Locally, we have several art shows and I always try to enter them and, if possible, attend the juror’s talk – I wish all jurors were required to justify their choices!! Volunteering (with the proviso that you can still enter your work!) definitely puts you closer to the juror and can be fascinating. Though I will add that some jurors are quite fickle and it’s just as well their opinions are not known! I did have the chance to talk at length to the juror of a respected regional show that gets entries from round the nation. The juror was a curator from an established museum in another state. She discussed both why she had included the work and why she had given prizes to particular pieces. A great learning experience!
She stated that she feels that contemporary art should reflect society and it is important that content reflect the culture. Relevance to time and place is something that draws you into a piece. There should be content as well as composition. And craftsmanship was very important. A good juror should have a wide knowledge of contemporary trends. In the art world currently photography, video and installation are major trends with pattern and decoration beginning to come back. And there continues to be fascination with obsessive work.
As we looked at the pieces to which she had given prizes, she continually emphasized overall composition and important relevant content reflecting contemporary issues. She also was attracted by a strong sense of colour. She wanted a piece to draw her in, to make her inquire “what’s going on” and to be inventive and fresh and individual. A piece did not have to be beautiful…ugliness could be fascinating if it was creative and personal.
Time and again she emphasized the value of a strong composition. Scale was also important…the scale should reflect the content. Small works that reflected small obsessive childlike dreams and nightmares were appropriate; small photographs of large landscapes were not.
For the quilts in the show, she liked the individuality of the hand- dyed fabric and the obviously hand-made stitches and the texture. She awarded the prize, however, to the one with the stronger composition.
While I think it’s important at a beginning or intermediary level of skill to have one’s work judged by someone within the quilt world, at a more advanced level a more widely experienced juror should be employed. The judging of art shows seems less incestuous than the judging of quilt shows. The art show juror looks at the work in the context of the culture as a whole and not just the culture of the particular medium. I think we would learn more about the place of quilts in the art world if we had as jurors people who were not so personally related to the quilt world. Are we afraid of this? Do we really want to be included?
And, if you have been, thanks for reading! And…check out your local art shows! Elizabeth