Last week, my friend Mary Convey and I went to the Anchorage Museum at the Rasmuson Center to see The All Alaska Juried Art Exhibit.
The All Alaska Juried Art Exhibit happens in even numbered years (the show opened last fall). In odd numbered years, the museum exhibits Earth, Fire, and Fibre a fine craft show. Because my work is both art and craft, for the past three years I have enter both shows.
The first time I entered the All Alaska Juried Art Exhibit, I won Best of Show. When the curator called to tell me the news, she made it clear she did not agree with the juror’s decision. She reminded me that there was a show at the museum that exhibited quilts and it is called Earth, Fire, and Fibre.
I know there are still people in the world who want to divide work into art and craft, but I believe this is false dichotomy. For me, craft means the maker spent thousands of hours honing their skills. Art does not necessary require that. In my opinion, art can be craft and craft can be art–or not. It depends on the quality/execution of the work.
The interesting thing for me about entering these shows is one juror has all the power. For each show, a juror from outside is invited to select the finalists from digital entries. Then the juror is flown up to Alaska where he makes his final selections by looking at the actual work. These shows are very competitive. This year’s juror Susan Cross, from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, reviewed 479 submissions from 140 artists. The final exhibit features 40 artworks by 27 artists.That’s an acceptance rate of about eight percent.
Although I have a short track record–only three years–of entering these shows, I have noticed, at least so far, that while the jurors are all different and can do whatever they want, they are a bit predictable. In the juror’s comments about their particular show, they have all mentioned their surprise concerning the quality of work. And that surprises me–I would expect an expert in the world of art and craft to know that Alaska is full of amazing art and artists.
And for the last two shows, the jurors both selected decidedly Alaskan themes for their exhibits. Last year’s Earth, Fire, and Fibre was almost entirely devoted to Native Alaskan Craft.
And this year’s All Alaska Juried Art Exhibit is almost entirely two-dimensional and most of those pieces are landscape paintings. There were only two small three-dimensional pieces.
This is disappointing to me. I feel their responses are stereotypical views about art made by Alaskans. Yes, I am inspired daily by the amazing natural world that surrounds me. But that inspiration doesn’t have translate into a landscape painting or scrimshaw in order for me to be an Alaskan artist.
I have had pieces in all three of these shows which is evidence that the jurors aren’t completely obsessed with the notion of Alaskan art having an Alaskan theme. But I wonder how many wonderful pieces were rejected because the artist’s work didn’t fulfill the juror’s fantasy of what Alaskan art is.
So that is my big picture take on outside jurors and our all Alaskan art and fine craft shows at the Anchorage Museum.
Having said all that I have said, the bottom line is that all three exhibits have been amazing showcases of Alaskan artists and their work. I am including many photos of many wonderful pieces for you to enjoy. And if you have the chance, I highly recommend you visit this show in person. It will be in Anchorage until February 3rd. After that, it will be in Juneau and Fairbanks.
As a final note, the deadline for the next Earth, Fire, and Fibre is July 1st. I am telling you now, as this will give all of you plenty of time to prepare your entries! Here the link to get you started.