Pictures For An Exhibition,
by guest blogger Larkin Van Horn
Jurying artwork for an exhibition holds no great mysteries. A group of relative strangers sits in a darkened room while images flash before their eyes, from which they must somehow agree which to accept and which to decline. Easy, right? Not so fast.
Before they get to that point, they will receive instructions from the
organizer of the show. These instructions can be as simple as “pick the best work” or “put together something cohesive”, or they can go on for pages. Usually it is something in between. The organizer will tell them
things like: how many pieces to accept; how many linear feet to fill;
whether to focus on visual impact or technical proficiency; how picky to be
about any size restrictions; how closely the work should hold to the theme
of the show (if any); whether to accept controversial pieces (politics,
religion, nudity, etc.) and so on. If the show is going to travel, the
jurors may be asked to select a sub-set for the smallest venue, or this step
may be left to the organizer.
Though some exhibits are juried from the actual artwork, most exhibits are
juried from photograhs. And for every slot on the “accepted”
roster, there may be 10 entries or 100. The jurors have to look at all
these photos and make their choices in one day. They will start with a fast
run-through of all the entries, making no decisions. The second time
through, each juror will make notes and vote “Yes”, “No”, or “Maybe”. Those
entries with all “No” votes will be set aside. Those with all “Yes” votes
will be accepted. If all the stars align, the number of “Yes” votes will
equal the number of slots on the roster, and everyone can go home. Not very
likely. The next step is to scrutinize the “Maybe” pieces to see which make
the most sense to move up to fill the roster. There is a lot of discussion
at this point. And then the final run-through of the accepted works. The
jurors will be asking themselves things like “will this collection make a
cohesive show?”, “will this collection engage the viewers?”, “is this
representative of the organization?”.
To add further confusion to the mix, most juries are “blind”, meaning the photos are not accompanied by the name of the artist. So the jurors have no way of knowing if they have included something from everyone who entered, or if they have put together a 6 person show. If the instructions to the jury included the requirement that every person who enters the show will have one piece in the show, then right before the final run-through one of the assistants will check the selected entries against the list of accepted pieces to make sure that hurdle has been crossed. If not, it’s back to the
drawing board for the jurors.
Jurors come to their task with their backgrounds as artists, gallery owners,
museum curators, collectors, etc. As much as they try to stay completely
objective, they are, after all, human. Their personal tastes and
preferences come with them and will undoubtedly color some of their
decisions. Accept this, forgive them, and carry on.
One final note: If the mantra of the real estate business is “location,
location, location”, the mantra of the juried exhibition is “photography, photography, photography”! If they can’t tell what they are looking at, jurors will vote “No” and move on. Professional product photography can be expensive, and if you plan to do your own photography, remember a few things:
– No fingers and toes. If your work is intended for the wall, hang it
up. Don’t hold it up in the driveway.
– Don’t distract the jurors with houseplants, tablecloths, or anything
that is not THE ART. If your piece requires a stand or support, make sure it is unobtrusive.
– FOCUS! Make sure your photo is not out of focus. Jurors won’t take
a chance on something they can’t see clearly.
– Get a second opinion. You know what your art looks like, and may not
see any photographic flaws. Have someone else look at your photos before submitting them.
And a last word about words: the jurors may ask about the title of your
work, and even your artist statement. Whatever you write, be clear,
concise, and let the words enhance the experience of seeing the art.
Don’t get lost in artspeak – say what you mean.
There will be future blog posts about preparing your photos for the entry
process and writing an artist statement. Be on the look out for them, and
remember that the work isn’t done until the paperwork is finished.
And good luck!
“Larkin is a member of the Northwest Designer Craftsmen, Studio Art Quilt
Associates, Surface Design Association, and serves on the Board of Directors
for The Grünewald Guild. She is in demand as a teacher and lecturer, and has
published books on beadwork, and patterns for wearable art garments and
fabric vessels. Her work has been displayed and won honors both regionally
and nationally, and is in many private and church collections. She is an experienced Curator, Juror and Judge for fiber art exhibitions locally and for traveling exhibits.
Larkin grew up in Everett, and currently lives on Whidbey Island in
Washington State with her husband/photographer/webmaster, Van, and her
eclectic collection of fabric, fibers, and beads.”
To learn more about Larkin or her art, please see her website: www.larkinart.com