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Observing the 2009 Columbus ZAPP Jury
by Larry Berman

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An amazing experience, seeing beautiful jury images from hundreds of artists projected five across in a room so quiet, you could literally hear a pin drop. For years, Iíve been suggesting artists attend one of these open juries because itís the best investment you can make in your art show career.
Disappointing though because fewer than about fifteen artists attended. Columbus has always had an open jury and Iíve been writing about it in my newsletter and posting about it on the art show forums. It must be the passive aggressive nature of artists to keep applying to shows, complain when they get rejected, but donít know what their own or their competitorís images look like in a jury situation. Throughout the day and a half process, I took notes on problems and ways to improve presentations.
After the preview slide show per medium, the images were projected for about 22 seconds while the artist statements were read and the jurors entered their scores. Jurors were able to have statements reread, see the images on screen for a longer time and had the ability to ask for the images to be zoomed in to see detail.
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The Booth Slides
The clear weakness was booth slides. Though the jurors were told to not make the booth image more than 10% of the score, you couldnít help noticing how bad some were. A lot of washed out low contrast booth images, though the art images were clear with vibrant color. A few had different work in the booth than in the art slides which was explained by artists creating new work but not having enough time for a new booth slide. Names in some booths and a few had people in them. Two even had booths so filled with people, it was impossible to see what kind of artwork the artist had. The artists must have thought that with so crowded a booth, the jurors might think that their work was great that they would give them a high jury score.
Projected Images
Too many artists feel that the image quality isnít as important as having good work. But bad images of good work look just as bad as bad images of bad work. If you care about your presentation and want to get into shows, make your images as good as they possibly can be.
If you have fine delicate detailed work, do not photograph it on a white background. White backgrounds come across like headlights in a dark room and make it very difficult to see detail. I remember seeing wire wrap jewelry slides where a single strand of wire was all but invisible against the bright white background.
A few artists had their work photographed with distracting vignetting lighting that conformed to the shape surrounding the items.
A lot of images could have been cropped to better optimize how they project. The closer to square you make your image, the larger it appears in the ZAPP viewing format. I noticed that a few jewelers arranged their necklaces vertically but necklaces arranged in a circular fashion appeared larger, though they still could have been even larger to see detail. In fact, after seeing all the images projected, I would recommend including a detail image if your work warranted it and show didnít penalize you for it.
I canít imagine how an image can get uploaded sidewards, but we did see a 3D artist that had their number one image and booth slide sidewards. On purpose maybe? But the quality of their images was lacking as each item was hung on the same doorknob with the room interior visible behind it.
Though the Columbus image template was five across, A fair number of jewelers had their number four image leading the jurors eyes to the right toward their booth image instead of trying to keep the jurors eyes within the presentation.
A lot of ceramic slides had uncorrected or off color backgrounds which means the color of their work was off also. Correcting the color and neutralizing the background would have made the work pop.
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Artist Statements
What is it with photographers? Every photographer talked about the camera they used, film if used, what kind of prints they make and whether theyíre the prints are numbered and how large the edition. No one actually talked about their vision and why they took the photograph. As a photographer also, listening to the photography statements left me unfulfilled. In comparison, you never hear names and sizes of brushes in a painterís artist statement.
Columbus is one of the few ZAPP shows to increase the artist statement to more than 100 characters. None of the statements came across abbreviated and it seemed like everyone got to use as many words as they needed.
A tip Ė if your work has a lot of detail that you feel isnít coming across to the jurors, or is in the narrow panoramic format. Add this sentence to your artist statement; ďZoom in to see the detail.Ē This will only work with shows that project the images but it will make them consider zooming in where they might not otherwise.

Apply Early

The biggest categories were 2D Mixed Media with 95, Painting with 111, Ceramics with 93, Photography with 98 and Jewelry with 188, actually 190 but two jewelers applied in the 2D Mixed Media category by mistake. Since the images were projected (by medium) in the order that the applications were submitted, you have to assume that the jurors were extremely tired as they got towards the end of those categories. I know I was and I was just observing, not concentrating on scoring and trying to remember if similar work came earlier in the category and what score I gave it. If you have every intention of putting in an application to a show, donít procrastinate.
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Columbus ZAPP Jury
Katie Lucas giving last minute instructions to the jurors

Columbus ZAPP Jury

Columbus ZAPP Jury

The room was too dark to capture detail in the projected images and see what the jurors were doing. I purposely overexposed so you could see the jurors at work
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