I recently was in a show in Georgia, The Valdosta National 2022, hosted by Valdosta State University. It was a fantastic show, and I was happy to be a part of it. As I have shown paintings across the country, I don’t make it to many openings. With the onset of covid, more galleries have included an online version of their shows, in addition to sharing photos on social media. I’m grateful for the coverage, but there is a lot to be said about seeing artwork in person.
I recently wrote about my experience with art shows, and this show was one of my favorites. I believe it came down to the judge, Samuel Dunson. Mr. Dunson is an active artist and college professor. Before applying to the show, I looked at his work and was excited by what I saw. I hoped he would understand some of my vision, and apparently, he did, as I was accepted into the show!
One thing that Mr. Dunson did was include a Juror Statement. Juror Statements allow us to understand some of the jurors’ selection processes and ideologies. It used to be more common for jurors to write a statement but has gone by the wayside in recent years. Mr. Dunson’s statement made me realize just how much I missed them!
On selecting the art for the show, Mr. Dunson shared, “In choosing the works, I attempted to put my likes and dislikes aside. In doing so, I feel the exhibition has more of a chance to show strength in its diversity. I made a point of judging each work by the merits of its media, style, or concept.” In my view, this is a beautiful way to view the artwork. It is easy to automatically dismiss a piece of artwork if it doesn’t fall into your “like” category. It’s an open-minded approach.
Mr. Dunson also talked about being in the presence of a piece of art. It is such an essential part of viewing artwork. You get a different vibe when considering a piece of art digitally vs. in person. I feel my work looks slicker in digital photos compared to the real thing. In this day of virtual Van Gogh shows at museums worldwide, people can miss the importance of being in the physical presence of a piece of art.
When discussing his selection for the first prize, Mr. Dunson commented, “I was struck with one overwhelming feeling. Presence.” He continues, “It would have been very easy to choose this magnificent work as the grand prize for its craftsmanship, its stylization, and even its concept. But its presence stands on the shoulders of each of these necessary artistic methodologies. There’s a sense of continuous movement that is evident throughout the work….UNTIL….you allow yourself to engage with the faces. The gaze in each face stills you and forces you to slow down and care for the being that is held within.”
The presence he speaks of can only be experienced in person. If not, it can be easily overlooked. You might lose the opportunity to experience a deeper understanding of the piece of work.
Another aspect of the Jurors Statement that is so valuable is to receive a different perception of the artwork. I wrote about the importance of varying perceptions in a previous last email. There is more to our work than our limited and attached view of each piece we create, and the same can be said when viewing the artwork created by other artists.
As I read Mr. Dunson’s perceptions of the four pieces that were awarded prizes, I looked at their photos. I suddenly could see deeper into the artwork. There were aspects of the work I hadn’t noticed before, bringing a more profound understanding of the work.
It’s a beautiful thing to have a juror take the time to discuss the show and their understanding of the work. I wish more jurors would follow Mr. Dunson’s example and bring the Juror’s Statement back on trend.
Special thanks to Samuel Dunson and Julie Bowland, the Gallery Director of the VSU Dedo Maranville Fine Arts Gallery.