Hang It Up

Juror Survey – Part Three

By Jean Emmons, Guest Author 

Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist – Volume 15, Issue 2


Twenty former and current ASBA jurors were asked a series of questions about how and why they choose the work they choose for ASBA exhibitions. Their responses have been compiled into a series of “Hang It Up!” columns. In the third article of the series, the jurors were asked two questions: 

How Do You Keep a Fresh Perspective While Looking at So Many Scans and Slides? 

  • Take it slowly; take lots of breaks & deep breaths! Spend all day if necessary, as this is an important job. 
  • I believe that after 40 minutes we suffer from a waning attention span; it is best to step away for a few minutes and come back to the slides. Get up – walk around, etc. Make an effort to stay fresh…a lot of artists are counting on your good judgment. 
  • I think this is not difficult when you see a brilliant piece or a really bad piece you know at once. But in the middle you have to work hard to try and evaluate between very similar standards. I have a feeling that quick decisions are good - take too long and indecision creeps in. 
  • With the < … > exhibit, there were approximately 300 works to review. In this case, the jurying took place over a twoday period. The bulk of the process took place on the first day: Review of all slides - jurors silent; Review of all slides - juror discussion, works scored on accuracy, aesthetics, technical quality; Slides re-ordered based on scores and reviewed by jurors with discussion; Review of slides based on scores plus looking at variety of media and subjects. Day two: Review of slides based on previous day’s decision; Minor revisions made. I think this break helped to give the jurors a fresh look. The discussion that took place between jurors was also very interesting and gave jurors another perspective. Everyone was engaged and learning.  
  • The changing from one image to the next allows for an element of surprise, and a chance for each piece of art to make a great first impression. I really try to look at each piece individually and see if it has accomplished what the artist set out to do. Physically taking a break and focusing on something far in the distance rests my eyes. 
  • The work, itself, tends to keep you fresh. At the early stages when you are reviewing all of the entries (several hundred pieces), you are energized by the sheer variety of perspectives on botanical art. Later in the process, when you are viewing the 50 or so finalists, you are inspired by importance of your decisionmaking to the individual artists, to the ASBA and to the development of contemporary botanical art. 
  • I just love doing it and make sure that I am well rested and try to look at the slides in the earlier part of the day. 
  • Does the work hold your attention and invite the viewer to look longer in more detail? 
  • Fresh perspective...each slide is new and different. 
  • Fresh perspective comes from continuing to look at the slides or the screen and hoping that something will come up that will have the “wow” factor - the thrill of discovery.  
  • Although it can take a long time to view and judge all slides for an exhibition, it is always exciting because the entries for every new show are full of surprises. Every year new and excellent artists pop up and the improvement of skills of artists who never gave up after they were rejected and yet kept sending their slides the following year never ceases to amaze me. The perspective is always fresh. 
  • To me, spending a day looking at beautiful slides is nothing but a pleasure and I feel jazzed up, not tired, when I’m finished. 

How Do You Choose Between Similar Pieces? 

  • When it comes to choosing between similar pieces (for example we had a lot of pineapples submitted), the jurors spent time looking at these works in greater detail, comparing them sideby-side. This perhaps became more subjective - but there were certainly differences in the quality of the work. Advice to artists submitting work: don’t submit subjects that are commonly illustrated: pineapple, artichokes, gourds, pears.... It reduces your chance of getting accepted in a show.  
  • If they are all that similar then I would go with the punchiest, most accurate of the two…someone else might prefer the more delicate touch and lighter approach. 
  • Most often, they choose themselves. Although there may be any number of pieces depicting the same or similar subject matter, usually there is one that rises to the top as superior in composition, scientific accuracy and/or technique. Also, very often one piece will tell the story of the plant better than the other(s). 
  • Another consideration will be the overall content of the exhibition. Has the work met all of the exhibition criteria for this show, including any thematic determinations? Apart from the show’s theme or intention, if any, jurors tend to seek balance in all areas — subject matter, media, and even size can be important considerations when you are thinking of how these entries will hold together as a single, cohesive exhibition. 
  • Sometimes this is the easiest part. When you have two, which are similar, one often sings more loudly than the other. It is more difficult to compare apples and oranges than two of similar subject matter for me. 
  • When creating a general exhibition, a diversity of subject matter is always preferred. However, when two very similar pieces are of the highest quality, I would not eliminate either one. This gets difficult, as it is very tiring to see so many pineapples, beets, gourds, pumpkins, etc. and to have to include several of them can make for a less than exciting exhibition. While there are many that are done well, and a few that are done beautifully, enough is enough sometimes! 
  • This may be easier as the subject is no longer an issue in the decision. I would use the same criteria as for any work. 
  • If there are two similar pieces I would choose the painting of a plant that is the only one of it’s kind in the exhibition. 
  • Similar pieces are usually easier to choose between, when side-by-side, one always stands out (to me). 
  • Similar pieces should be looked at very carefully for composition, originality, color and technique. Often you can find one that is better than the other, if not I think you can have 2 paintings of a similar subject in an exhibit but each of those should have their own personality.