I had the privilege to be part of a panel of jurors for a local venue. The panel of seven jurors was tasked with picking 12 artists who will show in the gallery during the next year.
I have to say that my first reaction upon being asked to do this was fear. Fear that I had no clue what I was doing, fear of making a fool of myself, and I’m sure there must have been another fear or two in the mix. In the spirit of my word for the year—cultivate—I dived in to learn yet another aspect of how an exhibit comes to life, this time starting with which seeds will be given a chance to grow.
This venue is for wall art only. That might seem like it would narrow the field some, but think about the variety of media in which you can work! We looked at photography, pencil, acrylic, oil, fiber, encaustic, watercolor, and mixed media, to name just a few. I’ve dabbled in all of these, except oil and encaustic, so I felt I at least had a basic understanding about what I was seeing and what was involved in the creation of a piece.
This was not meant to pull together a group show from the submitted work; rather each artist would have his or her own show.
We were asked to look at and consider five guidelines: creativity, composition, technique, originality, and overall impression. Another consideration was that the gallery’s visitors are of all age ranges, with many school groups coming through.
We looked at the actual art on display before sitting down and looking at the digital images. Being able to see a piece in person—see the size, the quality of workmanship, and how the framing was addressed—made my job fairly easy. Contrast that with having to decide based on digital images only, where you often cannot tell the size or really see detail or dimension. It gave me a new appreciation for getting the best photos you can afford of your art for judges.
What I noticed right off with the digital images was the quality—or more often the lack of quality—of the image. I have to be honest. I didn’t really see the artwork on some because I was distracted by a pesky date in the lower corner. The same was true of the artwork that had legs and hands showing around it. As much as I wanted to concentrate on the artwork, the extras around the edge of the artwork were unbelievably distracting.
One comment I’ve heard over and over is that a juror wants to see continuity in the artwork. You shouldn’t submit work from three very different series. I can tell you now that, especially in this situation, that is very true. I wanted to see pieces that would hang nicely together. Those submissions with pieces that looked like they came from three artists didn’t feel right. And, yet, there was a group of four photographers who worked well together. They were of the same high quality, and they ultimately received one of my votes.
I can now tell you from experience that even though you did your best to present your work in the most professional manner possible and were still rejected; take heart. It was the opinion of one person or panel. And that is all it is . . . an opinion.
I worked hard to follow the guidelines and tried to choose quality work in a nice mix of media. But if you were to line up my 12 votes I think you would find that very colorful cheerful art prevailed.
That’s just my opinion.