I spent a good chunk of my day yesterday down in the Catskills at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum as the juror for their annual “Recent Works” show. It was a rewarding, engaging experience. While the purist in me feels that art should never competitive (as the creative spirit is worthy in each and every one of us, regardless of our skill at execution), the pragmatist in me understands that technically, aesthetically, and conceptually, some works are indeed better than others. I appreciated the opportunity to lead that selection process for this show. There were over 200 pieces submitted, and I think we ended up with about 60 in the final show.
Just as in music criticism, there are objective and subjective elements to ranking or rating visual art. The reviewing process was blind (i.e., I didn’t know who the artists were, nor their degree of experience, etc.). I’m sure that there are some very impressive artists whose works I cut from the show yesterday. I’m also sure that I probably left some works in the show by “up-and-comers” who might not have the same degree of polish and poise that their more experienced counterparts offer, but who captured something special in the pieces they offered for the show. They may never strike those sparks again, but if their pieces spoke to me yesterday, they probably made the show. They were right for that point in time. Extra points given for people who don’t take themselves too seriously. There is a space for whimsy and fun in art, and I often appreciate those artists who know how to tap that.
At WAAM yesterday and in the 30+ shows I have present at the C+CC since 2002, I generally tried to find a balance between well-crafted work (great from a technical standpoint, but maybe not thrilling in its content) and inspirational work (where the artist’s vision is so compelling and riveting that the construction or technique almost vanishes, as the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts). Sometimes, though, it’s honestly just down to a gut feeling: I like something . . . or I don’t. I haven’t generally embarrassed myself when I’ve gone with my gut this way, so I feel pretty good about listening to those hunches.
The greatest works of art, of course, are the ones that are well-crafted and inspirational. I found several of those in the WAAM show, and was pleased to be able to select a “best in show” and two “honorable mention” pieces that I believe met both of those criteria, and then some.
One of the best parts of working at the C+CC has been this growing ability to work deeply with visual art and artists, to be able to move beyond my own personal interests in collecting art (which I have done for a while) and to be able to view, review and present art in a far more professional, institutional framework.
I have been very proud of most of the gallery shows I have presented at the C+CC, and have generally received very favorable notice for the events that have been reviewed here. That’s helpful feedback to have. I also have had the opportunity to work with some exceptional curators here, including David Brickman and Sara Ayers. I felt far better prepared to jury the WAAM Show after working with both of them than I would have without the techniques and talents they shared with me in our collaborations.
If you find yourself down Woodstock way in the next little while, stop in and see the show. I think you will enjoy it!