2010 SKIDMORE STUDENT EXHIBITION
SCHICK ART GALLERY
I Sat Down This Morning
I am an artist, a teacher and now a juror. The role of "judge" is not one I relish. I think there are people better suited to this than I. As an artist, I have been and continue to be on the other side of that dialogue/hierarchy often. Just two months ago, the very same day it was announced that my work was selected for inclusion in a major exhibition, I received a letter of rejection for another. This in turn made me recall a time 17 years ago, when I submitted a piece to four juried exhibitions in the course of several months. I was rejected three times and accepted and awarded the top prize the fourth. Why? I don't know, different eyeballs? Probably.
I can't begin to count the number of times this sort of thing occurred in the years in between. A lot. When I was rejected those three times, I wondered if the piece was any good and I thought a lot about that. Somehow I believed the work was strong. Someone agreed that fourth time, but it's also possible that someone may never have agreed. I've had that experience too.
Strangely enough, as I sat down to write this statement, the television was playing a documentary film called The Audition, which follows the proceedings of the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Awards. I found the points of view of the "Grand Finalists" and jurors interesting. They spoke not just of opera, but also of art. One juror after the next talked about what made an artist. They all had their own way of phrasing it, but essentially agreed that simply having a good singing voice was not enough, and that the importance lies in having something to say, meaning what you say, saying what you mean, and communicating it. Communicating it involves that combination of idea and practice, what we say and how. A true honesty, honesty with ourselves can be hard to find. Are we trying to prove something, working for approval or really honestly speaking/showing our minds? These seem like dumb questions, but they're pretty hard.
In my selections for the show and the prizes, I am fairly certain I did not always pick the work that demonstrated the most skill. There are several works in which I saw tremendous technical skill, but not in everything I picked. I selected work that I felt expressed and communicated a sense of strong point of view through the process and product, medium and meaning, form and content. Among the work selected and refused, I saw good, promising works, real skills, earnestness, ideas and passion. I think every single one of you felt strongly about what you presented.
If you believe in what you do and have something to say, keep doing it. It's as corny and as important as that. Be honest and analytical, listen and question, share and show us. Pay attention to the beautiful and the ugly and what at first may appear to be a failure. Work hard, show and tell it up close, not at a distance. It's all in you, there to be tapped.
February 7, 2010