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"The Independent Artist"
Issue IV, October 2008

Show Me the Innovation: Report from a Longs Park Juror
by Larry Berman

What follows are comments by Michael Craven distilled from a conversation we had about his experience as one of the artists chosen to jury the 2-D entrants for the 2008 Longs Park Art Fair. L.B.

The Jury Process
The scoring was one through five and the jury was charged not to eliminate the middle number, which might force you into a lesser or greater determination about this artist. We were told that if you think the score deserves a three, give it a three, and if there are a lot of similar scores, the show will break those ties. They didnt want us to be forced into giving scores that were a little better or a little worse because of a mathematical issue. I respected that because when you jury even a particularly good show with hundreds of artists, there are going to be a portion of them that are not bad or not great but just average. So if I was looking at something that was average but had merit, I was going to let the totality of the jury dictate what happened to that person. We started out at about 20 seconds per artist after the five-second-per-artist slide show. But when we went into mixed media, we slowed it down to about 30 seconds, because mixed media was challenging enough to comprehend what we were looking at and we needed the extra time to read the artist statement. Slowing it down was smart, and because mixed media was a smaller category it didnt add much time to the overll jury process. For photography, the 20 seconds felt comfortable enough considering the volume of artists to jury.

Photography and Mixed Media

I didnt have a problem with photographers applying in categories other than photography if their work met the definitions of that category. For example, I didnt have a problem with them applying in mixed media if they worked in more than one medium to create their art, and if thats the case, theyre probably correct in moving away from traditional photography definitions. Like when you start collaging and pasting stuff in or drawing and painting on your photography. But hand-colored black and white is a traditional photographic technique. I dont really consider that mixed media, but Im sure that someone could make an argument that it is from a technical-definition kind of way. In fact, the first color photography was hand-painted. If I felt that a photographer was trying to do an end run to reduce his competition, I might deduct something. But if its not really clear, it becomes a question for the show people because it comes down to their definition of the medium, which in turn may throw the question back at me if they consider me the expert in that medium. If I felt that it was within my authority as a juror to make that determination, I would do it. But you have to give an artist some leeway because mixed media isnt a heavily defined category.

The Booth Slide

Longs Park charges the jury to look for the art images to match the booth and to question in your own mind if it doesnt. They also ask you to place about 20% of your total score weight towards the booth slide. There were a few artists that did not have the images in their booth that were represented in the individual art images and it did count against them. In the case of painters that may have sold their paintings prior to shooting the booth slide, if the style had matched, it wouldnt have hurt their score. But if they did portraits and showed a booth filled with abstracts, it would have hurt them. For photographers, because of the nature of the medium, there would be no excuse, and I would be more discerning with them.

Horizontals, Verticals, and Squares

In a situation where theyre projecting two over two, if verticals wound up on the top and bottom opposing one another, they tended to look congested like they were running into each other or violating each others space.There was better separation when they were all horizontal (or square) and when horizontals were side by side they didnt appear to be running into each other at all. Four horizontals had more separation of space

than four verticals did. Ive never felt that vertical images are as effective for jurying because horizontal images are less stressful and less challenging. Of course, if you create vertical work this doesnt apply to you.

Art Shows and Photography

Art shows should not be inventing criteria relating to photography. I believe that the ultimate authority for standards are the museums of modern art. Im sure that curators in major museums have had to take into account that many photographers are creating differently now than in the past. My gut feeling is that most of them feel that as a museum, they should take into account changing technologies. If I were the guy making the rules, all this nonsense that shows askis it digital? is it film? is it inkjet? is it gicle? is it silver gelatin?would be asked only to better understand the artists chosen path to final exhibition print, not to endorse or reject a particular material or process preference (excepting archival characteristics, of course). Show requirements for an artist statement of materials and process that the public may read are, of course, proper; let the person buying the piece ultimately decide. But as far as thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs sideways about what materials and processes photographers use, I would never place a photographic artist at any disadvantage by telling them that they had to do it a specific way or use only certain materials or processes.

Breaking the Rules

I want every artist to find ways to break the rules about how they create their art. History has shown us that the artists that break the rules are the most exciting, often bringing the rest of the art world kicking and screaming to a new way of seeing. Those are the guys and gals to be admired; shows that throw boulders in their way should be ashamed of themselves. Any show that creates its own definitions of a medium that are at odds with museum standards and long held parameters for that medium or new paradigms created by changing technology, does both the artist and the general public a disservice. They end up limiting the artists expression and are misinforming the public.

Clichd Dcor

When I see artists lining up to create the same clichd Dcor formula that has emerged on the circuit, I refer to that as whore dcor de jour. I always look for the artist doing something no one has seen before. Its the innovative artist that makes the arts vibrant. I dont care how well the clichd work sells, if he or she hasnt shown me anything new, found a new way to express him or herself, I believe they have failed as an artist. The art fair world we inhabit contains way too much mindless decoration for interior spaceshighly caloric but very little nutritional value for the soul. Unfortunately, the need to make a dollar seems to have become a scoring system of success for many artists. Too many artists talk about the dollars and cents made at this show and that show as if its a scorecard. We all need to make a living, but ultimately money is a poor measure of artistic success. If someone comes into your booth and says You really moved me with that, or I would never have thought about seeing something that way, thats what its all about. I really believe that artists that create vision, evoke an emotion, and communicate ideas will have the money they need to live (with sound marketing).

Looking for Creativity

The formula that Ive used in judging my own work and the work of others is Has this artist shown me something I havent seen before or something I have seen before in a way that I havent seen it or thought about it? I think thats the ultimate challenge to any artist.

Artists that prove there IS something new under the sun, that is their take on it, automatically get extra points in my book. I think every show should charge their jury to look for originality, and that artists need to hear they must justify being an artist: you cant just be number nine in the herd of artists with similar work. (Unless you found a way to take that genre, which you know to be a clich, and present it in a way that hasnt been considered before.)

Art Show Artists are Like Farmers

The only groups of people, in a vocational sense, that you can compare art shw artists to are farmers. They are the only ones that take on a tremendous amount of risk based upon short-term events that they have no control over.

The New Booth Slide

I feel that some care should be taken in

Larry Berman

Larry Berman is a photographer, writer, and web designer specializing in image intensive photography sites. For more information visit:

Helpful Info:
Jury Details Revisited
In a recent thread on the NAIA forum, there was discussion of a ZAPP show that was offering to jury exempt artists for next year if they paid a substantial amount at this years show. I think its time for artists to put pressure on any show not divulging how many spaces they have open for jurying along with other show particulars. All of this information is supposed to be on the jury details of their ZAPP profile which (at this point) isnt mandatory to fill out. What I suggest doing is sending an e-mail to (or calling) each show stating you are considering applying but will only do so if you know how many spaces are available and how many applications the show received last year so you can judge what your odds are. Expenses are too high and shows will have to become more interested in artists welfare if they want to continue to get our hard earned money.

producing a booth slide that doesnt look like it was taken at an art fair with the associated canopy clutter. I dont set up my Craft Hut anymore for the booth slide. I just set up my panels in an L configuration of two walls at right angles and shoot into it from a diagonal view. I dont feel that there is anything wrong with it because my booth slide uses the same panels and work I take to an art fair. The look and feel is basically the same. I even include a bin coming off one of the panels. My idea is, that when I show someone my booth slide, I dont want to show a car parked in the backwhich I saw in some booth shots. I dont want to show them canopy awnings that are sticking out. I noticed that about 20 to 25% of the artists in the 2-D category have adopted the same idea of booth presentation.
When an individual walks into my booth, theyre not seeing the Craft Hut, theyre not seeing the awnings, and theyre not seeing the exhibition clutter and the mechanics of it all. All theyre seeing is my clean panels and the artwork itself. But when you take a camera with its cold monocular eye, its seeing all the crap and the clutter along with the artwork. I feel that there is nothing dishonest whatsoever about cleaning it up so the juror(s) get the same experience that my potential customers would.
In every case, I felt if an artist took that tack in setting up their booth slide, they had a stronger booth slide. Andfor those artists that did that and also set up their own tungsten lighting that they would use if an art show gave them electricitythey were the strongest booth slides yet. Im talking about artists that just put up their panels and had their little goose neck tungsten halogen lamps. It looked more galleryish, it looked more inviting, and it was warmer. In my opinion it was a stronger presentation.

The last thing I want to add to this was the use of some kind of flooring. Not lawns or asphalt, but the use of a carpet or those soft interlocking tileseven vinyl flooring. In every case, it always added to the professional look of the booth. Once again, its that little edge youre looking for and its the culmination of all those little edges to make your work and booth more interesting than the artist being juried before or after you. It all comes down to having a clean looking booth picture, and if you think you can just whip out your trusty digital camera at a show, odds are way against you.

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