Yesterday, I stopped by the Art League at the Torpedo Factory to Jury a new show entitled Becoming Animal. The show runs from November 4 to December 7, 2009. Artists were asked to explore the animal within us all or submit images of animals real or imaginary including everything from our favorite pets to endangered and/or extinct species. Artists are also encouraged to explore the fine line between humans and animals. It was my goal to develop a selection of works that did exactly that. It was important for me to attempt to move beyond the average pet picture and find raw emotion with in a tremendous pool of work.
There were well over 450 submissions which made this a tough yet pleasurable task. The Art League is an organized movement which could give Seiko or even a Rolex a run for the money. I was amazed at the attention. There were 5 or 6 volunteers dedicated to helping the process run smoothly. They insisted on bringing the work to me to view it. I felt guilty watching them run from one pile to the next bringing me art. In the end, I was exhausted, yet they had to feel it more since they were constantly running back and forth!
The most difficult task was saying no, over 35o times, such an un-Dale Carnegie task. (I keep hearing his instructions, make them say yes!)
The Art League’s marketing manager too notes on our discussion about the curatorial process, and what I looked for to include a work. At which point, I had to say, there could have been 2 or 3 other shows in this body of work.
One image or painting wasn’t better than another, the chosen works seemed to fit the theme better. Some were picked for their raw emotion, others for my opinion of great skill, and many things in-between. I would have loved to come back for a later visit to think more about which images were chosen, however the spontaneity of the of the process is part of the excitement, and it ads to the show. I like the outcome.
It’s an exciting experience to develop a show, and I often find an open call creates a very different situation from a private curatorial project. In the past, I’ve had the luxury of looking at work, making studio visits, thinking about the work of multiple artists coming together in one space, and sitting on it until one level of inspiration or another brings forth a strong presentation of their work. Here we had 2 to 3 hours to develop a show out of a huge group of work.
The art league volunteers are amazing! I’m so thankful for their hard work. We had to pick 3 categories. Yes, no, or maybe, and each artist could only be represented once, even if they submitted multiple works in different mediums. We had to cull the group down to a manageable number, so we looked at the work grouped by artist, and I removed the works that did not fit the subject mater. From that point on we pulled out works that I immediately liked, followed by maybes. We made a count of the works, and I had picked about 59 works of art, and it was our goal to pick around 80. So I spent time in the maybe pile pulling out more work that I thought suited show with a numbered goal in mind.
We ended up with several themes, and to me, they were all based portraits around emotion. I was looking for images that pulled me in one direction on the other. I wanted to see something that moved the viewer beyond your average pet picture. Some that made you feel warm, fearful, or…
In the end there were so many tremendous works of art, I couldn’t pick them all. There were many works that I didn’t select that I would have been proud to hang in my house!