Salon de l'ordinaire
By Tom Wachunas
EXHIBIT: 75th ANNUAL MAY SHOW, at The Little Art Gallery / 185 North Main Street, North Canton, Ohio / THROUGH MAY 31, 2017
Déjà vu all over again. Time to vent. Guess I’m just an aging grouch with the same axe to grind every time another juried art show comes around. When are we really going to grow up and retire the tradition of juried art shows with tiered money awards as we continue to practice it!!?? The notion became a vapid ritual long ago, and something of a silly throwback to the 18th - 19th century French Royal Academy of Art and its Paris Salon exhibitions, which basically set in motion the commodification and marketing (not to mention career-building) of “officially approved” art for the bourgeoisie.
At this juncture, I respectfully direct your attentions to the latest post by artist and blogger, Judi Krew ,
She makes many points and observations with which I agree wholeheartedly. However, after submitting my comment to Krew’s site, I’m further suggesting the elimination of a prize hierarchy altogether. Forget “Best in Show,” and no more first, second, or third prizes. For that matter, take “Honorable Mention” out of the mix too. It smacks of an afterthought, the equivalent of almost-but-not-quite-good-enough, as if to suggest that everything else in the show is insignificant, forgettable, or not honorable.
Instead, let jurors be simply choosers of what will be included in the exhibit and leave it at that. Too extreme? OK then, if we still insist on bestowing a reward beyond the distinction of inclusion, perhaps give each juror the option to designate personal favorites by labeling them “Juror’s Choice” or something to that effect. No cash, though. Just a shiny ribbon should do, thank you very much.
That said, I hereby award my shiny ribbons for the Little Art Gallery’s 75th Annual May Show to John Bruce Alexander for his mixed media “Sign Wave Swan Song,” a mad history of… everything, compressed into a rippling collage of colliding found texts and pictures; Diane Belfiglio for her acrylic construction, “Pushing the Boundaries,” an elegant, playful paroxysm of brightly colored pattern, rhythm, and symmetry; Tina Meyers for her mixed media “Forest,” a wild, painterly feast of textures and luscious color; and Anna Rather (the only printmaker in the show) for her captivating relief print, “Spot Fish.” Interestingly enough, none of these received an award of any sort from the show’s jurors.
The title of this post (Salon de l’ordinaire) is certainly not intended to impugn the entire exhibit as such, even though it is a bit overloaded with formulaic representational imagery and otherwise ordinary content. I mean it to point out that this year’s edition of a revered annual event is no more and no less than a typical episode of business-as-usual in the context of juried art shows. If nothing else, it’s yet another reminder that the time to establish a more sensible paradigm for such exhibits is long overdue.
PHOTOS, from top: Pushing the Boundaries, by Diane Belfiglio; Forest, by Tina Meyers; Spot Fish, by Anna Rather; Sign Wave Swan Song, by John Bruce Alexander (thanks to Judi Krew for the photo)