Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 4.03.10 PMA rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.”  Bo Bennett

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.”


10 Responses to “A JUROR’S DILEMMA”

  1. Michelle Jerome said:

    Aug 05, 11 at 6:12 am

    Dear Sylvia,

    I have always loved your website and posts since the day I found you in an article you wrote for a magazine, which publication I don’t recall. You are always so succinct in your thoughtful feature or topic of concern. As an artist I am always humbled by the times when I am stuck in frustration or high from a painting session when everything seems to click. Thanks for your website, advice, gallery and the support you offer to the human behind the experience of making art. The show looks fabulous.


    Michelle Jerome

  2. Sandy Allie said:

    Aug 05, 11 at 8:13 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I didn’t apply to your exhibition this year but I have in the past and my work was not accepted. I respect and appreciate your professionalism and even more so now as you clearly understand how personal the artist’s work is to the artist and how rejection feels to the person. It helps to understand rejection from the juror’s point of view.

  3. Judy Klement said:

    Aug 05, 11 at 8:33 am

    Thank you for this article on ‘Jurors’. There are many different views & influences a juror has that determine what is and isn’t chosen. It’s a very personal expression and rejected artists will, but should not take it to heart. Continue to enter as often as possible and take the chance of having your art exhibited.
    Judy Klement, Fine Artist & Art Instructor

  4. LYNDA BURBANK said:

    Aug 05, 11 at 9:20 am

    I find it interesting that the current show has a number of works displaying a fine sense
    of humor. Brilliant.

  5. Anne Michelle Johal said:

    Aug 05, 11 at 2:01 pm

    Thank you for your depth and insight into the juror’s dilemma. As an artist of many years and edgy work, the pain of non selection, no matter how much I am prepared for it, and how much I appreciate the selector’s stance and challenge, still surprises me …..

  6. Kit Boise-Cossart said:

    Aug 05, 11 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks Sylvia for the pep talk.

    Much appreciated!

  7. Julian Vergara said:

    Aug 05, 11 at 2:30 pm

    Wonderful piece of poetry and literature…This real world calls for real decisions and real words, and sometimes Artists are not comfortable listening to the words they did not expected, or the decisions that keeps them from entering or being part of the “chosen ones” for a specific exhibition.
    Since the times of the masters, there have been rejections among the greatest in the mecca of those days. Paris-France. Accepting rejection and wanting to better oneself as an artist is the process of growth and self evaluation in order to aspire to be recognize, the artist can accept rejection, for whatever reasons. As a Fine Artist one can’t feel that there is humiliation in ones spirit by not being accepted… It is part of life. It is the duality of life. Being born an artist will contribute immensely to ones self esteem and realize that working with an open mind, discipline, structure and mostly passion will eventually be rewarded by seen ones work/art hanging on galleries, hopefully with great status.

  8. sandra strohschein said:

    Aug 05, 11 at 9:23 pm

    Thank you so much for this essay on the juror’s perspective. I have just begun entering competitions over the past two years and it has been somewhat of a mystery to me as to how works of art are selected or declined. Your article revealed many aspects of the selection process that I had not considered. I appreciate the time you took to write this very much. Blessings, Sandy

  9. gwen samuels said:

    Aug 06, 11 at 12:08 pm

    Thank you Sylvia for your personal insight into the juror process.
    So much of the art we see in shows is chosen from “personal process” and for me that’s what makes each show exciting and different.
    I especially appreciated the 3 levels of viewing that is YOUR criteria.
    As an exhibiting artist, I try to see the show I submit to regardless
    of acceptance or rejection to further understand the jurors selection. Because it is the voice of the juror that must come thru after all…

  10. carmit haller said:

    Aug 08, 11 at 1:30 pm

    Beautifully written! So right and to the point! Thanks for encouraging me to keep on showcasing my pieces, even though sometimes they might indeed conflict with the “juror’s dilemma.”