Jay Downie is one of the few promoters who understands the value
the artists an opportunity to experience first hand how the selection
process works. Ever since going to the ZAPP system, heís held an open jury
that any artist could attend. In fact, I spoke with a woman observer who
collects fine crafts. She had been unhappy with the selection at last
years show so Jay had invited her to sit in and see how the artists were
Having prepared digital
jury images for over a thousand artists, I wanted to view a ZAPP jury to
see how those images look in a jury room when all five are
projected across. Though I have the same projection equipment, seeing one
image projected is entirely different from seeing the presentation as
jurors see it.
To minimize expenses, I shared a motel room with Chris Coffey and Doug
Remien, two other photographers. We extensively discussed the image
presentation throughout the time we spent there. Because of flight
scheduling and trying to keep expenses down, we only stayed for Thursday
evening and the Friday jury. If I had it to do over again, Iíd stay for Saturday also to see which artists made it through the
Friday elimination round.
The jury was held in the Blackstone Courtyard Hotel in downtown Fort
Worth in a second floor conference room suite. Seyan Lucero (Westaf)
oversaw the equipment set up and made sure the jury went smoothly. Scoring
was done on laptops connected through an intranet to the ZAPP servers and
accessed in a second room where the first days eliminations were removed
from the media cards in preparation for the final day of jurying. The room
was arranged with five four-foot screens and the image projected
approximately 40 inches square. Care was taken so that the images had the
same screen alignment so the presentation was as uniform as possible.
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The ZAPP jury equipment was photographed on Thursday evening
during the cocktail party when the lights were brighter. The screens
showing the browse mode of the Roku interface. The first image was clicked on to start the slide show.
On Thursday evening, a cocktail party was held in the jury room. There
was a five second slide show of all the images by category so everyone who
attended could see how the images would appear in front of the jurors.
About 25 or 30 artists attended. When the entire slide show was completed,
Jay offered to go through and project images of the attending artists so
they could see their images on screen longer to better evaluate their
presentation. Throughout the evening Jay answered all questions about the
For Friday the chairs were arranged in the back of the jury room for
artists who wanted to sit through the all day first round. Only about ten
Mediums were shown alphabetically starting with ceramics. Each medium's
images were shown twice to the jurors. There was a
five-second slide show proceeding a ten second viewing during which the
description was read to the jurors. The jurors scored 1, 2 or 3
representing yes maybe and no. In the past, Itís been speculated that in
some ZAPP jury rooms, the jurors ignore the projected images and score
based on the small thumbnails on their laptops. During the slide show
proceeding the viewing for scoring, we didnít see the jurors look at their
laptops at all. The most prolific medium was jewelry with 196 sets of
images. Photography came in second with 137. An artist statement that got
a laugh from jurors was ďIíve never exhibited before. Please pick me. It
would be the dream of a lifetimeĒ.
The photography category followed painting, and taken together makes up
a very large two dimensional viewing, in some cases with an overlap of
similar imagery. I feel that two dimensional and three dimensional mediums
should be alternated to give the jurors a visual break.
In the Saturday final round jurying which we didnít stay for, the
jurors scored 1 through 7 and were able to discuss the artwork among
themselves if they wanted to.
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Taken during the Friday jurying. During the 10 second
slide show, Jayís assistant (far left) read the artist statement to the
jurors. It was very difficult to photograph the process in a way that
captured the feel of the room without distracting the jurors.
Itís about the images
The images Iíve worked on looked
terrific when projected. Non distracting uniform backgrounds and accurate
color made the artwork jump off the screen and easy to evaluate.
During the Thursday evening slide show and then again on Friday I took
notes about the problems I saw with the projected images. Though each
issue on itís own was not earth shattering, taken as part of the
presentation, all in some way could distract the jurors and force them to
spend extra time getting a read on the artwork.
Items that I found to be distracting were non black borders. A few were
dark gray or white. Some images had noticeable low contrast. You could
tell that automated equipment had been used to scan those slides. Besides
the low contrast, they looked overly flat with muted color. White
backgrounds around artwork (like jewelry) that didnít fill the frame was
blindly white. The white made it difficult to define the work easily.
Different colored backgrounds from image to image was also a distraction,
as were textured backgrounds.
Lack of sharpening wasnít an issue. In fact, except for those few
images that were over sharpened, there was no loss of detail and all the
images looked sufficiently sharp.
The booth is every artistís weak spot. Some looked terrific and some
looked mediocre. Some didnít look at all like the way the artist sets up
at a show. A few were obviously digitally created. For artists who create
work whose size is indefinable in pictures, the booth did work as a
reference to show scale.
There was no indication of digitally created jury images in any of the
3D mediums, nor were there any obvious indications of misrepresentations by
artists submitting work that that didn't look like their own, as much as
we could tell as the process was considered to be blind. There were a
number of artists who submitted applications in more than one medium.
A lot of the issues were things I've been speaking about in my forum
posts and seminars. Having excess white in the images, trusting automated
scanning and having matching backgrounds for a uniform presentation are
all issues I discuss regularly.
Because their jury images are their most important asset, viewing an
open jury could be the most important investment an artist makes in their
future. Itís surprising that more than about 35 artists didnít attend as
these situations are rare. I
strongly encourage every artist whoís serious about art shows to attend a
jury if the opportunity presents itself.