A JUROR’S DILEMMA
Our summer juried shows are a mixed blessing for me. Each year I marvel at the infinite and diverse ways in which artists find to express themselves. I admire and respect each and every artist for the extraordinary effort they make every day to share their gift. Again, we were happily overwhelmed with a large number of excellent quality entries, and the competition for this show was very stiff. The 93 artists in this exhibition were chosen from over 500 applicants with a total of over 1800 images.
Most juried shows, are by nature, an eclectic blend of a juror’s vision. By definition, this show is a subjective and singular vision, based on my personal tastes and aesthetic. So little research has been done in the area of developing a sense of taste, a style, an aesthetic preference. Mostly, we assume this is a result of our collective visual experiences. Our eye becomes trained to like that to which we have been exposed and our brains are programmed to respond to familiarity. Training in art history and looking at contemporary art, in combination with our life experiences and associations, slowly start to develop our sensibility and mold our vision.
In selecting an exhibition, I let my instincts guide me. As difficult as it is to judge work from a computer monitor, I review each image in the same way I look at actual art. There is no way I can define what I am looking for. Style, composition, content, artistic integrity all play a role, naturally. But, in each case I am looking for the artwork to speak to me, to reach out to me in some way, to touch my inner spirit, stimulate my intellect, or visually entice me. All the artwork I choose must communicate on at least one (preferably more) level: my heart, it has some emotional impact; my head, it makes me think about things that are important/relevant to me; my eyes, it must have visual impact, strong composition, etc. In addition, it must be well crafted and professional, not only in appearance, but in fabrication. Not all juror’s look for the same thing, but this is MY criteria. It is only in this way that I can define what becomes a unifying theme of an exhibition. But, that’s not all. Jurors look for a lot of different things when putting a show together. Although the quality of the art and the impact it has on a particular juror is what constitutes art that makes “the first cut,” there are a number of other complicated factors that artists are usually unaware of. Often times, the consideration of how a show will “hang together” becomes more important than an individual jurors feelings about a particular piece. Poor photography is the most common artists’ enemy, if the work can not be seen, it can’t be understood. Painfully, I often have to omit pieces I genuinely love. Yet another reason why artists should not interpret rejection and a personal comment about their work. Many times, it is as simple as you didn’t select the right pieces to enter. In other cases, size or media restrictions eliminate pieces that otherwise would have been chosen. The venue, laying out the show in my mind, and how pieces interact/speak with one another, are all important considerations. In the end, there is no way to predict how or why a juror picks specific pieces.
I believe that surrounding oneself with art, enriches our lives and nourishes our soul. It is painful for me to think about the sadness and frustration that artists experience when they are rejected from a show. It is unnecessary and unjustified. Artists must continue to explore every avenue possible to show their work , regardless of the occasional rejection, and must try to understand the “juror’s dilemma.”