The dots say it all. An artwork with three dots has caught the attention of all three judges, two dots mean further consideration and discussion, one dot means chances of being included in the show are limited, and no dots indicate a work hasn’t met the juried exhibition standards.
What are the judges looking for?
Nancy Steele, an alla prima painter and KSOA instructor, considers impact, colour relationships, composition, technical expertise, genre, staying power and storytelling. If a composition is unbalanced, for example, the work produces a level of discomfort that can be detrimental. Her goal is to give each piece equal weight. Listening to other judges’ comments allows her to discover new aspects of an artwork. She is looking for “a little gem,” which may hit her right away, or can take a while as discussion among the judges teases out elements that make a piece worth considering further.
Dan Hughes concurs. “Sometimes, the longer I sit with a work, the more I like it,” he tells me. Dan is a figurative painter who stresses the importance of anatomical correctness in a representational piece. But sometimes colour, composition and content take precedence over accuracy. “You have to consider all aspects of the artwork,” he maintains. Dan is attracted to certain artists in particular, veterans whose experience shows in their work. He admires risk-takers and abstract artists. Perhaps, similar to Nancy, the appeal of abstraction lies in its evocation of freedom and excitement.
This year’s third judge, Bruce St. Clair—KSOA instructor and realist painter who has several times judged Paint the Town—comments on the variety and skill among the submitted works, pointing out that there are more exploratory pieces in a show such as this, which, unlike Paint the Town, is not limited by the parameters of plein air. Bruce is particularly interested in artists whose skill is evolving and who demonstrate potential. He feels his job is not only to critique, but also to encourage, which will manifest in his choice of runners-up. Sometimes choosing runners-up is more difficult than choosing winners.
“Having three judges is vitally important,” says Nancy. She feels there is a nice balance among the three, who must engage in a “lovely process of back and forthing, pushing and probing, until a consensus is reached.” The judges are looking at 126 pieces, which they will whittle down to 59 with the help of exhibition volunteers Nancy Ball, Barb Carr and Jacqueline Prenevost, who hold up the artworks under consideration as the judging proceeds.
According to Nancy Ball, co-ordinator of the 2020 Juried Exhibition & Sale, the 59 artists who submitted work are particularly happy to see the show go ahead after experiencing so many cancellations in previous months. Although the number of submissions is slightly lower this year, Nancy, for her part, is thrilled that so many artists are still working. Notably different about this year is, of course, the fact that we are all wearing masks, which are not only a bit cumbersome but also muffle speech. They do not, however, impair vision and, says Nancy, “Judges’ eyes can be quite telling.”
The Juried Exhibition & Sale in the Window Art Gallery runs from July 7-28, with a virtual show running simultaneously. A virtual reception will also take place.
Ulrike Bender is a former graphic designer, art director and ESL teacher who, in retirement, has ventured into photography. She is currently a volunteer gallery assistant at the WAG and a docent at Agnes.