Saturday, September 13, 2008

There Are No Bad Artists

I was chosen to be a judge at a somewhat local art association's annual show. I pick and choose how often I do this but understand that it is my job to give back to the community when I can. They at least sweetened the pot by giving me a small stipend to cover gas. It was also a nice excuse to spend the night at my friend Louise's as she was only 1/2 hour from this event.

So this morning two other judges (a local gallery owner and an art teacher from the Tech) and I convened on this show of over 100 pieces. There were at least 25 categories that we needed to choose pieces for. It guaranteed that we spent as much time looking at the labels as at the art. Example-We had to choose the best example of a portrait by a professional. After much hunting we found that only two pieces fit in that category. We agreed very quickly on which would win that particular prize.

The category that gave us the most trouble was best landscape in oil. You would think that in NH that everyone would be comig up with a new interpretation of what we look at every day. But no, they seemed to offer up the same trite interpretation painted in colors straight from the tube.

We also had to pick the top three best overall pieces. The other female judge said "Enough with trying to be fair. I refuse to just dole out an award to someone because we simply don't want to give any individual more than one award. I don't want to encourage bad painting." I am always so careful about being judgmental about art- even though it is my job to vet artists daily in an effort to deliver the best to my customers and maintain my reputation. There is always such a fine line to walk. I was very glad that she said this out loud instead of me.

The other judge shared a story one of his professors shared with him. "There are no bad artists. Everyone is out there doing the best they can to get better and to enjoy themselves. That being said- there is a whole heck of a lot of bad art."

I then shared with them my trip to the Museum of Bad Art in Massachusetts. This museum features the absolute worst work they can find, with thoughtful and professionally written interpretations. As a gallery director I often find it difficult to explain why some art is bad, but as a rule most professionals agree very rapidly on what is bad.

Likewise it can also be very difficult to describe what is good art. Especially when I bring up that most nebulous of categories- surface interest and good brushwork. Even good artists are stymied by trying to describe it, yet we all know what it is.

Perhaps on my upcoming drive to Prince Edward Island I will give over some mental time to trying to describe these things.

photo credit: MOBA, Lucy in The Field with Flowers

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