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The Jury Process

March 3, 2012

Behind the Scenes of the 22nd Annual Works on Paper

Beyond merely creating a piece of art, an artist has to navigate a situation in which to showcase his/her work to an audience.  Often, that situation is in a gallery or a museum, and often it is alongside many other artists.  A juried group show is a core component of an artist’s exhibition history.  Artists are invited to submit their work for consideration, frequently under criteria that may include a specific theme such as landscapes, a specific medium such as photography, or may restrict submission to those who reside within a certain radius of the exhibition space.

Exhibition organizers often invite jurors to participate in organizing the group show for many reasons: his/her status in the art world — a factor that can entice more artists to submit work and allow them exposure to someone not normally accessible, the expertise the juror can bring to the table, such as scholarship on a certain topic or material, and also his/her role as an objective outsider.  A proficient juror can strategize how to unify the many unique submissions into a coherent exhibition.

Dayton is home to a thriving arts community and to many opportunities to participate in juried group exhibitions.  Annually, calls for submissions come from Rosewood Gallery at Rosewood Arts Centre, which organizes exhibitions on the themes of sculpture, paper and landscapes, member exhibitions at the Dayton Visual Arts Center and the Dayton Society of Painters and Sculptors, and themed exhibitions at Rua Studio Gallery, to name just a few.

Rosewood Gallery is currently hosting its 22nd Annual Works on Paper exhibition, on view through March 9th.  Mary Gaynier, an artist whose primary medium is cut paper, traveled from Toledo to spend a day jurying Works on Paper, selecting from 290 artworks submitted by 106 artists.  Paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and sculptures filled the two gallery rooms, crawling up the gallery walls, covering tables and dominating every pedestal.

Gaynier’s process began by absorbing each artwork in these two rooms, slowly walking from piece to piece.  “I don’t want this to be a black and white show,” said Gaynier, as she kept finding herself returning to the more graphic pieces.  “Paper, at least for me, is such an intimate medium.”

She stopped at a large black and white drawing of a man and horse, a mixed media piece by Bonnie Kuntz.  “How will this piece fit in with the other pieces?”  Drawn to the perspective in the work, dramatic angles, lights and darks and general drama of the image — these characteristics began to emerge as qualities that Gaynier considered a unifying thread that could run through the exhibition.

The reality of juried shows is that the anchor, whether it be a piece of artwork or a theme the juror recognizes, makes the selection process move efficiently and guides the success of a coherent exhibition.  However, it also means eliminating artworks that do not fall under this prescription, and sometimes the most creative use of material or the strongest concept can be edited out of an exhibition.  As she moved through the works, Gaynier remarked that “a piece can be phenomenal, but not fit in with the other pieces … you have a limited amount to work with and it’s all about the whole.”

Rosewood Gallery Coordinator Amy Kollar Anderson, herself an artist, followed Gaynier, moving works around for the clearest view of each piece.   Kollar Anderson has a lot of empathy towards the jurying process.  “Not getting accepted into a show is painful … I know from personal experience,” she said.  “Shows do not dictate your worth as an artist. I can not tell you how many times I have seen work submitted, not been accepted, then return the next year and be selected for an award. The piece was the same, but the juror and the competitors were different, and it made a huge difference.”

Gaynier spent the next several hours drilling through the submissions, finally ending with 60 pieces representing the work of 46 artists.  Mentally exhausted but smiling, Gaynier had created the 22nd Annual Works on Paper exhibition, showcasing the talents of artists working with or about paper in the Dayton region.  The exhibition represented a range of work from the large-scale digital printouts of New York Times photographs by Sean Wilkinson to a steel, paper, and wood mobile by Matthew Burgey.

As Gaynier finished her process, Kollar Anderson began notifying artists of the fate of their artworks in the exhibition.  She documented a selection of artworks that had not been a part of Gaynier’s selection, posting on the gallery’s Facebook page an album titled “Some of my favs.”  One of the artists responded with “Thanks for posting these. I was devastated that mine didn’t make it but I don’t feel bad now!”

To learn more about some of the Dayton area organizations with juried exhibition opportunities, visit: Dayton Society of Painters and Sculptors (www.daytondsps.org), Dayton Visual Arts Centre (www.daytonvisualarts.org), Rosewood Gallery at Rosewood Arts Centre (gallery.ketteringoh.org), and the Rua Studio Gallery (www.ruastudio.com).

Originally published in the Dayton City Paper February 28, 2012.

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