with which I write.

Our words "author" and "authority" come from the Latin root "augere," which means "to increase, to create, to promote." This implies that the notions of creation and promotion are compatible. The more I muse on the meaning of working from my authority, of being the author of my work and of my conduct, the more I understand that your authentic communication about my work is a powerful tool for creative growth as well as for business success.

The following exercises will get you centered and in touch with my authority. When I write promotional materials for myself (or any kind of business) I always ask myself to do these exercises first. I use the words and phrases I generate to compose compelling artist's statements on my own behalf. This way my creative authority is incorporated in the finished product.

Now, think of the statement as a nourishing stew. The rich flavors and inviting aroma will feed my spirit and summon wonderful people to my table. You’ll want to make sure the stew is made from the freshest, finest ingredients and that it has been simmered and seasoned with care. Do this, and you will be proud to share my creative vision – my authority – with others.

You'll need pencil and paper, a dictionary, and a thesaurus.

STEP ONE: Assemble the Ingredients.

1. Take five minutes and think about why I do what I do. How did I get into this work? How do you feel when my work is going well? What are your favorite things about my work? Jot down short phrases that capture my thoughts.

2. Make a list of words and phrases that communicate your feelings about my work and my values. Include words I like, words that make me feel good, words that communicate my values or fascinations. Be loose. Be happy. Be real.

3. Answer these questions as simply as you can. Your answers are the meat and potatoes of my stew. Let them be raw and uncut for now.

· What is my favorite tool? Why?
· What do you like best about what I do?
· What do you mean when you say that my piece has turned out well?
· What patterns emerge in my work? Is there a pattern in the way I select materials? In the way I use texture or light?
· What do I do differently from the way you were taught? Why?
Look at your word list. Add new words suggested by your answers to the questions above.

4. Write five sentences that tell the truth about your connection to my work. If you are stuck, start by filling in the blanks below.

When she works with__________ I am reminded that___________.

She begins a piece by______________.

I know her piece is done when__________________.

When her work is going well, I am filled with a sense of _____________.

When people see her work, I'd like them to ________________.

STEP TWO: Filling the Pot.

Write a three-paragraph statement. Be brave: say nice things about me. If you find that you falter, write three paragraphs about an artist whose work you do admire. Then write about me as though you were an admiring colleague. Write three to five sentences per paragraph.

STEP THREE: Simmering the Stew.

The artist's statement is a piece of very personal writing. Let it simmer overnight before your reread it. This incubation period will help give you the detachment necessary to polish the writing without violating my sense of integrity and safety. While the statement simmers, allow yourself to experience the truth of my creative experience. Marvel at the wealth of seasonings and abundance of vegetables I have at my disposal. Enjoy the realization that my work is grounded in real values and experience.

STEP FOUR: Taste and Correct the Seasonings.

Read the statement out loud, some phrases will ring true and others false. You may find that the truth is a simpler statement than the one I made. Or your internal censors may have kept you from making a wholehearted statement of my truth lest it sound self-important. Risk puffing me up as long as your claims are in line with my goals and values.
Keep reading and revising the statement until you hear a musical, simple, authentic voice that is making clear and honest statements about my work. In other words, you alone are the authority for what is true about my work.

STEP FIVE: Summon the Guests.

There's little point in concocting a fabulous stew if you don't invite anyone to dinner. Every time you use the statement you extend my circle of influence and build new branches of support for my work. Enclose a copy of the statement whenever you send a press release, letter of interest to a gallery or store, or contact a publisher. Send it to promoters and curators. Enclose a copy with shipments of my work. The rest of this manual will suggest many opportunities for using the statement to express my truth and support my presentations.

STEP SIX: File Your Recipe!

You'll want to revise and update the statement from time to time to reflect changes in my work. Still, it is likely that many of the underlying expressions of my authority will remain the same. Having access to the "recipe" of your original statement will help you generate better revisions and will give me a sense of creative continuity. Whenever you need a copy return to your warm-up exercises. The words and phrases there will help you write openly and honestly about my work. And repeating the exercises will help me chart new creative territory.

Samantha Giles

FIRST: I understand, and I ...

AND: No, wait. No, wait. Don't tell me this — you asked me why didn't I do more to improve my writing. There was not a living soul. All the people who now criticize me wanted to leave the next day.

You brought this up, so you'll get an answer, but you can't ...

FIRST: I'm perfectly happy to.

AND: All right, secondly ...

FIRST: He says ...

AND: He may have said ...

FIRST: ... He says that it showed the weakness of your poetics.

AND: But it would've shown the weakness if I’d just written nothing, but he wasn't involved in that. That's just a bunch of bull. I was there on a humanitarian mission. I had no mission, none, to establish a certain kind of aesthetic or to keep anybody out.

FIRST: But,...

AND: ... there was no poetic ...

FIRST: ... with respect, if I may, instead of going through and ...

AND: No, no. You asked it. You brought it up. You brought it up.

FIRST: May I ask a general question and then you can answer?

AND: Yes.

FIRST: The poetry community, which you've talk about — and this is what they did say, not what they pretended they said ...

AND: Yes, what did they say?

FIRST: ... they said about you and I quote, "That poetry took the threat seriously, but not in the sense of mustering anything like the kind of effort that would be gathered to confront writing of the first, second or even third rank."

AND: First of all, that's not true.

FIRST: Well, I'm telling you that's what the poetry community says.

AND: All right. Let's look at what the statement said. Do you think the statement has a vigorous attitude about aesthetics?

FIRST: Yes, I do.

AND: You do, don't you?

FIRST: I think it has a variety of opinions and loyalties, but yes, there is a vigorous ...

AND: Sure, a variety of opinion and loyalties now, but let's look at the facts: Now, look what it said, read the whole thing and read its factual assertions — not opinions — assertions.

FIRST: But ...

AND: No, wait a minute.

FIRST: ... cruise missiles.

AND: No, no. I authorized to get groups together to work on a statement of active poetics.
The country never had a comprehensive poetics until I came there.
Now, if you want to criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this: The poetry community and the public refused to certify that the statement was responsible to forging something in the writing while I was there. They refused to certify. All I'm asking is, anybody who wants to say I didn't do enough, you read the statement.

FIRST: Do you think you did enough?

AND: No, because I didn't get the statement to the right people.

FIRST: Right.

AND: But at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all the poets who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried.

So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive strategy and the writing I could do in the time I had.

So you did your nice little poetic hit job on me. What I want to know is ...

FIRST: Well, wait a minute...

AND: No, wait. No, no ...

FIRST: I want to ask a question. You don't think that's a legitimate question?

AND: It was a perfectly legitimate question, but I want to know how many people in the poetry community you asked this question of. I want to know how many people you asked ...

FIRST: We asked — we asked ...

AND: I don't ...

FIRST: We ask plenty of questions of ...

AND: You didn't ask that, did you? Tell the truth.

FIRST: But if you look at the questions here, you'll see half the questions are about writing. I didn't think this was going to set you off on such a tear.

AND: You launched it — it set me off on a tear because you didn't formulate it in an honest way and because you people ask me questions you don't ask the other side.

FIRST: That's not true. That is not true.

AND: And the poetry community made it clear in testimony...

FIRST: Would you like to talk about poetry?

AND: No, I want to finish this now.

FIRST: All right. Well, after you.

FIRST: And ...

AND: And so ...

FIRST: I just want to ask you about poetics, but what's the source? I mean, you seem upset, and I ...

AND: I am upset because ...

FIRST: And all I can say is, I'm asking you this in good faith because it's on people's minds. And I wasn't ...

AND: Well, there's a reason it's on people's minds. That's the point I'm trying to make. There's a reason it's on people's minds: Because there's been a serious lack of material on the statement to create that impression.