Transformations '09: Reflections  Juror's Statement

Jurying an exhibit is always an honor and a challenge. There’s a sense of mystery and anticipation as the slides arrive: what will we see? Beyond the writing of a prospectus, the show organizers and the jury have no control over the entries. From one show to the next, from one year to the next, the mix of submissions is variable. The juror’s task is to find the best show possible within the work available. But which show?

Even given a theme, there are many options. It is often said that a different juror, on a different day, might have selected a different show.

Certainly, as choices are made, the focus of an exhibit can narrow in any number of ways. In this grouping of slides a strong exhibit comprised entirely of diptychs might have been selected. Another exhibit of contemplations on politics or identity would have been a dynamic show. Various other shows might have emerged: landscapes, geometric arrangements, studies of light or place. A strong showing that focused on any single approach to surface could also have been selected.

The 34 works selected (from more than 140 submissions by 99 artists) for this exhibition represent a variety of interpretations of the theme as well as diverse ways of thinking about image, surface, and space. What they have in common is that even with repeated viewings over a number of days, they remained fresh to my eye. They offered new surprises each time I went back through them.

Some pieces were slow to reveal themselves, but I found myself thinking about them when I was busy with other things — that’s always a good sign! The selected works share a transcendence of medium and give a sense of the artist’s eye and hand working together to present a thought, a meditation, an observation, a mirrored image or transformation. Each piece is a bridge between the viewer and the artist’s experience.

“Art is half of a conversation,” said Kurt Vonnegut. I think it goes further than that: there is the artist’s dialogue with the inspiration and then with the materials during the process of making. There is the viewer’s interaction with the art. It’s really a three-way conversation with the art as the medium between artist and viewer. The best art has the ability to speak beyond its first impression.

A note of appreciation to SAQA for sponsoring this show and providing forums for this wonderfully versatile medium that relies on layering, fiber, and stitch to make its statement. And to the artists who submitted to this competition, I say thank you for sharing your thoughts and your process with us. I look forward to seeing more of your work. To the viewers, another thank you. No “conversation” is fully realized without your participation.

— laura cater-woods
November 2008