Pages

8.27.2007

"Thinking in Wax"--Notes on a Juried Show

Earlier this year I curated a show for the Marcia Wood Gallery in Atlanta, and last week I juried a show for the Castle Hill Center for the Arts in Truro, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. Curating is quite different from jurying, (I talked at some length about curating in my blog post on the topic) because you’re selecting work by artists you’ve already decided you want to include. There’s usually some give and take—the artists wants to know who else is in the show; the curator may want a work that’s unavailable—but generally it’s a dialog between and among people who have agreed to be involved with the project.


Panoramic view of two walls. From left: Mimi Reilly, Heather Pilchard, Susan Hardy Brown (on pedestal), Molly Hamilton, two paintings by Shirley Mossman Nisbet, three paintings by Binnie Birstein, Cid Bolduc

Jurying a show requires much more flexibility, because you never know what the work will be like until it arrives. The artist has a reasonable expectation of being included (otherwise why enter and pay the fee?) as well as the understanding that not everyone who enters will likely be accepted. .

"Thinking in Wax" opened at the Castle Hill Center for the Arts last week and will run through August 31. I chose the title* because I wanted to see how an artist’s concept and use of the medium came together in a realized work. Delivery was by hand, which meant that most artists were from the Outer Cape (Eastham, Orleans, Wellfleet, Truro, Provincetown)—a good opportunity to see the best of a region that is full of art and artists—though one artist drove down from Boston and another from central Connecticut. About 35 artists dropped off about 100 works; 23 artists and 34 works were juried in.

So how does a juror select work for a show?
.I can speak only for myself, of course. What follows is some of my thinking for this show, which had a specific medium and a general theme, but it’s equally valid for work that is selected by slide or digital image.
.

1) In a room full of actual work, I started by selecting, more or less at the same time, the work that resonated positively for me, as well as that which resonated negatively. Positive went to one side of the room; negative to the other. (With slides or digital images, sides of the room are conceptual but no less separate.)
. A work resonates positively when I feel it is resolved visually and technically. In a show such as this, there must be evidence that the medium has been used in service to the idea—not as an afterthought, not as a way to get into a show--but in which the medium and concept are so fused, so to speak, that neither could exist without the other. I don’t have to love the work personally, but I have to respond to the elements that make it what it is.

Binnie Birstein, First Prize recipient. Work from left: Floor Through, 12 x 12"; Empty Room Full, 16 x 16"; Untethered, 12 x 12"; all encaustic on panel

. A work resonates negatively when it doesn’t do those things. Moreover, I’m looking for interesting ideas, for well-developed concepts, maybe even some pushing of the conceptual envelope, so birds flying off into the sunset, for example, was not what I want to see here, no matter how good the paint handling might be.

2) While my own painting is abstract and non-narrative, I made a point of looking closely at work that is representational, and at work that has a narrative component, either visual or textual. And at sculpture. One artist, for instance, entered a small spiral-bound notebook filled with page after page of fluidly rendered paintings that referred to Greek vases, and in the same classical palette of black, ochre and red. Everything about the work was a delight: the imagery, the brushwork, the colors, and the concept of compressing those Greek stories into a differently dimensional narrative.

Narratives. Above, Susan Hardy Brown, Leaves of Wax, app. 14 x 12", encaustic on notebook paper. Below, Cherie Mittenthal, Patron Saint of Wax Melters and Bee Keepers, app. 12 x 10", encaustic on paper


3) In jurying the show by actual work, the largest pieces were the first to be selected or declined, mainly because they were the most visible and I had to start somewhere. However, there were two small photographic collages—positive and negative image scans of a nineteenth-century baby doll, one overlaid with an old photograph of the doll, and both collaged with wax—which resonated quite strongly for me. So it’s not just about the visual impact of the size, but of the idea that propels me to the first yeas or nays.

Joyce Zavorskas, Found Child and Lost Child, each app. 14" x 12", encaustic collage

. Let me say something about size: While big may catch a juror’s eye first, it must hold its own, otherwise it will be the first to be declined. . .

. While slides and digital images all project more or less the same size, they have their own "large" and "small" in terms of image quality. The best images are considered first. And, honestly, it takes a dedicated juror to make the effort to look, if at all, at images that don’t immediately yield their visual information.

. By the way, if you are submitting sculpture to a show in which most of the work is two-dimensional, your work has a greater chance of getting in. Why? Because while the paintings are all fighting for wall space, the floor is wide open.

Abstraction. From left: Jessica A. Gosman, Indigo; Francie Randolph, Coral Series 9 and 15, each app. 10 x 10 "; Kim Bernard, Spyro Gyra, app. 24 x 24", and Spiral Six, on pedestal. All encaustic on panel

4) Then I considered the vast middle ground. Often, I’ll find that I’m selecting, or deselecting, additional work by artists who were selected or deselected in the first round. This is not surprising. If an artist’s work resonates, then his or her second or third pieces are likely to resonate as well--or not.
. If it’s going to be a narrowly focused show, then I’d select more work by fewer artists.
. In this situation, however, I wanted to see a wider range of "thinking," so often I selected just one work (occasionally two, and in one instance three) from the same artist.
. But isn't the jurying done anonymously, you ask? It was, right up to the point where I had to make some decisions about whether to include two pieces by one artist or one piece by each of two artists. In this situation, the names were of people I didn't know, so it made no difference. And besides, there was other work I recognized as having been done by people I do know. So the best answer here is that a good juror--and I think of myself as one--is not influenced by whom or what she knows but by the quality of the work she sees, based on all the factors I mention in this post. (Grant juries, which have the power to award thousands of dollars, are a different issue, and I think anonymity is essential. And notice I said "juries," for big decisions require more than one person's power to grant or deny.)

Carol Hardy Brown, Leaves of Wax; Molly Hamilton, When the War is Over, app 24" x 36". Both encaustic on paper

5) At this point things got really interesting, because there were pieces that could have gone either way. I wanted to be fair to the artists, but I also wanted to be fair to the show, which is larger than any one artist or work. Once about half the selections were made, the curatorial part of my brain kicked in and I began to think about how all of this work would look together. I wanted a cohesive show, not a jumble. You do no favor for artists if you put their work into a big mess of a show.
. To be honest, this is the point in which context helps make the decision. A weak-ish work (that is, one that resonates weakly for me), may converse well with the already accepted work and become stronger in such context. In that case, it goes over to the accepted side. A strong-ish work (one that resonates but not enough to have motivated me to include it initially) that doesn’t converse well meets the opposite fate.
. I do a lot of back-and-forthing here. It’s in. It’s out. In. Out. Effecting this visual balance is probably what takes the most time, and certainly the most emotional energy, because I know someone’s excitement or disappointment (and entry fee) is riding on the pendulum swing.

Geometric and (mostly) abstract. From left: Michael Teters, Strength; Barbara Melcher, Bursting Color (top), Heather Pilchard, Untitled (bottom); Cecilia Rossey, Entrapped; Carol Odell, Looking for Adventure, app. 24 x 24"; John Shane, Skew; Ellyn Weiss, Blue Hill

6) Jurying was completed when all the work selected seemed right, both individually and together. I left the room several times before I reached this point. (I would have done the same thing with projected images)

7) Looking at the declined work in this or any show, it’s clear that a different juror could have made a different and equally good show. That different show might have come from declined work from artists whose other piece(s) got in; or from choosing an almost entirely different roster. So a juried show is as much about the taste and response of the juror as it is of the quality of work by the artists. Moreover, it’s a snapshot of a particular brief time in a juror’s thinking process, as well as of the selection of a few works by an artist, out of how many paintings or sculptures in her entire oeuvre. More than once it has happened that a painting declined from one show receives first prize in another—and vice versa.

I’m sure that a different juror would offer you an entirely different perspective on how she selects work for a show. Unlike competitions in which you have to hit a target or physically surpass a competitor’s leap in order to remain in the running, in a juried art show, the target is constantly moving, as is--
metaphorically, at least—the ground under your feet.


* Thanks to the New York painter Debra Ramsay for the phrase, "Thinking in Wax"

8.19.2007

Off to the Cape

I'm off to Cape Cod to do a weeklong teaching residency, and to jury a show ("Thinking in Wax") at the Castle Hill Center for the Arts in Truro, almost at the tip of the Cape. The weather is forecast to be cool--good for painting, not so good for beach going. I may not return with a tan, but I will certainly have a report on the galleries and shows at the tip, Provincetown, which has a handful of very good venues.

Above: the tower, icon for the Castle Hill Center for the Arts.

If I can post while I'm there, I will--depends on my access to wireless.
Meanwhile, if you haven't hit these recent posts, take a look:

. Sixth Anniversary Book project--for all you wax heads. I'll start posting pics soon
. Cyber Poetry (composed from the spam in my inbox)--I'm up to 10 sonnets and counting
. Serra and Stella--two long posts, one on both; the other on Serra's painterly surfaces
. "Luxe, Calme et Volupte," the show I curated for the Marcia Wood Gallery in Atlanta--the show is up through the 25th, so if you can't see it in person, see it here. And read my essay if you have a moment.
Plus a the usual rants and opinions, and a lot of links.

Below, the painting studio where I'll be spending the week.

8.18.2007

Poetry from Spam

Updated on 10.27.07

I have an e-mail box at a college where I teach. Every time I log on I find dozens of unsolicited messages squirming there. Honestly, I had no idea there was such an epidemic of minimally endowed men with bad credit in need of erectile help, more hair and second mortgages. Then a funny thing happened, my inner poet saw the messages in a different light. Now I love that junk mail! Some of it still creeps me out, though. All phrases are real, taken from the subject line. As you can see, this poetry section has been growing longer. (No, not that way.)

.

The Penis Monologs . . . . (10.27.07)
Tired of being ashamed of your penis?
We are here for you and your penis
Don’t be an average man
Be a real man with a real penis
Big dick is not a dream anymore
Trust our wonder medicine and your penis
No surgeries!
Don’t wait! Make your penis bigger!
Become the biggest guy
Get a massive confidence boost
Feel the difference
Your life will be better
Manster!
Russell’s vast phallus
Megadik
Steven’s massive schlong
Still have doubts about penis size?

Now it’s a snap.
Your new penis is waiting for you .........................................................................

..

Just Asking. . . (8.29.07)
How are you?
Are you confident in bed?
Can’t afford medications you need?
Why can’t you?
Query:
How big do you want to be?
Seriously, how big…
Don’t you want to know?
Why don’t you?
What do you need?
Are you achieving total pleasure?
Don’t you want more than this?
How much do you think you should pay?
Please reply

.
Free shipping any amount. . . (8.27.07)
Best deals are here
What do you need?
Stamina
Herbal vitamins
Pleasure toys
More hair
Pictures
Britney????
Don’t pay too much
Everything 50% off
Get it delivered to your home
Without leaving your chair
Free shipping any amount
You should check it
.
Friends he accumulated. . .(8.26.07)
Hot
Best
Large
Magic
Better
Larger
Longer
Massive
Acrobat
X-tra size
Bea Harde
Seymour Dick
Velazquez C. Dick
Edmund @ viagra.com
.
..
Flexible Positions. . . (8.19.07)
Get into shape
Flexible positions
Fine Arts Faculty Positions
Expanding their circle
Get big
Experience creative . . .
Get bigger
Experience like no other
I help you
I show you how far the rabbit hole goes
Where you fit in
Information especially for you
Info zum
Do you measure up?
.
..
The way it works… . . . (8.15.07)
Wassup
You ask me about this game
The way it works…
Just a few cents, really
Best Deal
Xtra size
Biggest ever
Much longer than average
Massive
Don’t take my word for it
Doctor approved and recommended
Over 1,500,000 bottles sold
Yes
Magic
.
..
Message for You . . . (8.14.07)
Colleague sent you a postcard
Holiday ecard
No subject
Friend sent you a greeting card
A Friend Confides. . .
Don’t you want to know?
What Paris knows…
Query
Query
Query
Important
Don’t you want to know?
Y Don’t U?
xoxo Britney
.
..
Pharmacy Paradise . . . (8.12.07)
Capsules, tablets, liquid
Medication to Your Door
Cheapest medication
Cheapest here
Cheapest anywhere
Don’t pay more
Pharmacy Paradise
Vi-8-alis
Ci-agra
GOLD!
Virility as never befoe
5% off the price
Good Time
Better ZZZZs
.
..
Magic Stick. . . . (8.9.07)
How are you?
Wanna be like me?
University Degree in Economics
Really high wages
Why don’t we meet?
Enjoy with you hard stick
Magic stick
A pretty-pretty fly
Anything you want
Gold
Rolex
Vi-alis
Guaranteed investment
Anything else?
.
..
Very-very Magic Stick. . . . (8.11.07)
BBC News reports…
Very-very magic stick
$2.00 per pill
Don’t pay more
Important
Get more energy
30 pills $89.95
Don’t pay more
Important: Massive
Womens Luv You
Paradise in your bed
All night long
Message from:
Velasquez C. Dick
.
..
Be Confident and Stand Tall . . . (8.03.07)
Hello
Message from Wanda:
Be the most confident man in town
No more being shy of your manhood

Significantly increase penis length
Bigger, really
Harder than ever!

Size without surgery
Then after a month or two you will
Get more energy
Be totally free of debt
Did you know that?
XXX Pictures!
FYI: Only Here
.
..
No Side Effects. . . (8.03.07)
Life changing Herbal pills, just a few cents
The thing that convinced me was
No side effects
Our Doctor-Approved Pill Will Expand, Lengthen And Enlarge
I liked it and you will too
Cheap medication

You save $369
Why pay more?
Why wait when you can . . .
Control your weight
Eliminate belly bulge without exercise
Meet and charm women
No side effects!
P.S. Donna sends her regards
.
..
Time is Running Out . . . (8.03.07)
Polite request:
Get Rich
Suggestion:
Regrow your hair
Save big on your mortgage:
Bad credit welcome
Not earning enuf?
Get hard stay hard

Tired of growing old?
Turn back your body’s biological time clock
No gimmicks
No obligation
Time is running out
Please fill in the required information
.
.
Haiku
For these I'm using the spam subject lines as well as some of the "senders'" names. For the last one, "Complete Ecstasy," I drew from the whole message (how could I not?)
.

Young, Rich and Bourgeois. . .(8.27.07)
Dwayne Young, Barton Rich
Friends he accumulated
Hillary Bourgeois

Change Everything . . . (8.8.07)
No more feeling down
Womens used to laugh at me
Rolex Britney Sex

Hi There! . . . (8.8.07)
Hello. Chat with you?
You’ll feel better right away
Wanna see my pics?


Complete ecstasy . . . (8.8.07)
We shall in no way
Be obliged to clarify
Any of these claims

8.16.2007

Some Chelsea Color

I've been shooting this stuff forever, but I never thought about posting it until I started looking at John Tallman's blog, Color Chunks. (Thanks for the inspiration, John).

Above: 27th Street between 11th Ave and the Highway. Wouldn't you love to meet the person who chose the colors for this warehouse building? I would. (This is the block Schroeder Romero and Winkleman Gallery are on, so stop and look if you're by there

Above: 27th Street between 10th and 11th. I saw a fiberglass wall just like this in Havana a few years ago with pretty much the same message. Below: 22nd Street, I think, also between 10th and 11th.

Above: This is an oldie, another scanned image from around 19th Street near Fifth Avenue. I love the color made by the layers of netting. And see the little square of pink in the upper right of the image? How perfect is that?

8.14.2007

Some Chelsea Geometries

Click here for updated Cyber Sonnets

Just looking around. Chelsea had a couple of nice recent bits of urban geometry worth posting.

.

Above: The truck is parked at the corner of 10th Avenue and 20th Street, at a public works depot. The colors aren't so great, but the pattern sure is. Below, also on 10th Avenue: shadows between 22nd and 23rd. This one reminded me of the long horizontal Ellsworth Kelly sculpture I saw last year around the corner at Matthew Marks

Above: This gem is a few years old--old enough to have been taken with a film camera. I always liked it, and when I was purging stuff from my office shelves to make room for the new scanner, I found it. Of course it's the first thing I scanned. I think I shot on 20th Street, too, but farther east--closer to Sixth Ave.

Click here for Book Project