by Diane Attwell Palfrey
A couple of years ago, I was approached by an Oakville artist who wanted me to write her “artist statement”. Most of my recent work was dabbling in poetry and I wasn’t sure I was up for the challenge. The right message was so important to the artist and after some consideration, I agreed to write the text for a specific piece of art that was featured in the exhibition.
I spent a few hours researching “the artist statement”. Ideas on how to write an artist statement are as diverse as writing bios. Everyone has an opinion of content, length and what is considered appropriate. But after several e-mail messages, a few phone calls, several pictures of the work in progress and the finished piece – I was able to construct the first draft.
This artist is known for her work with the model – sculpting and painting the nude. Her work is organic, raw and primal. It was paramount that the statement conveyed her truths, but that the piece be open to interpretation by the viewer. I also had to ensure that I wasn’t putting my spin into the verbiage. I kept reminding myself that my ideas about the huge canvas covered with entwined bodies – were merely my ideas and I didn’t want my thoughts to impact the reader. It was a difficult task with such a beautifully haunting piece of work. During our conversations, I found that the artist’s beliefs and visions for her work are very similar to my ideas about poetry. I like my work to convey who I am, but at the same time I like some ambiguity so the reader can walk away with their own viewpoint.
The final statement was several paragraphs and captured the essence of the
artist and her work – with just enough evasiveness to leave the audience
creating their own opinions. I feel about art the way I feel about poetry. And the late Gilda Radnor summoned it up beautifully in her quote “I always wanted a happy ending… Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”
Note* As payment for my services, the artist let me select a piece of work from one of her collections. It is now proudly displayed in my home. As writers, we have numerous opportunities to use our craft. Sometimes all we need to do is just meander outside of the box.
Diane was born in Toronto and has lived in Cambridge for the past twenty-two
years. She is a poet and prose writer. Diane is a member of the Cambridge
Writers Collective and has poetry published by the Waterloo-Wellington CAA,
Serengeti Press, Craigleigh Press, Hammered Out, The Ontario Poetry Society,
Cruickston Charitable Research Reserve/RARE, & Ascent Aspirations Magazine. Diane is also the first place winner of the Cambridge Arts Festival Poetry Contest for 2009 and 2010.