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A Conversation with Michael Craven - photographer
2008 Long's Park 2D Juror

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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 didnít 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 were 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 didnít add much time to the overall jury process. For photography, the 20 seconds felt comfortable enough considering the volume of artists to jury.
Photography and Mixed Media
I didnít have a problem with photographers applying in categories other than photography if their work met the definitions of that category. For example, I didnít have a problem with them applying in mixed media if they worked in more than one medium to create their art, and if thatís the case, theyíre 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 donít really consider that mixed media, but Iím 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 itís 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 isnít a heavily defined category.
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The Booth Slide
Longís Park charges the jury to look for the art images to match the booth and to question in your own mind if it doesnít. 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 wouldnít 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 theyíre 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 otherís space. There was better separation when they were all horizontal (or square) and when horizontals were side by side they didnít appear to be running into each other at all. Four horizontals had more separation of space than four verticals did. Iíve 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 doesnít 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. Iím 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 ask; is it digital, is it film, is it inkjet, is it giclťe, is it silver gelatin, would be asked only to better understand the artistís 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 is 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 ďthe rulesĒ 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 ďseeingĒ. 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 artist expression and are misinforming the public.
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Whore Dťcor De Jour
When I see artists lining up to create the same clichťd ďDťcorĒ formula that has emerged on the circuit I refer to that as whore dťcor de jour. I always look for the artist doing something no one has seen before. Itís the innovative artist that makes the arts vibrant. I donít care how well the clichťd work sells, If he or she hasnít shown me anything new, found a new was 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 spaces, highly 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 itís 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 that you really moved me with that, or I would never have thought about seeing something that way. Thatís what itís all about. I really believe that artist 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 Iíve used in judging my own work and the work of others is, has this artist shown me something I havenít seen before or something I have seen before in a way that I havenít seen it or thought about it. I think thatís 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 canít 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 clichť, and present it in a way that hasnít been considered before).
Art Show Artists are Like Farmers
The only groups of people, in a vocational sense, that you can compare art show 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.
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The New Booth Slide
I feel that some care should be taken in producing a booth slide that doesnít look like it was taken at an art fair with the associated canopy clutter. I donít 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 donít 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 donít want to show a car parked in the back, which I saw in some booth shots. I donít want to show them canopy awnings that are sticking out. I noticed that about 20 to 25% of the artists in the 2D category have adopted the same idea of booth presentation.
When an individual walks into my booth, theyíre not seeing the Craft Hut, theyíre not seeing the awnings, and theyíre not seeing the exhibition clutter and the mechanics of it all. All theyíre seeing is my clean panels and the artwork itself. But when you take a camera with its cold monocular eye, itís 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 tact in setting up their booth slide, they had a stronger booth slide. And, for those artists that did that and also set up their own tungsten lighting that they would used if an art show gave them electricity, they were the strongest booth slides yet. Iím 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 tiles, even vinyl flooring. In every case, it always added to the professional look of the booth. Once again, itís that little edge youíre looking for and itís 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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