For everyone who couldn’t make it to the talk, below is Juror Chris With’s statement:
For the past thirty-two years–I retired at the beginning of this year–I was employed in the Education Division of the National Gallery of Art. At various points in my professional career I judged a variety of exhibitions. Indeed, I am also the juror for another totally unrelated venue this year. In every case, my criteria have remained fairly consistent. They are: personal appeal, technical competency, and universal relevance of the subject matter.
On the surface, personal appeal sounds straight-forward, simple, and perhaps a tad self-serving. But this is not so. For this show I was tasked with reducing over 400 entries to a mere 50. Many works that attracted me at the outset had–out of necessity–to be eliminated. As the numbers declined, another evaluative factor came to the fore: my catholic taste. Over the years I have learned about, studied, and discussed a variety of art works that initially did not appeal to me. But upon further research I came to appreciate their creation and to understand their merits. This ability to “think outside the box” was invaluable here.
Assisting me in determining which works to include was my belief in technical mastery. To my mind, all art that is truly interesting and worthy of display is well executed, whether or not one appreciates the style or the aesthetic reasoning behind it. Quality always stands out. And so it was here. A number of pieces were retained because they evidenced clear technical mastery, even innovation.
Lastly, I looked for pictures that probed our existence and sought to translate personal insights into messages of universal appeal. For me, good–indeed great—art has an underlying message at its generative source. It allows the viewer to see deeper or to probe further the very mysteries of human life and interpersonal relationships. These images keep drawing us back, for they are a source of continual learning and visual mystery.
I hope everyone will enjoy this outstanding National Small Works Exhibition. As you go through the show, please think about the criteria outlined here and test how the show does–or does not–agree with your ideas. Whether you agree with me or not, the experience will deepen your understanding of what art means to you and how it relates to your vision of the world.