One of the life skills required of me as an artist & performer is good facility at writing my own bio, in 50 words, 100, 500. I’ve come to understand that this is important and useful to everyone concerned, since I’m the only one who knows everything about where I’ve been, how I got here, where I’m going as an arts professional.
Every gig has a different audience with different receptors, specific awarenesses, and the promoter / presenter also. As the performer in these situations, it really is up to me to translate my work into something that makes sense to them, that has some degree of accuracy.
Here’s one I might offer to the presenter of a group art show (100 words):
Keira McArthur has spent her adult life steering her boat on a great lake of music, painting art on the sails and writing about the journey. Author of two books, #Selfie: Art and Life as we Post it about her 2014 multi arts show, and Seven Swans, Seven Rooms, about her Masters in Community Music (2019), McArthur is currently in the first of a three-year artist’s residency at the Cotton Factory in Hamilton, Ontario. Current cello / vocal projects include “The Woods are Burning” with Anne Michaels, David Sereda, Tyler Wagler, Sandra Swannell and Terry Young, which the group hopes to tour across Canada in 2020.
Here’s a 55-word I wrote two weeks ago in a Canada Council for the Arts workshop and tinkered with just now:
A visual artist, musician, writer and producer, Keira McArthur’s multi-arts work provokes reflection on the issues of our time. She comes from both Scots industrialists and immigrant factory workers, and is inspired by the natural beauty of Georgian Bay, where she has a cabin/studio. McArthur is currently in a three-year residency at Hamilton’s Cotton Factory.
I could go on… my point here is that it is NEVER the whole story. For any artist, anywhere.
Not even close.
As part of a recent application package I was asked to write a bio that did NOT focus on my professional accomplishments, day jobs, or career. There was no word limit, but I assumed three pages, tops. Not a memoir (which is something else I feel – more … sculpted, translated for an audience). More like a very short autobiography.
By the fifth page of my first draft I found myself craving a stiff scotch. Or two.
I picked it up again the next week and revised the whole thing – six pages now, after which I went for a reflective 5km walk.
Wow. Really, Keira? This is what has happened with us in 56 years?
and even more surprisingly.. how could you not KNOW this by now?
The week after that I was down to three pages of honesty. It was for the most part gently, tentatively grounded in philosophical love for what I have done to, felt, and believed about myself in this short, interminable lifetime.
After that one I meditated myself into a three hour afternoon sleep.
Two weeks beyond the point where I’d decided not to apply to the place that had offered the initial question, I wrote the final piece. From eternal me to present me, it was the third draft trimmed to 1.5 pages, with another additional 1.5 pages of positive acknowledgement:
This happened, yes. This is how I responded.
No one else will ever read it, since clearly the writing of the piece was by me, for me.
Not therapy, but undeniably therapeutic.
I will print it off, illustrate it, then burn it at the shore.