Beauty is in the eyes of these beholders
As artists park their cars and unfold their tents on the streets of Ann Arbor, members of the University community take their places as jury members in this summer's Art Fairs, voting for the most original and creative works of 2004.
The art fairscomprising the Original Ann Arbor Street, Ann Arbor South University, Guild Summer and State Street Area art fairsare among the most prestigious and well-attended in the country.
This year, a number of University faculty and staff members are serving on jury panels that vote on admittance into the fairs and assign awards for outstanding pieces. Street Art Fair admittance jurors, for example, have whittled roughly 120 artists out of 1,100 applications, and awards judges will select 10 artists from dozens in each medium. An invitation or award from the art fairs can be the career launch or publicity boost that many of these artists crave, say those involved with the fairs.
University Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Sean Ulmer was a member of the admissions jury for the Street Art Fair, judging pieces in the medium of wood. Ulmer says he derived his experience with wood art from the assembling of the exhibition collection of the same medium, currently on display at the Museum of Art.
"When many think wood art, they think of a teak salad bowl. But wood art today is different. It allows the artist the opportunity to examine life and nature," he says.
Ulmer says art fair visitors will see many interesting trends in the wood art medium this year. Popular forms to look for include the breaking away from the vessel shape into more sculptural creations and works that look to nature for inspiration. He also says that two themesnature and lifeshould be particularly prevalent in the wood art on display.
"Wood is about the flow of life. It is still alive after it has been sculpted and worked," Ulmer says. "Wood has many ties to the natural world, so several artists find themselves coming back to the theme of nature."
Janie Paul, assistant professor of art & design, also was on the admissions panel for the Street Art Fair, judging prints and drawings. Paul, a printmaker, says the quality of work this season was impressive.
"There were a few pieces I wanted to buy, actually. I'll have to go back [to the art fair] and look around," Paul says.
Paul explains that members of the admissions jury panel, comprising three or four experts in the field, work together to narrow the hundreds of submissions down to a few artists who will show in the art fair.
"It's fun. We all mark our own choices, then we share our perceptions together. It goes really quickly," Paul says.
Shary Brown, executive director of the Street Art Fair, says allowing jury members to interact makes for better judging.
"Interaction between jurors is an essential part of the process. We believe it leads to the best decisions," Brown says.
Selecting art fair participants from hundreds of applications often requires a bit of technique. The trick to finding an interesting piece of artwork, Paul says, is having an eye for what's different.
"I look to see if they've captured something really original, really unique. I want to see that 'Aha!' moment," she says.
For a visitor to the art fairs who may not have Paul's fine eye for talent, she offers some advice on first-time buys.
"Know what you want, there are many different types of printsmonotype, lithography, etchings. Find out the artist's technical process. And ask the artist where their imagery comes from," she says. "This is a good opportunity to learn about the artist, an opportunity that you just don't get from gallery art."