Monday, March 2, 2009

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Sad to say, I didn't get accepted to the New Jersey Arts Annual that my previous post was all about. Nonetheless I was very happy with the entries I submitted and was glad I entered because I forced me to sit down and create something that had long eluded me: the artistic bio. When I first started this blog, I talked about struggling to write an artistic statement. I finally got a basic one done and was happy with it. However, I never had any luck doing an artistic bio.

There are a number of reasons for this I am sure. I don't like to write about myself because it is difficult. I feel like you are caught navigating an impossible strait between Scylla and Charybdis. On the one hand, you don't want to build yourself up so much that it appears that you are arrogant and full of yourself, but on the other hand, you have to have *something* to say about yourself or why else would anyone want to read about you.

I also feared that by talking about my past, I would only highlight what a relative newcomer to fine-arts photography I am and so only provide people another reason to give short shrift to my work.

Lastly, I just didn't see how it was relevant. Yes, I could state where I was from and what I used to do for a living, but who cares? It doesn't help anyone connect with any of my work. However, there I was wrong. A gallery director friend of mine once told me that the most common request from potential art dealers was to know more about the artist and the past history of the work. They want to have some kind of window into the art, something that will help them contextualize it. An artistic bio can help do just that.

But I was still stuck with what I saw as an impossible task regardless of how necessary it now was. Fortunately, I met Nancy J. Ori who founded the New Jersey Media Center where, among other things, she runs workshops to help develop emerging artists. The last workshop I took with her, she covered how to write an artist bio. It was a very helpful experience that helped me finally get past my issues. While it's still a work in progress, as is my life so it only makes sense, I'm happy with what I have now.

Riley A. Vann was born in New Mexico and grew up in Texas. Studying English at Texas A&M, the University of Florida, and West Virginia University, he went on to teach college writing and literature for fifteen years. After studying and teaching the stories we tell ourselves and how those stories identify us, he became interested in the ways we mark ourselves outside of words. With the camera, he began to capture the visual signs and symbols that also tell our stories. Drawing inspiration from photographers like William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, and Joel Sternfeld, he now uses his camera to discover that which literally makes our culture visible.

To borrow from Eggleston, as a photographer Riley Vann is at war with the obvious. His art engages the mundane objects of everyday life, the things that have become invisible to us, and rescues them from the background into which they vanish. This may involve more abstract studies in texture and light or a cultural anthropological “dig,” focusing on objects that act as signposts and touchstones for a range of social values and concerns. While his subject matter may vary, all of his images strive to find the beautiful in the strange and the strange in the beautiful.

It's a combined artistic statement and bio as you can see. I think it's a good start, but it definitely needs work. I'd love to hear any comments or suggestions anyone has. It has been a tough task, but one that in the end I really learned from. Thanks and take care.


Jacob said...

Sorry to hear you didn't make the show. I'm very confident in your getting into many more shows in the future.

Now get out there and shoot! (when it's not too cold)

Riley said...

I'm leaving for England in a few days and hope to come back with some winners. I have such a backlog of photos as it is, though, that I need to work on and get out the door. I'm really behind!

Larry Tanner said...

Sorry, dude.

Borglum said...

Eh, the bio seems fine, but it could be tighter. How 'bout this:

"Three words: I am gay!"

Matt Morris said...

The way I heard it, the exhibit consisted mainly of cute kitty pics & unfurled flag photos, so how would that help your bio?

Studio Vann said...

Sounds great.. Just started following your work, and I love it. I'd give the bio an A-.