I was honored to have been invited to jury a landscape exhibit at a local art center today. It made me feel so good to have the opportunity to reward artists who had entered pieces that I felt were well-done, by accepting their work into the show and even designating first-, second- and third-place awards and 2 honorable mentions.
In reflecting on this morning’s experience, I’ve come up with four considerations that an artist needs to keep in mind when deciding whether to and which pieces to enter into a juried show. Having been on the other side, as an artist entering many juried shows myself over the years, I though these ideas might prove helpful to other artists. (Please note that this was a "live" jurying experience. The considerations are somewhat different if the judge is viewing digital images.)
1. BE YOURSELF. At the risk of breaking into a chorus of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” I believe it’s of the utmost importance to BE YOURSELF in your art, and keep making it until you have expressed something about yourself as a person. WHAT CAN YOU SAY THAT NO ON ELSE CAN SAY? What in your experience feels honest and natural to paint about?
2. DEVELOP YOUR CHOPS. Explore and push your materials in the studio, and in a class or workshop if you like. What more can these materials do? What haven’t you tried yet? Several of the entries today showed plainly that the artists hadn’t yet explored the range of possibilities. You have to find out what’s possible before you can understand what methods are the best for articulating what you want to say.
3. CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL FRAMER IF NECESSARY. Framing artwork is an art in itself. As with photographing your artwork, if you can’t assure the highest quality on your own, hire a pro to advise you or do it for you. The frame and mat must ENHANCE the work, not detract from it. A number of works I saw today were well-made but their visual impact was obscured by frame styles that clashed, mat colors that clashed, poorly cut mats, or mats that were too width or too thin to compliment the artwork. There was one photograph that was framed in regular glass, rather than a non-glare type. It was moved to 4 different places in the room to try and display it best, but in all of them, the sharp glare of light off the surface made it impossible to see clearly. (Ultimately it was not accepted into the show.)
4. KEEP WORKING UNTIL YOU’RE READY. Art is not a race! There’s no shame in not entering a particular exhibit or even deciding not to exhibit at all until you have reached a certain level of understanding and ability – by that I mean, you have found something new and important to say. It takes years and years, and many many paintings, to fully understand a subject and explore it from all angles.
Ultimately, an artwork's acceptance into a juried show is up to the judge’s or committee's preferences. But if you’re offering the best work you can make, displayed in the best way you can, you’re doing all you can to assure the work’s acceptance.
And you will ultimately bring much pleasure to your viewer, as I was so pleased to see so many impressive works of art as I did today.
At the top of this post is "Niche," a painting of mine that was accepted into a show at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1998. I was thrilled to exhibit at such a prestigious venue, especially as my career was just starting out at that time.