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How Do They Choose Artworks For Exhibits?

I attended the ASBA Juror training session at the conference in Pasadena and wanted to share the information I obtained with the members of BAGSC.  This article presents an overview of the main points presented in the training session.

The Jurors Artwork submitted for ASBA exhibits is juried by juror teams.  The teams are chosen by the exhibition organizer in consultation with personnel at the venue and other members of the Exhibitions Committee.  The jurors for each team are chosen based on their stature in their respective fields, so that their decisions engender respect.  The ASBA recommends a team of three jurors, including one botanical artist (chosen for their fluency in the art and science of botanical art), one plant scientist or horticulturalist (chosen for their ability to judge the botanical accuracy of a variety of plants), and one person involved in the arts, either as a curator, gallery owner, or arts academic (chosen to bring a dispassionate voice to the judgment of the artistic merit of each piece).  When choosing the team consideration is given to how they will work together and the exhibition criteria laid out in the call for entries.

The Process Prior to meeting, each juror familiarizes themselves with the focus of the exhibition, the size of the space at the venue, artwork size requirements, maximum number of works allowed, etc. as set forth in the call for entries.

Ideally the jurors meet at the venue, which allows the jurors to see the space prior to jurying the exhibition.  The ASBA strongly encourages that the jury team meet together so decisions regarding final cuts can be discussed.  Usually the exhibition organizer or Exhibition Coordinator receives the digital entries, assembles and records them, and provides them to the jury team ready to view on their computers.  At present, the ASBA only accepts digital file entries, which increases the ease in handling, preparation, viewing and examination of the artworks.  The Exhibition Organizer’s list includes the artists’ names, artwork titles, sizes, and media for each artwork.  The digital images of the artwork provided to the jury team are numbered and artist’s names are removed from the jurors’ digital copies of the artwork.  The Exhibition Organizer also makes a preliminary cut of artworks not conforming to show criteria (for example, works that are too large or too small, or the subject matter or media are excluded from the criteria for the exhibit).  Works that are clearly outside the show criteria are removed before presentation of the entries to the jurors.

The jurors preview all the entries without scoring them in order to get a sense of all submissions.  The jurors then individually evaluate and score each of the entries.

Each juror in the jury team is provided with a tally form that includes the artwork number, title, size, medium and a space for their point score and comments.  The jurors assign a score between 1 and 5 for each of the artworks.  The scores of each of the jurors are then added together and the artworks for the exhibit are chosen from the highest scorers to fill the spaces available for the exhibit.  If there are ties that result in more artworks than spaces available, the venue may be consulted to determine whether additional works can be included.  If additional space is not available, the jurors reconsider the tied works and eliminate works until the required number of artworks is achieved.  At this stage, jurors may also consider subject matter or overall appearance of the show.

Once all the original artwork that won a place in the exhibition has been received on-site, an additional jurying takes place to verify that the quality of the original is equivalent to the standard seen in the submission, and that presentation requirements are met.  If artworks are received that do not conform to presentation requirements (for example the frame is unacceptable), the artist can choose to remove the work from the exhibition, or allow the ASBA to bring the artwork into conformance with their requirements (i.e. reframe), at the artist’s expense.  (See “The Botanical Artist” Vol. 13 Issue 4, December 2007, Page 18 for a detailed discussion of the ASBA framing requirements)

The Criteria All artwork in ASBA exhibitions must be executed by hand in traditional media.  Photographic or computer-generated artwork is not accepted.  All artwork submitted for ASBA exhibitions is judged on three major criteria.  These are:

Scientific Accuracy.  Are all the visible plant’s parts shown clearly and accurately?  Are all aspects of the plant shown in correct proportion to one another and in correct perspective?  Is the artwork structurally correct?

Aesthetic quality.  Is the artwork’s composition aesthetically pleasing?  Is the three-dimensionality of the plant believably conveyed?  If in color, are the colors accurate and lifelike?  Do all the elements of the artwork conform to the same high standard?

Artistic proficiency.  Has the artist demonstrated a superior control of and comfort with their medium?  Has the whole of the work been executed a high standard of practical application of techniques?  If in paint, has the artist shown expertise in handling the paint or is the paint blotchy?  If in ink, are there blotches or is there shakiness in the lines?  Are the techniques well mastered?  If in pencil, is there adequate contrast between light and dark, and is refinement shown?  If lettering is included, is it proficiently done?  When judging artwork, the quality of the artwork is the overriding consideration for selection.

As a special note it was pointed out that many works are rejected as a result of lettering on the artwork that is of poor quality, detracts from the artwork, is cramped to make fit in the space available etc.  It is strongly suggested that if in doubt about adding letter to your artwork, it is better to leave it out!  This can also include signing the work.

Janice Sharp

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