Artists Say the Dumbest Things

     When I was five years old, a celebrity named Art Linkletter published a book that went on to become a best seller entitled Kids Say the Darnedest Things. It know it was funny, not because I read the book, but because my parents would laugh at Art’s variety show on our black and white TV. I figured he must be amusing all of the time.

     Well, in homage to Mr. Linkletter, may I title this newsletter Artists Say the Dumbest Things because, frankly, they do? And…where do these dumb words come from?

     As a Viewer, your first experience with an Artist is probably a chat at a Gallery Stroll. It’s a much needed Friday (or Saturday) on a monthly night out, sometimes called Gallery Night (how original) or Art Walk (a little more original). You get it.

     You’re laughing with a few party friends and, you stop in every spot that has free wine (which, by the way, is always in the back because the owners want you to actually see the art before you imbibe their cheap chardonnay. The nerve…)

     So you pause in front of a large painting that you like. You’re into abstracts, and they are everywhere now it seems, but this one you actually do like. The Artist comes up beside you, and you politely say, “Hi”.  

    Artist smiles, then speaks, “In case you’re wondering about my work, I’m trying to celebrate the fragile world in its indestructible martyrdom.”

     Your face grimaces slightly with a WT….expression, but then decide to humor his use of the five syllable clue that is supposed to say “Ah’m smawt!” Besides, you know what ‘indestructible’ means. That’s one syllable better than ‘valetudinary’.

     But what’s with the ‘martyrdom’? Why doesn’t he just say what he means and mean what he says? Your speech teacher got that point across well enough. Was he so wrapped up in drawing during high school that he didn’t bother taking speech (or writing)?

   Ah…the culprit. The written word. The Artist’s Statement that all of us Artists are forced to write explaining our work. Why does our visual have to be verbal? The worst part about an Artist Statement is that the words, though they may sound lofty in print, sound really dumb out loud. 

     “I try to construct works that relay the process of spontaneity inherent in the works’ intention.”


     “Between events in one’s life and the formal requirements of expression, one attempts to ‘find’ what cannot be seen, or metaphorically constructed.”

     Hmm…now he’s going to six syllables, you think. Why is that so funny? Maybe too much wine at this point. Maybe you were going to buy this painting and then he spoke.

     So what’s an Artist to do?

     I have an Artist’s Statement because I must have one. It’s a simple little ditty about my struggle with control (imposed on me in my life) and freedom (my desire to break away from these control issues).  Just because an Artist’s Statement is serious does not mean it has to be complicated.

     But when a Viewer asks me what a painting means, I say, “I wish I knew.” Then I may, if prodded, add some speculation about the control vs. freedom idea because, if you really want to know, it really IS speculation. All Artists are guessing.

     Most art that is planned to ‘fit’ an already written Artist’s Statement, is bound for failure anyway. Artists are smarter if they leave the interpretation to the Viewer. Make them think. Inspire their imagination without gluing them to a reformulated platform.  Viewers do not really want to be told what to think any more than Artists do, so just leave them to their own interpolation.   

     Uh-oh…4 five syllable words in one paragraph!  I had better stop before I get too philosophical about my inane proclivities which would warrant an embezzlement of a more intoxicating beverage.)