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  • Writer's pictureHelen C

First Show in Pennsylvania

I was selected to be a part of the 215 610 Contemporary Art Exhibition at the Delaware County Community College (about 30 minutes west of PAFA). A woman in our administration sent out an email with open calls in the area that we should apply to. I applied to this show (excited that there wasn't an entry fee) and I got accepted...and the coolest part? The juror is the head juror at the Institute of Contemporary Art here in Philadelphia! Wow. So...what made my art stand out? In the exhibitions class I'm taking right now, I'm learning a lot about jurying and exhibiting (we're putting on two shows this semester). Some of them being:

  1. Don't be offended if you don't get into a show...you will NEVER know why they chose someone's work over another

  2. When jurors are looking at submitted work, sometimes they aren't just looking at works individually that they like and might want to pick, but also which pieces might look good together/ speak to each other when they're placed in the gallery...so they're thinking in groupings

  3. While some gallerists/jurors try to be objective...they all have their own tastes...and galleries can be known for supporting certain themes/subjects. I believe this specific show/juror was trying to support emerging artists (me)

  4. Looking at a work on a computer screen is FAR different than in person, so as a juror it's hard to get the full picture of what the piece will be like once in a gallery

  5. Some jurors and gallerists think minimally (want to be really exclusive and don't want that many pieces in a show), and some are more inclusive (want to include as many as they can).

  6. DON'T approach the juror at the gallery opening and ask them why your piece didn't get in

  7. Take the time to walk around the show and think about why certain pieces were placed next to each other: color similarities, themes, subject matter, size


This is my painting "One Last Look", which I think was placed next to the perfect piece...the colors in the sculpture speak well with the color palette in mine.


The juror, Alex Klein, gave a talk before the reception and I really enjoyed what she had to say about the art world: rethinking the meaning of institutions, the toxicity that comes from the competition in the art world, the creativity that lies in art history, and what the jurying process is like for her (she spoke about a lot more but those are just some highlights). She also wrote an essay for all of us to read. She placed me in a category of artists saying that our work "transport[s] us into a psychological space. One might observe that they are all invested in figuration in its broadest sense at a moment 2.5 years into the COVID-19 pandemic in which identities are isolated, reflected, and refracted". I really appreciated how she wrote that. Sometimes, as an artist, it is hard for me to put into words how and why I do the things that I do. On a subconscious level, I know there is a deep understanding, feeling, and motivation. However, to have somebody who knows art and sees art all day, everyday, and can articulate what they see...I found that to be exciting.


Here are some other pieces at the show I really enjoyed looking at for a long time (I didn't get pictures of everything and am mad at myself for that).


Henry Morales, Descansando (Resting), 2022, Dirt from my parents front yard mixed with acrylic and oil paint and junk newsprint ads we got in the mail on canvas.


Mindy Flexer - Will We?, oil paint on linen mounted on panel


Jeff McConnell, Diana Pankova- CrossWorlds, USA/Poland, Pinhole Photograph


Sean - The Wood Began to Move, Scrap & Dimensional Lumber, Charcoal on Paper, Hempcrete, Sandbag, onion bags weeds, soil


Side Note: I had two critiques on Thursday and had some wonderful take aways from the professors that really stuck with me:

  1. I was talking to one of the professors about how I was struggling with the fact that there is an artist who I desperately wanted to emulate. I loved their work and wanted to produce work just like them but for some reason I can't. The way I put down paint (heavy handidly) and just stylistically how things end up turning out during my painting process looks different than theirs. Yes, I've adopted a few things from looking at their work, but my work doesn't look like theirs enough and it's upsetting me and he said, "Just be Helen!" and that stuck with me. I need to be more confident in the painting voice I'm developing. And I can keep looking at artists, historic and contemporary, for ideas but at the end of the day, it's going to be more rewarding, hopefully, if I just have my own techniques going on that happen during my painting process and don't try to copy every single thing that my 'idols' do.

  2. The visiting artist analyzed that I really like the color blue and maybe that's because I grew up around the ocean and river my whole life...possibly. So she recommended I watch this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OTngEHvq8Q

  3. I find it interesting to see the colors certain artists are drawn towards and why. Their upbringing, education, other artists they're drawn towards...

  4. We also discussed how there are a lot of rectangles and squares in my paintings. She said she had a lot of circles in her work. It's good to think about maybe why I do that? I did a lot of house portraits before school which included a lot of painting of cubes/prisms. I grew up with a father who is a homebuilder/architect so I'm used to seeing those shapes. But who knows if that's why.

  5. My professor also discussed with me how I keep making my people's eyes really dark. He said it as a bad thing. And maybe it is if I'm trying to achieve a specific likeness. In some of the paintings, they look like they're wearing a lot makeup or have black eyes. But it might be okay to just allow my natural taste and inclinations to evolve. Maybe make some adjustments, but if it looks right to me...don't let the critics influence me too much.

  6. Another critic told me that the girls in my painting looked like they were just enjoying a life of leisure: reading and painting mugs. Is that bad to show that side of daily life. Yes, my friends have jobs outside of school and plan to have full time jobs after school. But showing women enjoying a life of leisure...is that too idealistic? Something to think about.



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