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My Experience as an Exhibition Juror

A few months ago I was asked to be the exhibition juror for the members exhibit at the Mosesian Arts Center.  It's a non-juried show.  All members are invited to submit up to 3 pieces of work for the show.  From the submissions, I was to choose 1 Best in Show Winner and 3 Honorable Mentions.

Once the show was hung, I was invited to come by the Mosesian Arts Center and see the work.  I was determined to have a system for making my choices.  Before I walked in, I made a list of criteria for myself.  Work under consideration for a prize must:

  • Be well executed.
  • Have a point-of-view.
  • Make me, the viewer, feel or think or react in some way.
  • Be unique in some way.

These aren't the criteria that all judges use, I'm sure. But these are the things I like to see in art.

I made an initial sweep through the exhibit making quick choices about "yes" this fits the criteria or "no" this doesn't.  After my initial sweep, I had a shortlist of 20 artworks I wanted to go back and see again.

I started to think more deeply about the artwork this time through.  I read labels and really considered each of the 20 pieces.  After taking a good hard close up look at my top 20, I narrowed it down to 10 pieces that I really felt met all the criteria.

At this point, I felt overwhelmed.  And so I decided I needed a bit of time.  I took photos of the 10 works under consideration and went home.

The next morning, I decided that I needed a way to more directly compare the artwork.  So I printed all 10 out together onto 2 sheets of paper.  This allowed me to look at them side-by-side.  I picked out my four favorite and decided to sleep on it for one more night.

In the morning, without looking at the artwork, I asked myself, "What artwork are you still thinking about?"  Once I had chosen my top four, I had to choose a Grand Prize Winner from among them. The questions I asked were, "Which of these works shows complete mastery over this person's craft?" and, "Which of these works do I not have any suggestions to give the artist on how to make it just a little bit better?"

And in this way, my choices became clear.  Here I am announcing the prizes at the Exhibition Opening:

All in all, I would say that this was an educational process for me.  I have often been on the other side of the judging process.  Four things I'm taking away:

  • Art is subjective (obviously).  I like seeing the hand of the artist.  Another juror might not.
  • It's often attractive to go towards creating work that is like what everyone else is making, but standing out is often about standing alone. 
  • Titles matter.  Is your artwork about something?  Can the title add meaning to what the viewer is already taking away from the work?
  • For me, pretty is not enough.  I need story, emotion...something more substantive than pretty.

Most of all, I think I will be less hurt when I don't make it into an exhibit or win a prize.  Instead I will focus on being the best version of the artist I want to be!

Thanks for stopping by!