It’s such an honor to be asked to juror an art show. I’ve done it several times and always learn a lot. The Canyon Lake Art Guild (CLAG) recently asked me to juror their annual show, and last week I drove up there to see the artwork and choose the award winners.
One of the challenges of organizing a juried show is coming up with categories – there are so many media options that can be included. Here’s how the CLAG did it:
- Oils and Acrylic – Treated as oil and any mixed media with oil or acrylic as the dominant media
- Water – Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, inks applied with brushes or poured, acrylic treated as watercolor and any mixed media with water media as the dominant media
- Drawing – Pastel, ink, charcoal, pencil and colored pencil, Cont’e crayon, graphite, scratchboard, handmade prints (etching block, silk screen, or mono) and any mixed media with drawing media as the dominant media
- Photography and Digital – All images must be artist’s original work.
- Jewelry, glassworks (including fused glass & stained glass)
- Pottery, ceramics, sculpting, stone, mosaics
- Collages, fiber art and any mixed media with 3-D elements as the dominant media
The largest categories are usually Oils/Acrylics, and Water Media. They are also the most diverse. Here were four of the entries in Oils/Acrylics – completely different! (Each of these got an award). Blue tape covers the artist’s name for complete objectivity.
How do you judge such different pieces? My rule is to ask myself two questions – what is the artist telling us, and how technically successful is the result – i.e., concept and skill. Based on this, I awarded the top painting a First Place, the second one a Second Place, the third one a Third Place, and the fourth an Honorable Mention. OK, why??
The First Place top piece is a portrait of sorts, and it’s mysterious and engaging. There is a smaller profile off to the right that directs our eye back to the main figure. The artist is obviously exploring diverse media to enhance the symbolism. Great concept, good skill.
The Second Place painting of the cow was a favorite of mine for sure – it’s so “in you’re face, I’m a cow.” Loved the colors. After I got home from jury duty, I found out that it was painted by one hundred and one-year-old local artist Carmen Willey!
The Third Place piece shows a fine grasp of color and composition – it’s small and simple and elegant.
The Honorable Mention painting was really large and resembled a poster, but it was hand-painted. I appreciated the way that the background picked up all the paint colors and integrated the work.
So, on to the Water Media, another large category – in the interest of space I’ll just show the top two choices, in my humble juror’s opinion.
This First Place painting shows a mastery of transparent watercolor, plus the subject is unusual. Look how the chicken shapes play off each other, and how the spatters give the feeling of scratchy gravel and chicken fee without being overworked.
There is a strong focal point with that splash of red. And the painting seems to symbolize a feeling of community. I loved the composition – it looks good even upside down, which is always a good test!
The Second Place winner was also beautiful – a sensitive watercolor portrait with a limited palette. Choosing between these two was tough! Which would you have chosen?
Here are the first and second place in the drawings category – do you agree?
There was lots more work – Photography, Mixed Media, glass, jewelry – here are just a few of the other winners that I chose in various categories
Finally, this was the piece that I awarded Best of Show:
It is a very large clay sculpture that looks as if it could have come from a children’s book. It’s titled “Duet.”
It met my juror’s criteria of original concept, and expert execution. I found out after the show that it was done by sculptor Susan Calafrancesco, who has a large following and a published body of work. While it’s not a new piece, there were no time restrictions on submissions for this exhibition, and it was truly masterful and appealing.
One last story about the jurying experience – I had been invited to juror by Marlene Skaggs, an active and talented member of CLAG. She functioned as my note-taker. As I evaluated each piece, she wrote down notes to share with the artists whose works I was critiquing. When we came to those watercolor chickens, I went on and on about the freshness of the brushwork and the appeal of the subjects. I said, “This artist must have been working in watercolor quite a while to achieve this confident style.” Marlene just kept writing, not saying a word – and of course, after everything was over, I found out that it was her painting!
I’m so grateful to the Canyon Lake Art Guild for inviting me to be the Juror for their show. There are some astonishing artists in the group, and every piece I saw had its own heart and soul. In closing, I’m going to steal the words of Stephanie Fox Knappe, who juried our 89th Art League exhibition, who said it better than I can:
“When called upon as a juror, I am acutely aware of the incredible subjectivity inherent in the task at hand. Simultaneously, I make a conscious effort to try to step outside myself. I attempt to consider what I intellectually know contributes to a strong piece—mastery of art’s formal elements such as line, shape, form, space, texture, value, color. I observe these components to assess and understand how an artist manipulates them, tells stories with them, makes magic from them, and brings something into being that did not previously exist.”