Jurying a Student Showcase

Updated: 3 days ago

Earlier this year, Alex Ebstein, curator of Goucher College's galleries, asked me to be the juror for their 2020 Student Art Showcase. Naturally, I graciously accept the offer - I thoroughly enjoy working with young creators, especially college students.


My task was to go through and critique the 50+ submissions and pick three winners (this is lowkey very difficult).


I decided to critique the work based on the following criteria:

  1. Concept (the overarching idea behind each piece)

  2. Originality (the way in which the artist expressed their idea)

  3. Technical execution (the quality and caliber of each piece)

For each of these categories I gave the piece a 1-5 point score, I then added them up (the highest possible score being 15) and from there I was able to choose the winners. Feel free to check out my three winning selections here: https://www.goucherstudentartshowcase.com/awards.html.


As I said before, It was VERY DIFFICULT for me to make these selections and all of the students presented a lot of great work, so for this month's blog post I wanted to shed light on some of the other amazing artwork that I was able to view and critique. I had a lot of fun critiquing these works, so I hope you enjoy this feedback!


Artist: Nora Neely

Title: Landscape

Medium: 35mm film, construction paper, printed

Dimensions: 8" x 12" in

Year: 2019

This piece is very simple, but holds a strong message. My biggest takeaway when viewing this is that we can find beauty and power in the simplest of things. This is conveyed by Neely’s use of minimal construction paper, simple cut-outs, and white background. Due to the piece’s minimalism I also saw an environmental edge to this piece - somewhat encouraging our need to recycle and a call for more people to value our Earth. Speaking of recycling, using film also communicated reviving our past.




Artist: Juliet Birch

Title: Perception vs. Reality (2)

Medium: Hand drawn image, prismacolor on multimedia paper

Dimensions: 10” x 9” in.

Year: 2017

This piece was a great visual representation and take on masculinity. The drawing itself was executed wonderfully - the flowers looks very fluid and easy-going, while the subject’s face looks stern and distraught. The face communicates pain while the flowers communicate joy. This piece provides two different perspectives: one is that the subject seems to wish he could be more joyful, but in reality for whatever reason, he cannot. The second perception is that the subject is gleeful on the outside, but inside he is quite uneasy. I appreciate that this piece is so thought-provoking - it also provides another interesting takeaway: Sometimes the things in this world that are “supposed” to make us happy actually make us sad i.e. someone might be triggered by receiving flowers due to a traumatic experience in their past. Overall, this is a reminder that you never truly know someone.




Artist: Ellie Struewing

Title:, Southpark Terrace #3

Medium: Collage

Dimensions: 7" x 9.25" in

Year: 2019

This collage reminds me of the way time works and how we as humans perceive the past, present, and future. Seeing this vast castle structure, somewhat distorted, makes me think about how we glorify the past, but then when you take a closer look, it has usually been clean up and made to see greater than it was. The collage aspect reminds us that history is told by the victor and we also lose a lot in translation. So, bit and pieces of the story are usually misrepresented. The condo/apartment-style housing with the human in one of the doorframes makes me think of the present and how important it is. How precious human life is right now, and how it must be preserved. There is light shining on only one of the structures which communicate a light of hope or highlight this idea of treasuring the present. All of the shapes and cut-outs on the left side remind me of the future. It is unknown, but we hope that it will be beautiful. Collage work was one of the key mediums that peaked my interest in the fine art world, so I also love a great collage that makes you think.


Artist: Ogemdi Chuckwu

Title: Savages In Society

Medium: Collage on cardboard backing

Dimensions: 7.5" x 4" in

Year: 2020

This piece is such a standout. Without even getting into what you are actually looking at, just the contrast of color and mediums by themselves is striking. Very eye-catching! When you examine this piece more, that is when things get interesting and you appreciate all of the artistry. The naked subjects in the photograph might be viewed as primitive by Western standards. They are embracing their environment, their community, their culture, their circumstances - whatever it may be. And while they are doing this, outsiders are looking with disgust. There are obvious historical references that don’t need to be explained, but I found it very interesting how the artist used these mediums to get their point across. The photograph (a very newer-age medium) was used to display what would be considered here (in the USA) as primitive, when in actuality - painting, especially the “modern” painting style used to create the background image is WAY older and less advanced than the photograph. The way Chuckwu used the mediums to depict the backwardsness that is racism and bigotry and all closed-mindedness. The piece is essentially saying, “if you stopped being so ignorant you might learn something”. I love it!



Artist: Yuwan Zhang

Title: Last Light Series

Medium: Digital Photograph

Year: 2020

I love the way your eye travels when viewing this piece. Up and down the tall grass, the U-shape of subjects arm, should, neck and head, the moon in the background… It is a very intentional piece. I appreciate the difficulty of capturing photographs during this time in the early evening - the “blue hour” - it is not the easiest to shoot. This piece also provides some mystery. You can only see half of the subject’s face, so determining her state of mind isn’t obvious. The pendent she is holding is also interesting. It looks like a hand, but I’m not sure. In any case, I enjoy the artist’s emphasis on nature as well as the subject - especially the bottom right portion of the photograph. This piece leaves me with more questions than answers and I like that about it.



Artist: Greer Turner

Title: Agnes

Medium: Plaster, Dried Flowers and Acrylic on Plywood

Dimensions: 18" x 12"

Year: 2020

Using flowers that were once flourishing and a hand missing some fingers, through this sculpture Turner has been able to create an appreciation for life and death, past and present. It also reminds us to appreciate our senses. Missing fingers on one’s hand, you will appreciate touch more. Not being able to smell flower will make you appreciate scent more. The flower pieces that are on the fingernails and scattered on top of that hand communicate that we are one with nature and that if we destroy nature, it will destroy us. We must value and take care of our world so that what comes from the Earth can continue to nourish us and also bring us joy. Turner did a great job communicating these thoughts subtly - one must analyze this piece very carefully in order to catch all of the nuances and really get the most out of this piece’s messaging. There’s nothing wrong with making people work in order to understand your art!


Artist: Anna Smolko

Title: Rain Day

Medium: Digital Photo

Year: 2019

The use of color in Smolko’s photographs is remarkable( dif word). They knew just where to place the subjects and use the colors to contrast each other. Color blocking can be difficult, but this photograph gets it right. My eyes are drawn to the umbrella, but I enjoy the surrounding greenery and it makes me enjoy the colors even more. Also, the dark-beige jacket is another nice compliment. It blends in but is still noticeable. The off-center valley in-which the top of the trees lead your eyes toward, and ends with the introduction to the umbrella is a nice site. The piece is a reminder that in a world where many people want to fit, stand out, and don’t be ashamed to do so. Without the big splash of color, I may not have talked about this image...



Artist: Quin Tran

Title: Existence

Medium: Wood sculpture

Year: 2020

The white string material that coils this piece, along with the three triangles at the top speak to the piece’s name “Existence”. They are punctured and scraped a the perfect points - just as well the colors Tran chose blend very well together. Although it is helping to balance the piece, the yellow triangle in the middle of the rod reminds me of a sail that would be on a boat. These elements take me back to the old saying: everything happens for a reason. This may seem optimistic, but that is a good thing. We need some optimism in this world! Nothing is perfect, but if you believe that you have a purpose, it can help to make life more worthwhile! Just like being on a boat, going through the waves, the ups and downs, it is easy and hopefully, you learn along the way - but when you finally stop and reach land again, it makes the journey worth it (I hope).



Thank you to Alex for asking me to part of this, it was truly a pleasure! Thank you to all of the artists that participated - your artistry is inspiring and I hope you all continue to create.


What do you think about this artwork? Please leave a comment or send me a message and let me know.


-Thomas


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