Submitted three paintings to Medford Arts Centers’ annual works on paper show. One painting was large, a combination watercolor/pastel, and a favorite of mine. (see my blog http://wp.me/phLVE-1K ) The other one a simple winter watercolor. My third submission was an extremely loose watercolor that I had embellished with white India Ink, producing a sort of batik look. While I felt these two were fine examples of my work, they did not resonate with me as much as my lovely “My Little Chickadee”. Of course the two smaller pieces were juried in, and My Little Chickadee came back to hang in it’s place of personal honor over the fireplace. I was thrilled to have two paintings in the show, but participating in these shows always leave unanswered questions.
This happened last year. Submitting two paintings that I considered strong, the third was a hastily framed study that I happened to like better than the final painting for which it was created. While they were all jured into the show, the “study” won an honorable mention. Go figure.
I’ve talked to other artists about this phenomomen. We know art is subjective. A favorite phrase is “One Day, One Judge”. It’s not like math where one and one make two, or English, where there are rules for conjugating verbs. Paintings can be rejected from one show, only to win First Place in another. We’ve all had it happen. While talking with another artist about this conundrum, she offerred: “Perhaps we’re the ones with bad taste.”
Went to a cat show once. When a judge announced the placement of the cat, it was held in the air and a comment given. “This cat shows great body condition and a beautiful coat. Along with it’s beautiful expression, this is my Best in Show.” I loved the responsibility the judges took, and the care in which words were chosen. All placements were accompanied by a statement about the animal followed by: “This is my First/Second/Third, etc. place cat.” The owners of these animals who spent their time and money on these shows, could, in some way, understand why this particular judge chose this particular cat for this particular ribbon. Owners were given something to be proud of, and disagree or agree with the judge, those who placed second, third and so on, knew why the first place cat placed first.
Could the art world possibly change to let the artist in on the process of jurying? I find it strange that the art world does not accept change very easily. (I think they’d still be requiring slides for jurying national shows if film hadn’t become so hard to come by). After all, the art world is inherently filled with creative people. Why are they still doing things the same way they always do?
Creating art is deeply personal. The jury process always leaves us wondering. While most jurors write a statement for the booklet given out at the shows, it’s usually something along the lines of –I was impressed with the large amount of talent, it was hard to choose, those of you not selected, keep working at it, blah, blah, blah. Once in a while I’ve heard a judge discuss their choices at the reception. That’s nice. Would it be too difficult for jurors to justify their choices? Too much work to give an artist a reason why their work wasn’t accepted? Could a simple check list work? Maybe they could go the other way and at least talk about their choices for the winners. Like the feline judge….”I chose this painting as my Best in Show because…….”