Monday, September 19, 2011

What Does Fresh Mean to You?

Posted By Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

I belong to an organization called SNAG (The Society of North American Goldsmiths). Every year SNAG devotes an entire issue of their self-published magazine, Metalsmith, to an ‘Exhibition in Print’.

The work included is always contemporary, avante garde, and thought provoking. I usually spend an entire afternoon devouring its contents – first pouring over the amazing images (more than once) and later skimming through the forward by the editor. I may even move to the computer to search for more information about the jewelry makers whose work particularly speaks to me.

I was so thrilled to see a Flickr friend's work
(which I have seen in person) on the cover!
Congratulations Amy Tavern.

This year for some reason, I started with the text. The interview with jurors Cindi Strauss and Lola Brooks was particularly enlightening. The theme for this year’s exhibition was the term “Fresh”. That’s it. No definition, no guidelines. The artist’s were free to come up with their own interpretation and submit photos of work that they believed fit the category.

A single word can be understood in infinite ways. Just check the dictionary or Thesaurus. And it seems that the lack of a significant description may have impacted both the entrants and the exhibit. Because, as it happens, the jurors did have a specific idea of what “Fresh” meant to them. Out of 433 entrants, only 30 were included in the show.

Reading the interview really crystallized the fact that acceptance in juried craft shows, gallery exhibitions and other opportunities is purely subjective. As a juror for the 2010 volume of the PMC Guild Annual, I was aware that I brought my personal agenda regarding craftsmanship, subject matter and originality to the judging table. As an artist responding to calls for entry, I know that the results of my submissions rest on any number of criteria, the least of which may be my work.

Strauss and Brooks noted that the show was judged blind. Meaning that they looked only at the work, and didn’t learn artists’ names until the exhibition was set. They also mentioned that they didn’t take resumes, bio’s or artist statements into consideration. What? Artist statements? I’ve never included any of that information in a submission! And now I wonder if that lack has played a part in a disappointing outcome.

I have included a short statement about a particular piece occasionally. Something I thought of after noticing a quote printed next to a photo in one of the Lark 500 books. What has the world of academia trained graduate students to consider that those of us who are self taught might never have thought of?

As it happens, the “Fresh” exhibition is as fascinating, entertaining and inspirational as ever. I only wish I could see some of the work that wasn't accepted into the exhibition. I'm pretty sure that my standards aren't quite as stringent as the jurors. I bet there was some amazing work that ended up on the cutting room floor.

I love the idea of using a single word to inform a piece of jewelry. Whether it’s for a play date with friends, participation in an online challenge like Ring a Week, or an actual submission to MCAM or the CornerStone Challenge (to name a few), why not let serendipity be your muse? Get a real, paper, dictionary; flip to an arbitrary page; close your eyes; and let your finger land on a word that you’ll use as a jumping off point for creativity. But first you may want to go to your local bookstore to find the print version of Metalsmith or join SNAG to have one delivered right to your door. I assure you, it will open a world of possibilities!

No comments: