Thursday, March 4, 2010

Entering Art Shows: content, composition, craftsmanship and culture


cityofmistsrephoto 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


Gerrie said...

I belong to a crit group here in Oregon. We meet twice a year - April and October - with a guest art critic. We always select the juror from the non-textile art world. It has been extremely helpful to me.

Jackie said...

It makes sense to award to the stronger composition, doesn't it? The design is what initially grabs people or doesn't! Goodness, there's so much to learn about becoming a stronger designer!

Frances Arnold said...

Congrats on getting your piece into the Lyndon House looks great!!! I entered but was rejected....will try again another year!!

Elizabeth Barton said...

hey Frances, so sorry you were rejected...but some really good people were..our neighbour Claire Clements whose work is fantastic - she's having a show at the botanical gardens opening this sunday..was actually rejected. So you're in with a classy bunch!!
I got two into OCAF which is exciting as that is very tough to get into nowadays.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Love the analogy, Marianne, and it's so apposite!! great comment!

Anonymous said...

Great post, very thought provoking. In the last few years, I have entered a local art show that employs various curators from our state to be juror. I was very curious to see how my art quilts would be recveived but in two of the last three years, I have won monetary prizes and opportunities for solo shows! Granted, these are small and local but I am thrilled to see my stuff hanging alongside oils, watercolors, and sculptures. I agree that it is an interesting and worthwhile taresproposition to lay our textiles out before the art world at large!