My Experience as an Exhibition Juror
October 02, 2019
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!