Sunday, August 29, 2010

Guest Blog by Gayle Pritchard - Show Entries from A Different Point of View

Gayle Pritchard is the curator for Artist as Quiltmaker as well as an artist. The following is in response to the recent articles and comments posted relating to issues of show entries.


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Hi Terry & Terry’s blog readers. I finally had a minute to respond to your posting in my role as curator of the Artist as Quiltmaker biennial exhibition held at FAVA (the Firelands Association for the Visual Arts.)

First of all, Gloria Hansen’s articles in the SAQA publications are the only ones I have seen that consistently address the “how to photograph and size your work” question consistently. This subject, however, is not a new one, as art quilters have struggled with this since they first began exhibiting their work. When I interviewed artists for my book Uncommon Threads: Ohio’s Art Quilt Revolution, everyone talked about having to learn about photography, and Nancy Crow shared with me images of her very first quilt photos, one of which I included in the book. Her quilt was photographed hanging on a line outside in front of her garage. So you can see, we have come a long way. It should be noted, however, that the artists have always had to take responsibility for having good images of their work, correctly labeling them, storing them and sending them. At least now we are toying with the elimination of actually having to mail them anywhere. I should say, though, that there is as much variation from horrible to wonderful in the digital images we receive as there ever was with slide entries. Good photography still matters. Secondly, artists entering juried shows also need to realize that we receive hundreds, maybe thousands, of images for an exhibition. This requires great attention to detail in storing, organizing and presenting the work to the benefit of the artist. Not all artists make it easy for us to present their work to their advantage, because they do not read the requirements, or follow the rules, are unorganized, do not provide the required materials, and so on. Some jurors overlook this; some do not. Because we also have an object jury, some jurors will overlook crappy images, because they like the piece and want to see it in person; some will disregard a piece presented via crappy photography.

Since most curators of these long-running exhibitions are not experts, and because technology is changing so very quickly, we all have our work cut out for us. In our case, the call to entry for our 2012 exhibition will be put together next February. We have until then to research the various websites that manage online entries to see if that will work for us. We do not have a staff “web” person, nor do we have a large budget. Technology moves so quickly, and new tools emerge so quickly, that our call to entry may be outdated by the time the exhibition takes place over a year later. Oh, and to address another comment I read, we at AQM do use the entry fees to supplement the award money donations we receive, but we certainly do not make money as she suggests, yet still try to print high quality postcards, have display materials made to highlight specific pieces, pay for educational lectures, tour groups, etc. to come through, and so on.

As for consistent digital requirements, at AQM we have tried to stay on top of what other exhibitions are doing, even though I am a consultant and not a staff member, and without having a computer geek on staff. When we designed our last call to entry, our hired graphics person and I researched the wide variety of digital requirements listed, then tried to tailor them to meet the requirements of our exhibition. Because I am also an artist, I try to be particularly sensitive to the needs of the artists who may wish to enter our juried show, so that I can make the process as seamless (and pleasant) as possible for them.

What I find to be a most intriguing possibility, but which I am unaware of currently, would be an online site where artists could store their images, then simply do a “click and send” to meet the parameters of a specific show. This probably already exists.

As Christine Mauersberger mentioned in one of her responses, the projection of images is also an issue. For AQM, we only utilize one juror. Last time, we still had some slide entries, so we had the projector and screen set up for those, then all the other images prepared for a PowerPoint projection on the screen. We felt it was important that all the images be projected the same way, and not simply viewed on one of the computer screens. One other thing we do at the “image jury” stage of our exhibition is allow volunteers to assist the curator (me), and the juror. They are not allowed to talk or react to or discuss the exhibition entries, but often they are artists who I have encouraged to view the process close-up and personal. It is very educational, and you should try it if you have the opportunity. You will learn a lot.

Finally, at our exhibition, we have the controversial “object jury.” After the initial jury from images, the work selected is brought into the gallery space, (though not installed), the juror returns, and views all of the artwork one more time. Many artists do not like this part, do not like having to send their work to the exhibit and have it returned, and do not like having their work tied up in the extended jury process. I must tell you, however, that in 30 years we have never had a juror who did not like the object jury. In fact, they love it, and feel in general that it makes for a much stronger show. For our exhibition, the juror also selects the award recipients at this stage.

So, that’s my two-cents-worth for now. Thanks for beginning the conversation, Terry, because it is a worthy one, and one that will continue, I am sure, for years to come.


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A big thank you Gayle for taking the time to present a different voice. And thank you for visiting Studio 24-7 and I love hearing from!



6 comments:

  1. Gayle, thanks for sharing your insights.

    Perhaps you could tell us a little more about the object jury in practice at AQM. As a potential show entrant I have always been leery about the object jury because I make large works and am not eager to spend $20 or $40 to send things for review unless I have a good idea they will be accepted to the show. Have always thought it would be in everybody's interest (the show as well as the entrants) if you were to tell us the numbers of the object jurying -- in other words, what are the chances that my $40 shipping expense will be for nothing? If I knew that, for instance, in the last five years you have sent back only 3 pieces after the object jury, I would be a lot more inclined to enter the show than if you routinely reject half of the pieces that are sent in.

    Thanks in advance for any info you can provide about your own show in this regard.

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  2. Hi Kathleen, and thanks for the question, because it is one that comes up often. Obviously I can't speak for any other exhibitions, but at the Artist as Quiltmaker, the Object Jury works like this: the jury selects from images works that will be requested for the Object Jury. I see my role as curator at this stage, at least in part, to make sure the juror is aware of how many artworks the gallery can comfortably hold, and to encourage the juror to winnow down the selections to that point as much as possible. It is up to the juror, ultimately, because our single juror is selecting the show based on the parameters they have set for the type of show they want to present subject to the entries received.
    In the decade-plus that I have curated the exhibition, only a few pieces have not been included in the final exhibition. In one case, the piece was a large installation, and could not, in the end, be accomodated without turning away half of the other entries. In several cases one year, artists were selected, then removed their works from the exhibition. We then had to make rules in the entry process to accomodate that, because we felt it was inherently unfair to other entrants. In one case, the juror had elected to see a few more pieces than could be installed. This occured because the images were poor, but the juror like the work enough to want to see it. Some of those pieces ended up being included, and a couple others not included. So, to summarize, probably 99% of the work overall is selected for the final exhibition, juror's quirks not withstanding. The juror has the final say. That's why we hire them.
    Again, because I am an artist, I understand the expense involved in shipping work for a final Object Jury. We do try to use the opportunity of having the work to do some advance publicity photography. I also fought, as curator, to cover the expense of shipping for the Object Jury. The compromise we ended up with is that we pay for shipping and insurance to and from the exhibition installation. This is something that most venues do not cover, so it seemed like a net-gain for the artists involved. It is also a very expensive perk that we offer.
    Finally, there may be ways to tweak the Object Jury stage. We have discussed eliminating it, but have not taken that step, because the juror's feel the final exhibition is stronger, and because we feel this is one point that singles out our exhibition, vis a vis the (now) many others that exist. Since AQM is the second oldest, longest running art quilt exhibition in the world (second only to Quilt National, also in Ohio), we wanted a unique imprint on our exhibition. Ricky Clark, who founded the exhibit, designed ours to be in off-years of Quilt National, with the result that major art quilt exhibitions are on view in Ohio every single year for nearly 30 years now. Hurrah!
    Hope this helps!
    Gayle

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  3. Hi Kathleen,
    Just made a very long post in response that somehow disappeared! Will try again later, and hope I can address your question adequately.
    More later,
    Gayle

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  4. thank you, Gayle -- that answers a lot of my questions. it is indeed generous of AQM to cover shipping for the show and I had not been aware of that.

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  5. Gayle and Kathleen, Thank you for the excellent exchange and information. I wanted to add that I have been too concerned about object juries because my understanding has always been that, that part of the process to confirm that the slides or digital images represented the work acurately but not one where the work was "re-juried" as a whole. I may be wrong on that but that's my impression. Having said that, I just try to make the best images of my work that I can.

    Sorry about the disappearing comment.

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  6. Terry, you're not wrong. That is certainly a part of it. It's not so much a matter of "checking up on the artwork" to make sure it matches the images sent, but more making spotting immediately if something looks grossly different. Aside from that, on rare occasions, some pieces just don't hold up (quality-wise) to the Object Jury.
    Thanks all for the inspiring conversation.

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