I recently juried an important art exhibit and was reminded of how tenuous and arbitrary an art career can be. To have a career as an artist is somewhat of a miracle when you think of how much works against it. First off, the competition is fierce amongst young students to get into the best colleges or art schools just to study art. Many of these students come from art savvy homes and have grown up with an appreciation for the arts long before they even knew what they wanted to be.
Having said this, I was one juror on a panel of three. I can see how this would make for less confrontational decision making since it would take two jurors to push an artist’s work through, but the problem with this system is finding a middle ground for the jurors to come together...and this doesn’t always happen easily. First off, my view of art and what I responded to was very different from the other jurors. I come from an illustrative, photorealistic background and value sharpened skills. I also value, since I have become a surrealist in my own work, intriguing concepts that are not cliche or ordinary. I want to see something I haven’t seen before.
No matter how talented the artist, there’s a skill level that comes only by working at his or her craft. I can usually tell how long an artist has been working by the finesse shown in their pencil or brush work. Talent plays a big part when it comes to the depth of an artist’s vision, but it’s the commitment to the work that develops skill and a unique technique.
I found it hard when an artist I wanted pushed through didn’t make it into the show due to taste differences between the jurors. This happens more times than not, which is not necessarily the fault of the jurors since they are entitled to their own opinion and shouldn’t be criticized for it. Perhaps having one judge is better for consistency in taste, although this also has its problems.
I write this blog because I think it important for every artist to understand this is a flawed system and being rejected from a juried exhibit is not an indictment of your talent. It’s just one of the many obstacles that helps season an artist. The biggest enemy to the art world is when an artist stops making art. Just don’t let that happen!