I was very excited to be asked to be a juror for the upcoming Art Quilt Elements show in Philadelphia next spring. But as well as an honour, and exciting, it is quite a responsibility. I want to make sure I have polished up my critical judgment: that I have a “good eye” - as they say – which always makes me think I should have a parrot and a peg leg too!! But I doubt the AQE ladies would be too thrilled if I turned up like that!
So I started looking at some juror’s statements as to what one should look for. Obviously a strong composition is a basic requirement. Quilts that are all over the place, that don’t have good strong bones, that just look like they are thrown together would not be something I would choose for a show of this caliber. Balance is important too: if something is leaning (visually) to the left or right, or has inelegant proportions (unless related to the subject of course), I would not want to include it. And the piece should be unified, well pulled together, everything important in there, and everything unimportant taken out.
There are loads of quotations from artists discussing the necessity of getting rid of stuff that is not relevant. It’s not only sculptors who have to discard the extraneous material! The art is in the editing.
”The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials”. (Lin Yutang).
There should be a clear message, not a confused one. The message doesn’t have to be world shattering like Guernica - talking about Guernica, I heard a telling story recently…apparently during the Occupation of France, a German officer went to see Picasso and there was a photograph of the famous painting lying on a table “Did you do this?” said the officer. “No, you did”, replied Picasso. Shiver…
Well, the message doesn’t have to be of that calibre, obviously, otherwise there would be very little art! but I think the quilt should clearly say something.. it could be as simple as “look how lovely pink and purple squares are!” (though I think the person would have to be a Very Good artist to be able to pull that thought off!). What did the maker intend for the piece? And were they successful in doing that?
And what else? One statement (alas of unknown origin!) really struck me:
“I’m looking for discovery when I’m jurying; something different, something mysterious”.
Some mystery, is I think, important – not confusion…but something that hints at greater depths and meanings. I’ve bought quite a few art pieces in my time, and also not bought ones I wish I had. And some of those I can remember so clearly – because of the mystery. I remember a little dark painting of a shopkeeper holding up a bird cage – just what was that about? I do wish I’d had the cash to buy it and enjoy the puzzle every day!! Some ways in which artists install mystery is by using lost edges or by not spelling out every last detail – no ,you don’t have to show every window in the house! Or, marks that could be one thing, or maybe another….writing that you just can’t quite read (though I think you have to be careful with that one because it’s getting a bit over used).
Edrith Huws wrote:
“It is splendid if there is some inner tension, a hint of disorder being controlled. that to me is the essence of an aesthetic experience.”
There are many technical way to convey this: rhythms that are syncopated or slightly broken rather than the obvious dum-dum-dum-dum of the funeral march, or slightly unexpected colour combinations. Balance without rigid symmetry, lines that show the mark of the hand. Homeostasis=couch potato! And we know how interesting they are!
And also, of course, are those things that you do not want to see: stale copies of other people’s imaginations, cheap tricks and gew-gaws, the 500th piece in a series that was successful for the first 50 or so but now is so familiar you could make doormats out of it.
So, now is your chance to tell a juror what you think they really should be looking for!!! I will read all suggestions very carefully! and thank you, in advance, for taking the time to comment. Comments are the blogger’s reinforcement, you know, without them the blogger would simply dry up and wither away…(hm, that makes me think it might be time for a nice cuppa tea!).
If you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth
PS the quilt at the top, Strange Beauty, was my entry in the last AQE.