Lazy Day at the Lake, watercolor on paper

Have you ever wondered, “How did that painting win an award in this show?” Or even, “How did that painting get into this show?”

Well, I have wondered both of those things many times, in both art shows I have been accepted into and those I haven’t. Recently, I was involved in assisting a juror curate an Atlanta art show. The “assistance” consisted of grabbing rejected paintings and removing their offensive presence from his sight. I found out many enlightening things about how a show is juried at this particular venue.

The jurying process as carried out by this person was very unfair and subjective. The juror was ostensibly “qualified” but that was beside the point, as he was obviously and overtly biased in including artwork from people he knew, which he told all of us. He admitted to us that his “first place winner” was a personal friend and former student and he even said that was the reason why he was choosing his art for the first place prize. During the jury process, he rejected a number paintings and then went back into the bins to put some of them back when the number of paintings was deemed too low, but without re-considering all of the artwork. He only re-considered the artwork that was submitted in pairs of 2 or 3 from which he had already chosen one piece. At the end of his choosing/rejecting/choosing process, he tried to explain to us why he chose some of the less than wonderful paintings that he did. He liked the flowers in one, the white space in another, etc. etc. It was a very rudimentary and unsophisticated bunch of remarks for a juror held in such high esteem.

Obviously being a part of this as an artist was frustrating, especially since everyone else there applauded when he was all finished. My two submitted paintings were rejected by this juror together, so were not reconsidered. I was applauding a man who had rejected both of my paintings from this show. All the artists paid the same amount of money to enter this show, whether we were rejected or not. In submissions to shows in the art world, there are no refunds. It’s one of the things that the general public is not usually aware of when they see a group art show. Everyone rejected from the show pays to be “considered”.

After the jurying process was finished and I had applauded a man who rejected artwork I had worked hard on, I felt kind of dirty and I just wanted to leave. As I was taking my paintings out of the rejection bins, another member of this art gallery approached me and proceeded to give my paintings an uninvited critique. He looked at my painting (above) and asked me, “Where is the light coming from”?  I thought, “Why are you asking me that?”. He then declared that sometimes jurors like to be hit over the head with an obvious light source, because it’s a trigger that make their happiness switch turn on or something.  Then he told me, “You should join my critique group”.  And I thought, “No thanks, I don’t need anyone to tell me what they don’t like about my artwork. Thank you very much, and bless your heart.”  And finally, here’s a quote from a famous artist who knew what he was doing and didn’t care for critics either.

“I don’t listen to what art critics say.

I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.”

~ Jean-Michel Basquiat

That’s how I feel too. Are jurors and art critics even useful? Only if they are serious and unbiased and it’s a serious art show competition. But I dream of an art show system where artists are given a specific theme and size, very narrow, so that all entrants can be in the show. Or do it alphabetically if it’s a large art group. That would be more fair than how most of these “juried shows” are put together. In the end, a juried show is just based on opinions, usually based only on personal preference, and who knows where that comes from.

The painting above, Lazy Day at the Lake, is one of my rejected submissions to this so-called “juried” art show. It was not reconsidered along with other rejected paintings, only because he dismissed my other submission too. (Both of my paintings were very good according to my own internal juror that lives in my brain).

For the record Mr. Critic: the light source in my painting is the sun. It’s in the sky. On a sunny day it lights everything in a lake pretty evenly when shining. In this case, the sun is in the upper right. You will know that if you look where the shadows are on the rocks and the figures. If you look carefully, you will see the woods behind the figures on shore to be darker due to the fact that the sun isn’t shining very brightly there.  I’m fully aware of light and shadows in my art . . . . when they are present in what I’m painting. (If that’s too confusing for jurors and critics, well, so be it.)