So much has happened since I last posted... where to begin? I guess the best way would be to work forward from the opening of my exhibit that was at Berry College, subject of the April 15 post. The exhibit is now down and my tapestries back home. I so much enjoyed the opportunity to have the work up for awhile and to spend some time with the Berry College faculty and students while it was there. I was able to visit for a couple of days soon after the exhibit opened work with students in the weaving studio of Viking Enterprises... see the Berry Weaving Facebook page at this link for a little more about that in several of the posts there.
When my discussions began with Brad Adams, Berry College Fine Art Department faculty member and gallery director, about my exhibit at Moon Gallery he asked if I'd be the juror for the annual student honors exhibit this year. With some reluctance, I agreed to do that. I say with reluctance because I'd vowed a few years back never to be a juror for an art show again! But I've learned that the adage, "Never say never!" is quite true. While I'm still not eager to leap at offers to be a juror for art exhibits, this experience has shown me that I might be able to do it with some thoughtfulness--and not agonize to terribly much over those works I couldn't select. As I've learned through the years in my own experiences of submitting work to exhibits, selection often is very much a subjective decision. Different eyes, at other times may see the work more or less favorably. All I can do (and all that any other artist can do) is keep on making the work the best one can.
For the jurying process, Brad emailed a Powerpoint of works submitted by students. I reviewed those several times and made initial selections. The next day, I went back through all of the works and again made selections, deciding to definitely include those pieces that were in both rounds of review. Other pieces were taken out or added into the grouping until I felt there was a good representation of students' works. I emailed the edited Powerpoint showing only my selections to Brad, who then informed the students to bring in the works chosen. I made the final selection of award winning artworks on Tuesday after seeing them displayed, by walking through the gallery several times with notepad in hand and looking carefully at the works as I made choices. There were many more excellent artworks than there were awards to be presented so the final decisions I made were tough ones. One of the impressive aspects of the whole experience was that several of the award winning works were made by students who are majoring in subjects other than art! That speaks quite well for the quality of the art instruction at Berry College, I think.
There was a good turnout of students, some friends and family members, as well as faculty and staff for the awards presentations. Below, I'm including my juror's statement and a few photos from the reception.
I feel that making artwork is a language, a way of speaking. And language gives us a way to have a conversation with others. Showing your artwork gives you another way to speak to us; thank you for having this conversation with me and with other viewers by exhibiting your artworks.
It is a very hard task to make choices for art works to be included in an exhibit. It’s very difficult to consider which works to select for special recognition of awards. I believe that anyone who has the courage to put her or his artwork out for viewing deserves an award! With the challenge entrusted to me as a juror in mind, I want talk about several things that I think about when I look for the exceptional in artworks.
First, for me, what draws me to any artwork is presence. Is there something about what’s created that takes my attention, or that makes me pay attention.
Next, is the “voice” of the maker evident in the artwork? Is the artwork saying something or sharing something to me—as the viewer. Does the artwork show that the artist is using the medium as a way to convey an idea? Has the artist made me care, wonder, or consider the idea she or he is presenting? Am I “seeing” a visual “voice?”
And then is there evidence of a level of comfort with the artistic medium. Does the artist show an understanding of the compositional space and the medium, whether it’s a flat or three-dimensional work. Has he or she used the medium in a seemingly effortless way with fluidity and control?
When viewing the slideshow of works submitted earlier, several artworks caught my eye immediately. I was eager to visit the gallery to see the works in person and see if their presence was as strong as they seemed to be.
When I arrived, I found that there were also other works that presented themselves more strongly than in the digital images. Always remember that when a juror is to see works in photographic form, provide the very best image possible. Much about the strength of the artwork may be otherwise lost in the translation. I want to also remind anyone exhibiting artworks to be conscious of the presentation method chosen—everything matters to the visual impact of the image.
In the end, please realize that the choices I made or that any juror makes are ones based upon personal experience and knowledge. As an artist, I have had my own artwork accepted into exhibits and occasionally received awards. I’ve also had my artwork rejected for exhibits… many times. But if you feel strongly about making and using your artwork as part of your language, the visual voice with which you speak—keep on putting it out there! Celebrate when your work is accepted—but don’t be discouraged with rejection. After all, no one else can speak in the same voice as you can. No one else can show us what you can.
Tommye McClure Scanlin
University of North Georgia
April 12, 2016