Thursday, May 7, 2009

About juries

There's my painting from this afternoon. I will work on it some in the studio before it goes out into the world, but I thought you might enjoy seeing what I am doing out there. It is a one shot 16x20.

One of my readers asked me about judging shows. As I am ruined from doing that and then painting all day, I will post about juries rather than doing a critique tonight. I will return to that in a day or two.

I have juried many shows. There is so much to say I may have to do a couple of posts on this. Lets see....

First, an art jury is different than a civil jury, which is supposed to be, done by your peers, ordinary people. An art jury is supposed to be a panel of experts giving an informed judgment. When I was studying painting in the Fenway studios long ago I remember hearing rules on juries that, I think, are now forgotten, but they are interesting to review. The first was that professionals only did juried shows. Pro's didn't show alongside amateur work and an open unjuried show guaranteed that. I guess that the whole professional, amateur nomenclature has gone by, now. Is the art teacher at the local prechool a professional artist? I know, but I'm not telling.It is becoming politically incorrect to make the distinction.

The second rule was that professionals didn't put their work before juries containing amateurs. That's because of this panel of experts idea. It was also considered a no-no to pay to have your work juried.

A jury is a funny sort of an amalgam. Often I have sat on juries and seen the whole jury surprised at the choices they had made together. Perhaps none of them would have made the same choices alone. One thing I have seen happen, is a membership organization will decide that it would be fairest (whatever that means) to split the juries into half moderns and half traditionals. The two halves cancel each other out and only work able to pull a vote from both camps gets by. That is the most traditional looking moderns and the most modern of traditional painters get past the jury.

If the jury is college professors or newspaper critics I don't submit. Neither group will ever let a traditional painter by them. Know who the jury is before you submit. Usually the prospectus of the show will tell you. Then look up their work.You want to be juried by professional painters. Unless you are a schoolteacher or a news paper critic.

I was juried out of a show about 35 years ago in Minnesota, and I was hurt and disappointed, I was more thin skinned and naive then. I made a point of going to see the show from which my faux Hudson river school painting had been rejected. I walked in the door and there was the top prize winner ahead of me. It was a length of chicken wire with prophylactics shoved through the mesh. They looked unclean I might add. Again I was young and somewhat naive at this point in my life.I was unable to see what the jurors had enjoyed so, in the latex and wire masterpiece before me. Since then I don't waste my time with juries that prefer "edgier" art. That generally leaves out all of academia and anything operating on taxpayer money and with the word contemporary in its title.

The definition of contemporary is: anything other than what I do. It took me a long time to figure out that contemporary was a codeword, and just being alive was not enough to make me contemporary.

There are lots of members organizations out there and I expect those of you who have asked me about juries are about to put their work before one of those. These organizations vary widely on how high their bar is set. The same organization can vary greatly from year to year.

Assuming you have work of the quality compatible with the organization to which you are trying to gain entrance, it works like this. I guess I should first explain that that if you walk around an art association and see a lot of dreadful things you can't assume that is their current level of acceptability. Once people get in, they may show for a lifetime. their presence may reflect the lower standards of some period years ago when the organization badly needed members or accidentally selected a jury of idiots. It happens.

Either way, assuming you have something approaching the quality they are seeking, it then functions like a dice game. You get to roll once. If the right number comes up, you are in. But often it does not. I have seen some really fine and important artists rejected by juries. If you throw the dice more times you increase the odds of throwing a winning number. If you really want to be in a particular organization you may have to commit yourself to putting work before the jury every year until you get "lucky". Being juried functions like odds, and not always like a well informed and deliberate sorting device. If you do the kind of thing the organization wants to see, and you do it well, the odds are good you will get by the jury, but it is not certain.

More on juries tomorrow. This could take a while, there's a lot to this . I must sleep.


Jesse said...

I found out yesterday that I didn't get into a group show that I had three pieces in last year (sold one).

I had some concerns before I entered when I looked up this years juror. Out of school only 3 years, and a badly made website full of work worse than all of last years work. But she had a very interesting personal history, which was loud and proud on her web page. Which seems to count for a lot these days.

Richard J. Luschek II said...

This was a year full of rejections for me. One after the other. I was juried into one show last year. Then the painting they picked for first prize looked like folk art, as did many other prize winners (it was judged by a museum curator).
There were a handful of other rejections too, but I just found out that I was finally accepted to the Butler Museum show. Funny thing is I sent 3 images, and they picked the one that was wildly unfinished, and a very 'modern' looking still life. It was the last of the group that I would have picked. I hope they don't mind that I worked on the painting for about 2 full weeks after the image they chose from- it is a better painting now.

While I can't seem to get into many show, I was asked by a small local group to be the judge of their show in June. A nice blog post would be for you to give advice, suggestions or you basic thoughts on judging shows.

Unknown said...

Very valuable information.

Also, it is nice to look at your work and see the design elements that you write about come together in your paintings.

JAMES A. COOK said...

This jury post is just what I need to hear. Nobody has taken the time to talk about it except you. Thanks very much.
The painting you did yeasterday afternoon is very beautiful. Could you please post the finished painting after you work on it in your studio. To compare the two , from the field to the studio, will be a great learning tool.
Thanks again for all your efforts and your teachings will never be forgotten.


Stapleton Kearns said...

Forget about it and go back to work.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will do that tomorrow. The Butler museum show must be important. I know of that museum. Congratulations.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I can see a couple of problems that need working out. I will make a how to post out of that,by photographing the process and describing it in lurid detail. Maybe I will throw in a few long and pointless stories..

Stapleton Kearns said...

Will do.I will post on being on the jury tomorrow.

willek said...

In recent times an association I beling to uses a single jurors who are gallery owners. That is really a roll of the dice. A lot of times, the show is really about the juror and not the participants. But, it seems that every terrific picture that they have shot down, I have shortly thereafter sold for good money. So, it has been a good thing. WillEK