Trial by combat, man vs. woman.
In my last post I discussed using previous winners as the next jury. Tonight I think I will lay out the moist conventional system for art juries, those elected by the membership.
The strongest argument for an elected membership is....well, they are elected. The artists who will be in the show decide who will be the judge. What could be fairer than that? Here is the usual process.
Most all art associations are governed by an elected board, who hire a director to actually run daily operations. Every year there is an annual meeting and the nominees for the juries are voted on by the membership at that meeting. But the process starts before that. The president, somebody on the board, or the director is detailed to call individual members and ask them if they would accept the nomination to the exhibition jury. If you intend to have a jury of, say, seven you need eight to ten nominees. If you don't have more nominees than positions on the jury it is hardly an election. That's third world dictatorship stuff. You simply have to have some nominees for the members to reject. Getting ten people to pledge their time, that are actually qualified, can be a lot of work. Many people turn down the responsibility, or served the year before and should are often eliminated from the jury pool. So being the guy who has to secure the nominees can be a big job, besides having to ask people to give up their time and possibly make a few enemies.
This system is not immune to being captured by a subgroup either, but it is less likely, unless that subgroup has critical mass at the annual meeting to outvote the rest of membership. Remember though, every year some people are going to be juried out. They will form a disgruntled cadre of rejected artists working to change or control the system. Sinced that seems to be automatic, when I hear that a jury is corrupt incompetent or blind I always remember that this is a constant in the system. Maybe the jury was corrupt and blind, maybe not. Every jury is accused of that
I have sat on many juries and overseen a lot of them. I have never seen a corrupt jury.
I have seen juries deliberately balanced between devotees of the traditional and acolytes of the avant-garde, to be "fair". Those juries often work this way, Real modern art won't pull vote from the traditionalists and extremely traditional work won't pull the needed votes from the moderns. You get a show full of Cuisinart fauve, things that straddle the boundaries of both schools without really exemplifying either one. Often these juries are flabbergasted at the shows their voting produced. No individual on the jury would have chosen that show.
Many organizations prohibit or at least discourage conversation about the pieces being juried. The work is placed before the jury, they vote and the next work is displayed to them. Very seldom have I seen an argument or anger during a jury. When I have, it was by a juror who was characterized by such behavior. Juries show up, and try to do a good job, generally. They are proud to be on the jury, it is an honor, so they want to pick out as good a show as possible. They will be judged by that. Most jurors try to select a broad range of work besides what they do themselves , believing they can reward quality in different sorts of painting. They almost never have it "in" for a particular artist. If you were juried out of a show, it truly happened because they thought your painting was weak. Maybe you should have a look at how you can improve your art by the next exhibition, instead of jiving yourself that the jury is blind or biased.