Thursday, May 4, 2017

75th Annual May Show

"Sign Wave Swan Song"  by John Bruce Alexander
Yesterday was not Groundhog Day but it rather felt like it when I stopped in at the North Canton Little Art Gallery May Show. Full disclosure first, I missed the opening because we were traveling and I also did not get accepted this year (no surprise why not).  Rather than commenting about what is in the show, I think I would rather spend my words on the show itself. Perhaps it is time to rethink the May Show as it currently exists. Curator Elizabeth Blakemore and I had a long chat about this and I did warn her I would be speaking a bit honestly about my point of view.  Something I have not done in a long time (hence my blogging silence) because it seems that in today’s climate, the right to do that is becoming almost dangerous. So here are my observations broken down into topics…

Number of accepted entries: There are way too many. When a show has to be hung salon style on every wall, individual pieces become affected by their neighbors. Some artists feel “short changed” by their location, others have their works overlooked. The overall show would do better with fewer final works so each piece can have its own breathing room on the wall.

Too many categories: Eliminate categories all together. No more classifying works by media which leads to an issue in the next paragraph. The artist should be required to list ALL media used in a piece, not just one primary media in order to manipulate two pieces for awards in different categories even though both works are practically identical. The only classifications should be 2D and 3D, and even then, a 3D work MUST be viewable and complete on every side except the one it sits on. If one side has a hanging device for a wall, it is 2D.

Too many awards: I know we all want a trophy but the number of awards is getting out of hand. When a category only has perhaps 3 accepted entries and there are two awards in that category, a “good” piece is just as “good” as a great one that had to compete against perhaps 25 pieces from which to choose in another more popular category. Artwork should be able to be judged on its own merits, not by what it is made of. My suggestion would be offer a Best in Show, 1st, 2nd and 3rd place only, chosen from all the entries. Each juror then gets a Jurors Choice Honorable Mention (1 each) to honor that piece that they felt was deserving without compromise or input of the other juror. Fewer pieces and fewer awards would elevate the show in my opinion as it feels a bit like the county fair right now.  Everywhere I looked, somebody got a prize.

To D or not to D: I refer to digital entry submissions for jury. Don’t do it. One of the best aspects of jurying a show from actual entries is that we can’t “tweak” our pieces to get an edge. No boosting color, no misunderstandings on size, no missing out on textural details that the camera can’t capture and so forth. A good juror judges each entry on its own, not influenced by the location in the room, works located above, below or beside…. a good work of art will hold its own regardless of the neighborhood. Speaking of neighborhoods….

Presentation: Would you go to a job interview with stains on your shirt? Would you show up on a blind date at a 5 star restaurant wearing ratty jeans? NO! So do not submit work that has scratched frames, dust or dirt on the mats or work, fingerprints inside the glass, dirt across the top of your frame, layers of old entry tags on the back, loose framing materials, scratches across the surface….shame on us. This is your job interview, your blind date, your level of pride and professionalism to the juror…speak well of our area, don’t send shabby work as a representation of you as an artist. The curator is not the cleaning crew, take pride in ownership of what you created.

Who are the judges?: We don’t need to know ahead of time. Why? Because face it, when we do, we like to submit something that we think they will like to enhance our chances of getting accepted. It is just another ploy we use to game the system. A truly level playing field is one whose judgement is blind. Enter your best work and let it be judged on the merits under which it was created and presented. The resulting show will be reflection of the voices of the jury, not a yellow hued buffet where everyone submitted cheesy pieces because the judges love mac and cheese.

Framing: Yes I know we have one of the world’s best, most talented, framers in our corner of the world but there is a difference between exhibition framing and display framing. Some great pieces in the show are way “over framed”, more hotel lobby or high end foyer, than gallery show. Yes, they are beautiful but the artwork, though enhanced for display, were over shadowed as art. In cases where were the art is one with the frame, this does not apply of course. Are you selling the art or the frame? Having to get back your investment sometimes puts prices out of reach for the interested buyer. Many folks reframe our stuff anyway once they buy it.

I’ll stop for now….enough venting. I do want to point out some gems and I only have a few words left --- Pat Mother Waltz with “Herman Shepard”, a ceramic and suede sculpture in the showcase (best use of title and materials); Anna Rather’s “Spot Fish” (spot on framing for exhibition, great print too); Michael Nutter’s “The Man with the Pipe” (a beautifully rendered and sensitive drawing, bad location for appreciating the details, victim of too many entries); Tina Myers’ both “Forest” and “Grief” (perfect blend of format, materials and message in both cases); Russ Hench’s “Shoodle #4” (don’t know what a shoodle is, but I like it, best use of new methods to echo former methods, captivating); Tom Migge “Vase #L-105” (I am a girl of the woods so when one creates stunning work with my trees, ya got me.)

My personal best in show is John Bruce Alexanders’ “Sign Wave Swan Song”.  Wrongly over looked by the judges (when 9 of 12 awards in 2D categories are realism based, I understand).  Hard to describe and not to be missed. I think he left off a 1 in front or a 0 in back of his price. The work and creativity and time that went into this conceptual masterpiece is amazing.  You can’t just look at it, you have to “read” it, study the layout, absorb the color shift, and find the surprises…. He puts the “work” into the term “work of art”.

The gallery is looking great, hardwood floor, white walls, good lighting, security cameras, clean lines….very professional and rivals galleries in NYC that are the same size.  We are truly blessed to have this little gem in our own backyard.   

PS - There was not ONE untitled piece in the show...Snarky is a happy happy camper!! 


  1. Great observations, though I disagree with one of them. We should abandon the whole concept of "Best In Show." It's meaningless, absurd, useless, silly, nonsense, insanity, and otherwise offensive to anyone with a brain.

  2. You are right....1st place is the same as Best in Show as it is number could I have missed that logic!? I also am against "Peoples Choice" awards. A stuffing of the ballot box cannot be avoided and therefore inherently bias and meaningless.

  3. On point. Printing and sharing with students.

  4. Yes, Judi! Thoughtful and well said!