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competitions dialogue

updated tue 30 apr 96


Michael McDowell on thu 4 apr 96

Fellow Sufferers,

First of all let me say that I really appreciate the dialogue that has followed
my post "Competition gripes". And I want to apologize again for misinformation I
offered in that post regarding the particulars of the Strictly Functional
Pottery National. I don't feel that the incorrect figures I offered were
essential to the points I was trying to make, but I'm sure that it made it
harder for those concerned to hear what I wanted to say.

However poorly begun, the discussion has given me, and I hope others on both
sides (and I appreciate that from time to time many of you are on both sides) of
this issue, greater perspective & understanding. We have heard from Jonathan,
Roy & others that as potential participants in a competition we want to know as
clearly as possible, before submitting, what the criteria for evaluating entries
will be. We have also heard some complain that it seems as if some competitions
are purposefully vague regarding these criteria in order to get entry fees from
those without a chance of being accepted. From Jean, Julia & others responsible
for putting on such events we hear that entry fees alone only partially cover
the expenses, which are greater than one might imagine, of holding such events,
and that rejected submitters should see themselves to some degree as "patrons"
of the exhibition, which finally comes around to benefit them by increasing
national appreciation of the whole medium.

I think we have heard from both sides how much it hurts to be criticised or
rejected when one is doing the best one can do, especially if there is any hint
of unfairness in that criticism or rejection. I think that it is asking a bit
much of claymakers of whatever stripe that they endure the pain of rejection in
order to support what may not even be their approach to the medium. Yet it is
also clear that these competitions do serve us all to some degree, and that they
not only need the entry fees from "also rans" but could use even more
participation if they are to do any better job of what they do.

I really feel that a potential solution to this apparent disparity of interest
lies in the provision of more feedback to participants, after the jurying is
done as well as before. Recognition & exposure is certainly the main motive for
submitting to a competitive exhibition as most of them now seem to be run, but
feedback, information on how near or far from making the "cut" our work is
judged, might be motive enough for many of us to continue to support a
competition through participation even if we have little expectation of
participating in the exhibition. Winning is not the only reason for
participating in competition generally, but it certainly becomes that when you
never get to find out the "score".

Michael McDowell
Taking a break from turning compost into garden beds in Northwest Washington.

Jim Connell on fri 5 apr 96

WINTHROP UNIVERSITY Electronic Mail Message
Date: 05-Apr-1996 09:57am EDT
From: James Connell
Dept: Art and Design
Tel No: 323-2126

TO: SMTP%"" ( _SMTP%"" )

Subject: RE: Competitions Dialogue

I'm rather confused when I read that people want a statement from the juror for
the "criteria for evaluating" work. I've never seen one in any of the juried
shows except the generic stuff like size, medium and the like unless the show is
stated to be a tribute to flowers or dogs or whatever. Is there a juror out
there that is going to only be looking for one particular type of object? I
doubt it. He/she may not particularly like certain subject matter but I can't
expect the show to warn people about it. I heard stories of certain jurors
going in with a certain agenda (everything in the show was themed around the
color red) but I haven't seen it and I'm sure the show organizers didn't have
any idea about it before hand. This seemes to me to be a ridiculous request. If
it is a theme show per se it will be clearly stated. Otherwise we have to
expect the juror to abide by the general rules of a broad based national
competitions (ie show a range of work being done in todays contemporary clay
culture). Obviously some jurors bring their bias into their judging. I know
that when a wood fired fanatic juror looks at low fired electric glazes he might
be turned off. But if he has any character he will see quality no matter what
the method. I've done a lot of shows and I've gotten into a high percentage of
them but after being juried out of a few by a certain juror (who will be
unnamed) I have my radar beacon set to avoid future show where she is a juror.
An informed person will look to see who the juror is and make assumptions based
on their background. Beyond that it is by its very nature a gamble--some get in
some don't. For the people who belly ache about not getting in, well thats human
nature it hurts to be rejected but its not the end of the world and if you
believe in your work keep doing it. I've seen financially successful artist who
make crap but it sells because it panders to the masses and I've seen great art
that doesn't get appreciated and I've seen everything in between. Only you can
decide if your stuff is valid and if it pleases you than I guess that is all
that really matters.

Locally we have a jured show for all mediums and the little old hobby
watercolorist (Men and Women) were bitching cus they never got in. They
demanded a watercolorist be the next juror and the show obliged their request
and the next year they still didn't get in cuz their work just wasn't very good.
The point is that usually the best work submitted gets in. Not all the time and
the same stuff submitted might differ with different jurors but the majority of
the best work will get in. My students complained that the grading process in
art classes was subjective. So I had each student seceretly grade their peers
work during a critique. The results (as expected) were almost identical to the
grades I gave out--in fact they were a little bit rougher than my grading but
not by much. Once again my point is that the cream always rises to the top.

For the people who say the Juried Art Competitions are a scam I say bunk. A few
may be but the majority are presenting us with a quality service that should be
appreciated by us art type people cuz it is at its base level giving us(artists)
an opportunity to show our work and give the world some culture. These folks are
generally underfunded, undermanned and unappreciated by the general population
and for us to show contempt for doing us a service is just plain wrong. And even
if they make a few bucks in the process, so what, more power to them. I
certainly work for money and don't feel bad about it. How many of you give your
money away so you can raise your head up proudly as a non profit person?

I don't even want to get into Art Fairs but by there very nature they are going
to be different than Juried Competitions. Why because the organizers want to
present work that will be accepted by the masses and bring people in to buy not
only art but the food and all the periphery things that go into a fair. Thus if
it is rejurored each year they are going to bring back those people who are
"tried and tested" or better said "popular". No one ever said life is fair nor
are the Art Fairs fair!

So quit your bitchin and get back to the clay, it ain't so bad, you could be
selling insurance! (and probably making more money)


LEE on sat 6 apr 96

Wanting a juror's statement (criteria) raises the REAL question...
What should WE look for in quality ceramic work? Not an
easy question, but I have a few thoughts.

The critic or juror should be educated, candid, impartial (if there
is such a thing) and receptive to new ideas/forms. I think the best
jurors hold these qualities, have been in the field for a while,
and have seen MANY objects of art. It is hard to replace this experience
of "seeing" with anything else...the more you see/understand/evaluate,
then the better one's perspective becomes.

Things to consider when evaluating work:

1. INTENT. What does the object "intend" to be. Is its impulse
to shock? to be abstract? to be beautiful? to function?
Do not bring other criteria to a work that it is not "trying" to be.

2. CONCEPT. Its intent may be functional, but its content may be symbolic
or metaphorical. Concept is the idea behind the work. Is this content
worthy of contemplation? or is it shallow/superficial? a fad or
a trend? Concept may include a commentary on society/social issues,
be humorous, narrative, etc etc. - to name a few.

3. CONTENT. If the piece is object-oriented, then the formal elements
of design may be evaluated...line, color, shape/proportion, volume,
mass, texture, etc etc - is it visually interesting/challenging?

4. MATERIAL. What materials were used and are they appropriate to the
idea/concept? Or would another material work better ("work" meaning
be easier/better to construct OR more suitable to the idea)? Is the
process so seductive that it hides any (or lack of) content? Does
(or should) the process convey a sense of the material?

6. TRADITION (history). How does the art-object compare with things
done in the past? Do historical precedents far surpass the technique
and/or concept of this piece?

7. EXPRESSION. Does this object strongly convey the artist's "vision"?
Individual creativity/expression seem to be valued today in the U.S.
Is it outrageously creative for shock value or "attention"? Is bigger
better? (sometimes it is, sometimes it's not)

8. INTEREST. Does the work compel you to go back for another look?
more contemplation? more interaction/use (in the case of functional pots)?

9. TACTILE. The sense of touch provides an understanding and
appreciattion that the eye alone cannot provide. I'm talking
about caressing the surface of a sculpture or picking up (and
using) a well-made pot.

I must have missed some things, but these should be considered at the
very least. It is our hope that teachers, jurors and critics should
all be sincere and comprehensive in their judgement of our work.

I would like this discussion to continue on CLAYART - I am interested
to hear what others have to say about this.


Ron Roy on sun 7 apr 96

Re Michael McDowell's proposed show format:

Hi Michael,

I would submit to a show like that.
I would like to know who would judge the jurors though.
I wonder what would happen if there was a call for Jurors
to submit statements and qualifications. Who would
decide which jurors? Those who will be juried of course.

Ron Roy, Toronto, Canada