I was very impressed with the work submitted for the Society of Mixed Media Artists exhibition It Was There All Along. There are certain things I always look for when I’m picking work for a show and most of the work submitted had all of those elements.
Since this is a mixed media show, there was quite a number of different combinations and permutations of media. There was collage, painting with collage, painting with assemblage, different painting and drawing media together, found objects combined with created images as well as many other techniques too numerous to mention. The first thing that impressed me was the ingenuity of the artists who utilized unusual materials or surfaces in their projects.
As a juror and judge it is impossible to leave one’s likes and dislikes at the door, however I try very hard not to let my personal prejudices seep into my decision-making process. I feel I can be very objective by basing my decisions on the established elements of art and my many years of experience as an artist and art instructor. To me, the two most important things to consider are concept and craftsmanship and both, overall, were excellent. The ideas and compositions were very creative and interesting and the craftsmanship was very impressive. The drawing was accurate and had character, the color usage was visually interesting and all of the various media techniques utilized were very professionally done.
After working as a gallery director and exhibition coordinator (as well as judging numerous exhibitions) I’ve found that one aspect that of the exhibition process that many artists don’t pay enough attention to is presentation. Most of the work in this show was presented in a professional manner consistent with the concept or the materials used in the image, but some were not. Matting and framing work is important but the mat and frame must match the work or the concept of the work. Some pieces were presented in a very creative, but appropriate, manner, such as floating the image on another surface or mounting a three-dimensional work on a creative base or backing. However, some of the work was framed in old, obviously repainted frames that had little to do with the type of imagery they surrounded. Some unframed pieces (totally legitimate) had very poorly painted sides on their canvas. In some work it was difficult to tell if the frame was part of the piece or was selected at random.
Having said that, there was so much excellent work that I wish I could’ve given more awards. I had a difficult time picking finalists for the awards and then picking the places and honorable mentions. I could probably have picked another half dozen award winners, but alas, that is not the nature of a juried exhibition. 1st, 2nd and 3rd places were very different from one another in choice of media and subject so it was difficult to choose based on my usual criteria. I looked at and compared the concept – was it interesting to me? I always assume if I find it interesting, someone else should as well. I looked at the craftsmanship – did the artist choose appropriate materials and how well did the artist make use of the chosen materials? Craftsmanship is called that for a reason and a true craftsman (woman) demonstrates their professionalism in every piece they create. I won’t go into too much detail about what swayed my choices but I will point out that 1st place had an interesting concept, utilized a very interesting selection of materials and was extremely well-crafted. 2nd place had a very dynamic and dramatic composition and had a development of ambiguous space, flat and at the same time atmospheric. Third place used color and texture to create movement and space and was beautifully painted. The honorable mentions exhibited much of the same qualities as the prizewinners but as previously stated that is the nature of a juried show.
As frequently happens when I judge an exhibition, I was very grateful for the opportunity to see so much good work in such a compressed amount of time. Having to make decisions about the work forces me to really try to understand the minds of the artists involved and I will take away ideas that will someday filter into my work and the work of my students.