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Works on Paper

A little over a week ago, I met Amy Anderson, Gallery Coordinator at the Rosewood Arts Centre, to jury the “Works on Paper” art show. I really enjoyed the task, even though it was a difficult one. It reminded me of the crits we used to have in design school. It took about 4 hours to go through the entries, following is the juror’s statement I wrote for the show:

Being asked to judge the 18th annual “Works on Paper” has been both an honor and a challenge. This year there was no shortage of excellent works of art, almost setting a record with 385 entries from 148 artists. Selecting the 66 pieces from 53 different artists for the show seemed like an impossible task. The artwork was diverse, ranging from abstract to realistic, from 3 dimensional sculptures to 2 dimensional photography and textural paintings. Each one brought out different aspects of their shared substrate, paper.

The field of entries showed excellent mastery of their technique, making it that much harder to choose the award winners. Attention was paid to line, shape, color, form, composition, and the stories that they conveyed. Each one told something about their subject, their substrate, but also about the artist as well. The decision was a difficult one, and much time was spent reviewing each individual piece to decide which ones to include in the show and to eventually pick as a winner. Each one stands out in it’s own way, but sadly only a few can be accepted for show and even fewer can be winners. Those chosen to be in the show should feel proud to be included in such a high quality body of work.

Though each artist has chose to use different media, showcase his/her own unique style, and tell a very different story, they all come together as a visual feast, exalting the flexibility and the beauty of paper. Each work excels in it’s own way and stands on it’s own, but together they tell a story, a story about creativity and unique ideas. They tell a story about the wonderful artists in and around the Dayton area. Dayton, Kettering, and the Rosewood Gallery should be proud to have attracted so many talented artists and their wonderful works of art.

A few things I learned while jurying the show:

Everything is subjective. One of the pieces I picked to place, wasn’t even accepted last year. I saw it as being very much on theme and a creative use of materials. It was essentually a color study. Being a graphic designer that spent many late hour painting color chips to build intricate color studies in Foundations classes at DAAP, Ihave an appreciation for that type of work that many others may overlook. I also found myself really liking several type studies that were entered.

Attention to detail is important. After my first round of reviewing the entries, I had about 75 wall pieces set aside as possibilites. I could accept on about 50 of these. After the 3rd round I still had about 65, so now it came down to looking for reasons to exclude pieces. Bad frames, crooked or uneven mats, loose mounting, poor presentation, wrong colors, bad craft and technique all became targets. Several times we picked up a piece, and said I really like the piece, but the presentation really hurts it. The mat was sideways. The color mat clashed rather than enhanced the piece. The mat was cut crooked.
Some peices did not even make it that far, for these same reasons, especially when it was extreme.

Titles can be important. I know photographers really hate this, and some pieces speak for themselves, at least for the artist that created it. It may be hard for others to interpret, and a good title can go a long way for a judge to interpret the intended meaning, especially when there is no room for an artist’s statement. I remember looking at some pieces and though, this is interesting, but what are they trying to say? Ambiguity can be another reason to not include a piece.

Be Different.
You generally only have a few seconds to capture the eye of a judge. Make sure your entry is different from the crowd. Since I’m a photographer, I’ll pick on photographers, if you are going shoot a photo of a flower, make sure it’s really stands out from the crowd, otherwise it’s just another flower photo and will be glossed over quickly, no matter how well done it is.

Pay attention to the theme. The theme of the show is paper, so the top prize went to the most creative use of paper. Pay attention to your substrate and make the most of it. Just making a print on paper won’t win the top prize.