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.
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.
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!