Tuesday, February 7, 2023

(Un) Well-Hung

As a rule, I don’t enter juried exhibitions.  Juried shows are just another form of the ‘pay-to-display’ scheme/scam and are a waste of time, effort and money ninety-nine percent of the time.  Occasionally, for the young artist especially, one can rationalize entering one of these ‘competitions.’  There could be cash prizes, or the juror may be someone influential that you’d like to see your work, or perhaps the exhibition venue is someplace you’d like to exhibit.  If you’re lucky enough to get your work juried into the show the usual (and often, only) benefit is having a group show to add to your resume.  Statistically-speaking, you’re not going to win the cash prize, you’re not going to sell any art and you’re not going to be ‘discovered’ at a juried show.

I do keep up with the ‘calls-for-entry’ but I’m highly selective to the point of only submitting to one or two of these things per year.  Although I’m very discerning I did chose to submit to what I thought would be an interesting exhibition recently.  Sadly, and all too commonly, my selection of the particular exhibition turned out to be an especially bad selection –but not for the reason you may think.

I picked up a flyer advertising ‘artist opportunities’ sponsored by an organization called:

The organization is a nonprofit and has been around for over twenty years.  Their mission statement seemed legit and the organization is involved in advocating for the arts statewide.  The theme of one exhibition really caught my attention: 

Source: Artists and their Inspirations

This is an opportunity for artists to share with others the source of what inspires them to make art and return to the studio day after day. The broad theme allows artists to share what they see, feel, and/or hear, and how that is infused in their art or interpreted by them. Each piece of art will be accompanied by a short statement about the source of what inspired the work. Each statement must not exceed 100 words.

I have a large number of works that have interesting inspirational stories and I could easily write one-hundred words any of them.  This also caught my eye:

Cash & Ribbon Awards:

1st Place $400 cash & ribbon President’s Award $100 & ribbon
2nd Place $300 cash & ribbon People’s Choice Award, ribbon only
3rd Place $200 cash & ribbon Two (2) Merit Awards, ribbons only

And so I made the decision to spend forty dollars to submit three artworks for consideration by the juror.  I was gratified that two of the three pieces I’d submitted were juried into the exhibition.  


Here are the two artworks I delivered to the gallery with their 100-word inspirational back-stories:

 Seventy-Six Years

A painting titled The Angelus, painted by Jean Francois Millet in 1859 hung outside a classroom where Salvador Dali was an art student.  The Angelus was the inspiration for Dali when he painted Archeological Reminiscence of The Angelus by Millet in 1935.  I’ve always like Dali’s painting and in 2011 it became the inspiration for my own homage to Dali and Millet with my photo/digital artwork, Seventy-Six Years.  Coincidentally Dali painted his homage 76 years after the Millet painting and my homage to Dali was created 76 years after the Dali painting, hence the title, Seventy-Six years.  Interesting coincidence!


  Homage to Lorrence

Lorrence, my Grandfather, was an amateur photographer.  When he passed all of his Kodachrome transparencies, went to my Father who forgot about them for almost fifty years.  Eventually the Kodachromes came to me.  I scanned some of them, digitally cut-out the vintage people, and composited them into my own surreal works.  To honor my Grandfather’s inspiration I created this visual homage to him.  The camera in the foreground is an Argus C-3, the camera he used.  The Polaroid photo is a picture of Lorrence and the Post Office in the background relates to my Grandfather’s job as a Postal Inspector.


I thought both images were strong, fit the theme perfectly, with back-stories that were informative and inspirational.  I was very happy to be a part of the exhibition ---that was until I SAW the exhibition.

I drove nearly 200 miles (R/T) to attend the opening reception only to discover the exhibition wasn’t very well presented and one of my artworks was relegated to a dark corner, by an exit, and hung between the control panel for a security system and a fire-extinguisher!  To say it was a shitty placement is an understatement.  The few who did wander into the corner seemed more mesmerized by the blinking lights of the security panel.  My artwork was largely unnoticed.


Here’s how they chose to display my artwork:

As disappointed and embarrassed as I was I didn’t say anything to the gallery-people.  I’ve been around too long, and I know complaining, arguing, or making a scene is a worthless endeavor.  Irrespective of the transgression, the one who complains is always painted as the asshole, so I shut up.  They’re not going to accommodate anyway, so I don’t waste my time talking.  


It took me a while to find my other artwork because it wasn’t even hung inside the main gallery:


That’s my artwork in the upper left.
Displayed about four feet above eye-level & impossible see unless you back up
so far that the details are lost.


When this occurs the common excuse from the gallery is, “…oh, well, we had so many pieces that we fit them in wherever we could…”  Of course this is bullshit.  As I stood in the gallery, as unnoticed personally as my artwork, I spotted at least three locations in the main gallery where my work would have fit just fine.  But no, someone made a decision that the fire-extinguisher corner was best for my artwork.  And the other artwork would have also fit inside the main gallery and at eye-level too!

Their installation of the exhibition, and my works in particular, was thoughtless, uncaring, unprofessional, unworthy of my work, and deficient of any consideration of the art or artist.  The pride I’d felt in my work and its exhibition was instantly vaporized and replaced with hurt, anger and profound disappointment.  And it’s INSULTING!

If you’re not involved in the exhibition of artworks you’ve probably never even thought about this stuff, but to the exhibiting artist it’s a Big Deal.  No one wants to spend hours creating an artwork, and then spend money to get it exhibited only to find it relegated to some corner, or behind a door, or in the bathroom hallway, or any place that makes it difficult (or impossible) for the viewer to see.  AND it is SO EASY to install an exhibition where all the artworks can be seen.  All the gallerist or installer has to do is THINK.  Consider if they were the artist would they like their work in a particular placement?  Can the artwork be easily seen by the viewer?  Is the artwork displayed like it is a part of the exhibition?  


I’m thinking about attaching this to every future delivery of artwork:

Although they need to be instructed on how to do their jobs but this would probably just piss them off to the point where they’d hang my artwork upside down, above the toilet, in the employee bathroom.

 I’ll never exhibit again with the Arizona Arts Alliance.

February 4, 2023