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Jury Observations From a Fly's POV: Pro Quilt Artist #5 posted: 1/24/2005
by Carolyn Lee Vehslage Printable Page
Category: Art Method: All Series: Be A Professional Quilt Artist
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One of the best perks of being on the volunteer committee of an internationally juried exhibition is getting to watch the jury process. For the past three years, ArtQuilts at the Sedgwick has had a three-juror panel to select the collection from the six hundred plus quilt entries.

The following comments and suggestions are my personal opinions based on three years of observing the AQATS jurors review and select the slides that best appear to represent the artists' intention of the artwork.

The Setting

When the jurors first arrive at the Sedgwick Cultural Center in the cobblestone and cable-car section of Philadelphia called Mt. Airy, they enter through the massive doors that align the floor to ceiling glass windowed walls of the front gallery. This renovated space with its modern white walls belies the romance of the larger gallery space waiting within.

As the jurors walk from the first room to the second they are transported from the present into the past. When they step into the vast lobby of what once was the thriving Sedgwick Movie Palace they see remnants of its former glory remain in the chipped marble tiles and gilded mirrors. The massive glass chandelier still illuminates the sculpted moldings and hand painted designs on the two story-high ceiling.

The walls of this gallery have been draped in black curtains. The artwork for each exhibition is suspended a foot in front and appears to float in mid-air. Dr. Dilys Winegrad of the 2002 jury panel likened the inner gallery to being in Aladdin’s Tent.

At the end of this large hall is a set of black velvet curtains. As the jurors pass into the final section of the building that is currently open to the public, they are surprised to learn that the actual movie theater originally seating thousands is behind the back wall of the small stage in front of them. They are told the three rooms that they have just journeyed through were once ‘only the lobby’ for this magnificent Art Deco Movie Place whose hay days were in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. And that above them is a grand ballroom waiting patiently for renovation.

A very large screen rests on the edge of the stage. The jurors’ table with their individual lights is about twelve feet back. Two slide projectors are warming up to display a full slide beside a detail slide of each entered artwork. The images will often be larger than actual size. If a slide set is good, every stitch is viewable.

The Juror Instructions

Deborah Schwartzman, the founder and director of ArtQuilts at the Sedgwick, greets the jurors and explains the order mechanics of the process. She tells them the total number of artists and total number of artwork entries. That each artist could enter up to three pieces, but only one piece per artist can be in the exhibition.

Her only true instruction to the three is, “to chose the best”. It is completely up to the jurors to determine what their collection will be comprised of, what they consider art.

The first viewing of the morning will be the full image each quilt entry in the order that it arrived. With seven and a half carousels, this overview will take quite some time. There is no ranking of artwork during this round. It is simply to familiarize the jurors with the body of artwork.

I always find it a privilege to watch the visual impact of carousel after carousel of artwork in the darken silence of the aging movie palace. The depth and breathe of the creative forces within our medium is stunning.

During the second viewing, one of the volunteers announces the number of entries each successive artist has as the both the full & detail artwork is projected. These entries are labeled Artist #1 Image A, B, C and include the title of each artwork on the jurors’ score sheets. For this round, the jurors are asked not to discuss the artwork or indicate if they recognize a particular artist’s signature style. Information such as ‘derivative’ artwork comes up in round three.

The ranking system is to assign each quilt a number from 1 to 4. A perfect score of twelve (4 x 3) assures that the quilt will be considered in the final round.

Bad Slide Bad Full
"A Little Bird Told Her"
© Pamela Allen, Ontario, Canada
"Forget Me Not: The Yellow Rose of Texas"
11"w x 11"h, © February 2002 Carolyn Lee Vehslage
Collection of Karey Bresenhan, Houston, TX.
In honor of her lifetime friendship with Nancy Holliman

What Jurors Look For

-A consistent body of artwork or recognizable signature style

What Turns Jurors Off

-Poor slide quality - too dark or too light.
-Poor slide quality - out of focus.
-Poor slide quality - extraneous background distractions.
-Poor slide quality - colors of the full image do not match the colors of the detail image.

Bad Detail Good Slide
"Forget Me Not: The Yellow Rose of Texas"
11"w x 11"h, © February 2002 Carolyn Lee Vehslage
Collection of Karey Bresenhan, Houston, TX.
In honor of her lifetime friendship with Nancy Holliman
"A Little Bird Told Her"
© Pamela Allen, Ontario, Canada

What Can You do to Improve Your Odds

“It is worth noting that the scale of most art quilts and the fineness of detail infused in them places them at a distinct disadvantage to most other art media when transferred to film” - Rick Gottas director of The American Art Company & SAQA Board Member.

Take the time to view your slides projected on a large white wall in a dark room. If you don’t have one of your own consider renting one or contact your local library or school to see if you can use their equipment.

If you’ve decided to be a professional artist, holding your slides up to a window or light is not good enough. Looking at them once on a light table through a loop is not good enough. Relying on the fact that you spend the money on a professional photographer is not good enough – especially if you reuse slides from show entry to show entry. During all the handling and processing, what was once an excellent slide might now be a damaged one.

First we’ll cover the ‘objective’ points. The ones that have easy Yes/No answers.

You MUST be able to answer Yes to each of these questions to submit your slides:

-Is your image in focus?
-Are they centered in the image area?
-Is your artwork the correct shape? Not distorted
-Are the colors and intensity of the light correct for your artwork?
-Are the colors and intensity of the light the same between the full and detail slides?
-Does your slide reflect what your artwork actually looks like?

If you answer Yes to any of the following questions, it’s time to throw these slides out:

-Are there any bright spots or dark spots?
-Are there any areas out of focus?
-Are there any hands, feet, ribbons, signs, trees, or other distractions in the frame?
-Are there any scratches on the film?
-Are there any dust particles, hairs, or finger smudges that cannot be removed?
-Has the slide become warped from exposure to the projector’s light bulb?
-Has the color faded or darken overtime so it’s not representative of your art?

On to the ‘subjective’ questions. You may find it easier at first to have a friend with a good eye for composition, color, and contrast accompany you.

-Do the slides represent your artwork to the best that they can?
-Do the full images make your eye travel around the artwork?
-Do the full images portray what your artwork is about?
-Is there anything in the frame that is pulling your eye away from the art?
-Are the detail slides of the correct portion of the artwork?
-Do the details show enough fine detail?
-Do the details explain the artwork further to the viewer?
-Do the details show the materials and techniques?
-Can someone not familiar with your artwork figure out how it was constructed?
-Can you see the quilting stitches or embellishment?

Good Full Good Detail
"Forget Me Not: The Yellow Rose of Texas"
11"w x 11"h, © February 2002 Carolyn Lee Vehslage
Collection of Karey Bresenhan, Houston, TX.
In honor of her lifetime friendship with Nancy Holliman
"Forget Me Not: The Yellow Rose of Texas"
11"w x 11"h, © February 2002 Carolyn Lee Vehslage
Collection of Karey Bresenhan, Houston, TX.
In honor of her lifetime friendship with Nancy Holliman
And now for the really hard questions about the artwork itself:

-Is your artwork imagery strong?
-Does it draw the viewer in?
-Does it make the viewer ponder or question?
-Does it delight the viewer?
-Can you tell what your artwork is about without reading the statement?
-Is there anything disturbing the composition?
-Is your imagery ‘alive’ – as opposed to flat, dull?

What You Can do to Improve Your Slides & Slide Presentation

-‘Fix’ slightly off centered images with ¼” Mylar slide masking tape
-Hide distracting backgrounds with ¼” Mylar slide masking tape
-Remove dust with compressed air
-Place the slides in the order you want the juror to see your art
-Place your slides in a new slide sheet, not recycle dirty ones
-If you’re going to use labels, make sure that they cannot come off
-Submit the maximum number of entries if possible, and if not, submit at least two
-Submit a consistent body of artwork, that does not have to mean a series, but they must look like the same artist did them

In the words of former juror Teddy Pruett, "may the best slide win!!!"

©2004 Carolyn Lee Vehslage

Carolyn Lee Vehslage’s Computer Collages are in private, corporate, gallery and museum collections around the world. They are viewable online at

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