I have never liked artist statements. In college I was always the one to struggle with the artist statement. What am I going to create? How am I going to achieve it? What will the end result be? I would work on passion projects and the theme was ever changing. The person, the place, the time was never the same and the end project was never what I had envisioned. It was frustrating to both my professors, and myself. They would tell me “Yes, Abby, this is beautiful but this is not what you said you were going to do.”
There was only one project in my four years of art school that I did exactly what I said I was going to do. I decided in my final year I was going to make an experimental documentary about children as artists. It was more so a sneaky way of saying “What’s going to happen? It’s experimental, it’s a documentary, it’s about artists…CHILDREN…ANYTHING could happen”. And truly, I had no idea where this would take me. But that was the whole point. Hah hah! I am so sneaky and genius!
I started off by choosing 5 children (all family members) and interviewing them. The youngest was less than 1 year, the oldest was 13. We played, we talked, we danced, we joked around. We just hung out, and I recorded them in their own space, and I interviewed them about anything they wanted to talk about regarding art, and what they thought that was. Did they see themselves as artists? Not surprisingly, they all saw themselves as artists.
The 6 year old of the group was the most interactive with me, even accidentally naming the project. She had been trying to come up with the word “Landscape” and while trying whispered “Pictures that you make of a world...” WOW. Inspired. This was it. This was my project. No limitations. I could do whatever I wanted here. I could change my mind if something wasn’t working. I could stop. I could go. I could move. I could dance. The possibilities were endless because I wasn’t trying to create something. I was trying to find a way to capture what was already created. Yes, this was vision, my art, my way of doing it. But I was using what was in front of me in the moment, and it was ALWAYS changing. These were pictures I was making of their world.
In the end, I delivered a project that I was proud of. What I had created was a work of nonfiction that showed the slow progression of children finding themselves in the world, ready to create anything and everything. As the teenage years approached, I found that they started to feel lost, and lonely and as the ego starts to take over, more shy. But even in this loss of confidence, there was always art. Drawings, paintings, music, poetry, dance, sports- they were creating things and expressing themselves and just hoping to be seen.
It wasn’t until years later that I revisited this work. I hadn’t really found my footing in photography yet, and didn’t know what it was I wanted to do. What COULD I do? How do I make a living? I wasn’t trendy enough for fashion. I wasn’t professional enough for corporate events. I had NO nerve for weddings. I had heard how difficult it was to work with children. “So unpredictable- they don’t listen- you’ll never get the shot you envisioned.” In other words, you can’t make a plan. *(insert lightbulb)* I was never a planner. I realized that in order to create my art to the best of my ability, I needed room to move. I needed open-ended situations where things could unfold and I could change my mind, and my perspective. I needed CHAOS. I needed to see my work mirrored in these little artists who are still in the process of creating their own worlds, and these are the worlds I want to make pictures of. I didn’t need a plan. All I had to do was show up, engage and create. So after almost 20 years, here is my Artist Statement! My work could very simply be described as “pictures that you make of a world”.