Perhaps you feel like many artists, your work speaks for itself. Appealing as this thought is, in reality if you don’t have good supporting texts, your work is liable to remain mute. Everyone needs a jumping-off point in order to engage with art whether that is through visual means or textual concerns. Think about the last time you visited a gallery or museum and saw new work by a favourite artist. Did you understand immediately what the artist was doing? Probably not and the same applies to your work. People need a little help to orient themselves to your vision. Art needs words and artists need texts.
All emerging artists should have at least two written texts in addition to a CV – an artist statement and a biography. Often artists just call their CV a biography, but if you don’t have a biography written in prose you’re missing an opportunity to share more insight into your work and to tell an audience who you are as an individual. Your biography personalizes your CV and lists achievements you shouldn’t put in your artist statement.
The very nature of an artist statement focuses primarily on one aspect of your work. It pinpoints the relationship of your media to your influences and states your aims. You don’t want to muddle that clarity with other aspects of your work or your experience. But those other aspects of your practice and experience are very important, that’s why you need a written biography. In a biography you can go into a little more depth about your process or you can highlight another aspect of what you do. This is also the place to talk about your achievements; a very important thing and something which should not be included in an artist statement. An artist statement is about the work, a biography is about you.
A biography, written in the third-person, should include these things:
Place and date of birth
Education and degrees
Awards and career achievements you are most proud of (just one or two, the best of the best, not a laundry list of everything)
All of this information should come in the opening paragraph or two. Then leading on from those awards and achievements you can springboard into talking about your work in more depth. Did research for an award winning presentation lead you to study an artist in depth and did this in-depth study inspire your work? Was an award winning piece inspired by an author whose work has changed your perspective on the world? Have you been engaged in independent study which informs your practice? This is the opportunity to get at what lies behind your work, the foundation it is built on.
Finish with these things:
Current art-related work activity or associations in art groups
Any major personal life changes and dates, i.e. like moving to a different county, being awarded a civil or government honour, a change of citizenship etc.
Where you live now and your marriage status
Your biography needn’t be long winded, like with all good artist texts it should be succinct. You may think there really isn’t any foundation to what you do; you just do your work. But that isn’t true. Look deeper at what inspires you and why. Follow a thread back in time on the progression of your practice; there are things that steered your course. You have a history and as your practice develops you will need to articulate that history, start now while it’s fresh in your mind.
Keith Bond writes a straightforward comparison between an artist statement and a biography.
Traditional Realism poses some good questions for you to consider when writing your biography.
You can find my biography at www.janeboyer.com, click on artist info, biography.