K SPACE CONTEMPORARY'S THIRD COAST NATIONAL 2012 - TWO OF MY SMALL ENCAUSTIC PAINTINGS, THIRD AND SIXTH FROM LEFT.
Every year K Space Contemporary, a non-profit art venue in Corpus Christi, Texas holds its Third Coast National juried show. I was honored to have my work selected for the show last autumn which Christina Rees juried. Rees serves as curator of Moudy Gallery and Forth Worth Contemporary Arts at Texas Christian University. She was unable to attend the opening so instead she provided us artists with a letter, which I found rather moving.
I'm writing the statement as a letter to you, the people who made the work, because every time I jury an entry-based show, I become more aware of how tough this must be on all of you.
Any artist who takes his or her work public on any level is setting themselves up for criticism, but an artist who sets himself up for automatic rejection via the juried show is especially brave and vulnerable.
You don't know the juror; the juror likely doesn't know a thing about you. No studio visits have taken place between you. There have been no discussions with that juror about the context of your work: what it means, why you make it, where you're hoping it will lead for you.
You stumble almost blindly into this contest, and usually even have to pay a fee to do so. It's all jpegs now, and you know that the reality of your work's presence is going to be filtered and deadened by the overfamiliarity of the laptop glow. It's worse than an art fair, really. But you have to do this; you have to enter, because these days the art world is turned on end. Markets have dried up, galleries are closed to newcomers; making a living doing the thing you most want to do is getting harder than ever in the constant static of our information age. There are so few outlets (or too many really bad ones) for getting your work out there that you know you have to wade out into the shark-infested mind-screw of the juried show.
The juror, in contrast, walks (semi)-authoritatively into this situation, and usually gets paid to do so. Who's on the back foot here?
You are, clearly. And as your juror, the very best I can do is go over every entry as deliberately and thoughtfully as possible, as though you were my own sister, my own student, my best friend or my husband. Spend time with every image. Try to figure out, with such limited information, what you, the artist, are up to.
You know that what you make might not be the juror's favorite kind of work. You know that the juror comes to the table with a million questions that can't be answered, with a million prejudices about certain types of media or imagery, with a whole backstory of rage or benevolence or frustration or scorn. Egad. What kind of kangaroo court is this for you?
All I can write therefore, is that I applaud each of you for doing this. I applaud everyone who entered, in fact, and I celebrate your bravery and suspension of ego (because God knows every real artist needs an ego to make the work in the first place). I tried very hard to put together the best show I could, physically remote from you, from K Space, from the work itself via computer screen.
(And don't think this method for produing juried shows, or deciding grant proposals, or being selected by any gallerist or curator for anything is going away; it's only getting worse. Godspeed to you all.)
I wish I could be there to meet you, to ask you personal questions about the art, to see your face when you walk into K space and see your work in the show itself. I trust the K Space captains have spotted and installed it well. I celebrate you all, and my heart goes out to you. And I know it's a damn fine-looking show. Bravo.
So I'll end this with something I always say at the end of a good studio visit, when I'm utterly relieved I like the art, often because I already know I like something about that artist.
Good job. Nice work. Really nice.