I spent the afternoon in the dark auditorium at the Indianapolis Art Center observing the jurying for the Broad Ripple Art Fair in May. This is my first year applying to shows using the ZAPP system. I had several thoughts as I watched. I should caution readers that I do not know if my musings are in agreement with the jurors, as the results were not announced that day.
Artists were requested to submit three images of their work, plus a shot of their booth and a 200 word explanation of their process. The jurors were asked to judge over 800 entries, where only a bit over 200 would be accepted. A schedule of the media categories was e-mailed to applicants, and the categories were considered in alphabetical order. I arrived in time to see the jewelry, leather, painting, photography and printmaking categories.
Such a short time
The jurors would see a quick run through of each category, and then each entrant was given about 30 seconds for the consideration of the jurors. During this time, the artist statement was read.
I was struck by how short a time this is. I learned from a former juror that artists are ranked between 1 and 7, with four not being used. There was no discussion between jurors throughout. I wasn’t able to glean any particular criteria they were using, other than their personal assessment of the quality of the artwork, and the appearance of the booth.
I am a printmaker, and was surprised to see that when my images were projected on the screen, the top two images looked washed out, while the bottom image and booth shot looked fine. I chatted with Larry Berman, an expert on the ZAPP system, about why this might be. He suggested that part of the problem might have been the angle from which I was viewing the images. The jurors were much closer to the screen, and lower in the auditorium, so my seat in the middle of the auditorium might have been compromised by the angle of the projectors and the light reflected off the screens.
Another possibility was that the two top images had too much contrast. He noted that sometimes you have to adjust the contrast of your digital representations to make your artwork appear more accurate to the judges. I realized that I would have to think carefully about my images, and choose ones that are both strong artistically, but also are the best when reproduced digitally. Thus my “Fibonacci”, the most popular of my fine art prints, may not be part of future entries.
My booth shot.
The range of booth shots was striking. Many jewelry entries looked very professional because of the display cabinets and cases used. I was struck by how distracting a busy print could be on the skirting fabric when viewed from a distance. The best jewelers had large photos at the back of their booth to further display their work.
For 2-D artists, the best booth shots in my opinion were those where simple fabric or carpet panels let the work be the center of attention. Racks of prints made things look cluttered. The best ones were photographed in a way that did not show the outside setting, but focused only on the work. Open wire mesh and wood lattices really detracted from the beauty of the work.
What I was most surprised about, however, was the number of booths that had either their identifying banner, or the artist themselves, or both in the booth shot. The jury facilitator told us that artists who had identifying signs in their booth shot were contacted, and given the opportunity to submit a corrected booth shot. I was shocked at the number of people who ignored this request. These artists will lose two points from their overall score.
For this show, artists were asked to submit 200 words explaining their process. This was read during the 30 seconds their work was considered. For some, their process was unusual, and the statement served to illuminate their work. Others chose to state the obvious, like; “I paint with oils”, or make somewhat political statements like; “I will never make copies of my work” or say something puzzling like; “I have a recognizable unique style.” I am already writing memorable future explanations to accurately describe how I make my prints, but also give the jurors a peak into why I make my art.
Who will get accepted?
The facilitator told the audience that they attempt to represent all media categories, but that if none of the entries in a category are of high quality, that category will not be represented. In my case, the eleven other entries in the printmaking category were impressive, arresting, and tremendously varied. I would highly recommend that artists attend any jurying that is open to the public. It was definitely a learning experience.
As it turned out, I was accepted to the Broad Ripple Art Fair (May 21 - 22)! Good luck on all of your entries. Make them the best they can be.