Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Artistic Proposal Sample: Sarah Atlee, Art 365 exhibition

Since artists need to write about their work to apply for great opportunities, I am going to spend a few posts focused on the nuts and bolts of artistic proposals. What better way than to show some actual proposals!? Thankfully some artists were willing to share. Below find an actual “winning” proposal and some comments.

Prompt: Title and Description of proposed project (no more than 350 words)

Sarah Atlee

Title: Normal, OK: Signs and Folks

Description: I was born in Norman. When I was a baby, my family moved to Albuquerque, where I grew up. Recently my mother moved back to Norman, and after finishing graduate school, I joined her here. I have always been ”from Oklahoma,” but now, for the first time, I am an Oklahoman.

Borders between communities are arbitrary, yet we assign them a certain credence. Who I am is connected to where I live. This body of work is an exploration of my identity as it relates to my new surroundings.

Oklahomans, myself included, spend a lot of time on the road. Route 66 is an integral part of our heritage. Arterial interstates whisk us from state to state. Along the road, an archaeology of advertisement emerges: billboards with missing panels, hand-painted text, and panels rearranged so the ads no longer read correctly. Advertising is supposed to be shiny and bright. Signs that are old, awkward, or broken are uniquely endearing.

I have been taking photos of signage along Interstate 40. I have been making drawings and collages from these photos, allowing the forms and typography to become increasingly abstract. I’m at work on multiple small-scale panels that can be arranged and rearranged to form different compositions.

Here’s a fun game to play in the car: When you pass a road sign that has two town names on it, pretend they are the first and last names of a person. Invent a personality to go with that name. For example, Hydro Carnegie could be an aging vaudevillian child star whose specialty was the unicycle. These days Mr. Carnegie breeds labradoodles. I’ve played this game enough to populate the entire imaginary community of Normal.* These characters are fertile ground for my new series of portraits.

With fictional portraiture, personalities emerge gradually through the marks from my pen. I’ve developed a technique of collage and ink drawing to create nuanced, evocative images. Normal, OK is a place that exists in my head, based on the real places around me. By extrapolating characters from Oklahoma’s place names, and artifacts from its decaying signage, I can interpret our state’s identity through the filter of my own experience.

Julia’s comments: Sarah strength is describing her project in a way that helps us understand her ideas, style and joy. She does not get specific about numbers or sizes of pieces and is a bit vague about medium. The curator was taken with her concepts. This tactic may have left her latitude when beginning her project since she didn’t specify minute details. In some cases, such as to a gallery, project proposals might need more parameters. However, sometimes strong artwork images do all the explaining necessary for the project!

By the way, I have to make sure you know that Sarah snuck in an extra 11 words (for a total of 361 words J). Really, most groups receiving proposals are not counting words as long as the application reasonably fits with the guidelines. But some galleries, residencies, and granting agencies are tough on the rules and would disallow an application for things such as this. Many times selection processes are inundated with submissions, so need simple ways to filter out applications.

If you want to learn more about artistic proposal writing, attend OVAC’s Artist Survival Kit workshops on the topic coming up September 10 & 15.

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