Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How Do I Define Myself

Susan Buret. Portmanteau. 2009 ©. Detail.

Most of the work I make has dealt with ideas of definition, categorization and identity and it is only recently that I have explored ideas of displacement from a more subjective viewpoint. As someone new to the community I have to introduce myself and find that I am often asked to describe myself or my work. What is expected as a reply is a short answer which will give the person to whom I am talking a 'snapshot' of Susan Buret, artist, and will be the deciding factor as to whether the conversation or friendship will continue. I find this very difficult even though I have been taught that I should always have my elevator blurb at the ready.
In a recent post Joanne Mattera discussed the negative effects of categorization that arise when an adjective is used before the term artist. I had not really thought about this issue before but over-description does result in being consigned to a 'ghetto'. Have you experienced this when you have been asked to describe your work in a social or professional encounter.
I am going to work on a new elevator blurb which hopefully I will post soon.  


Candice Herne said...

Hi Susan very interesting post and Joanne's as well she often has informative and thought provoking articles. I went through this recently. After exhibiting work in a wearable art show. I thought I had put direct and sufficent key points in my written literature and artist statements. About what my work was about. Especially also verbally confirming my grounding as a visual artist with the curator, numerous times. It all was over looked on the day and I was pigeon holed, glorrifyed and marketed into something I was not and have never claimed to be a milliner or Ikebana Artist (these have been influences and quite clearly written so I had thought, looking at it now probably not). The word artist was not used once. I was disappointed at first and a little embarressed as I am not interested in claiming those titles, nor discrediting anyone who is in those professions. I quickly got over it. However it has taught me to think about how to present my work as a artist rather than the artist presenting the work and where it might fit in, this will be more challenging, however it may solve some perceptions on other peoples behalf. Candyxx

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

Doesn't it drive you nuts! I am having a small exhibition in an area gallery and they put out information which described me as a quilter. My fabric work does use some 'quilt techniques' but the works are not quilts and I never use that reference. The use of this reference turns off many of the very people I would like to attract.

Janice Mason Steeves said...

HI Susan,

The elevator intro is always something that I hate doing. I also keep working on it so that I won't stand with a blank expression on my face when someone tries to quickly pigeon-hole my work. On the other hand, how can a person describe in 20 seconds (is an elevator blurb even 20 seconds?) what their life work is about? Sometimes I have just said that I'm a 'flower painter'. I'm telling you, that quickly ends the conversation and we move on to other topics! Boom, they have you pigeon-holed and there are no more questions to ask. But maybe that's not fair, I don't know. I'll be interested in reading your elevator pitch.

Susan Buret said...

Thanks for your comment. It is so frustrating when you don't have the opportunity to proof read info written about your work. I have two reactions, one is maybe just say you are an artist (which of course you are) and the other is why should quilting be denigrated. Maybe more outspoken fibre artists are needed. The battle is endless. Look at how few women artists are represented in Museum Collections.

Susan Buret said...

Hi Janice,
I had to do the elevator blurb on Friday night (admittedly it was mostly for other artists) and without any opportunity to revise it last week I came up with. 'I paint and work with paper. For several years I have been working with shredded documents making work that deals with issues of identity and immigration.' It worked but I don't know if it is the one for the general public. I used to say I was a collage artist but that didn't get a good response. I need to get a new blurb for my newer work too.
Then we come to the next issue. Do we establish rapid stereotypes that determine which blurb we should use. It would be so much easier to be an accountant!