Going big
DAC's national Juried Show offers uncommon depth and breadth

Going big

DAC Exhibition Director Peter Hay stands with "High Heel Sting Ray8," a steel-and-concrete sculpture by local artist Jeff Wise./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Stew Mosberg - 05/31/2018

It’s rare that local art lovers get to see shows of a national scope and skill as that of the Durango Arts Center’s annual Juried Art Exhibit. Starting this Friday, gracing the walls and pedestals of the Barbara Conrad Gallery will be a range of diverse works in a variety of mediums. Featuring 41 artists from 11 states – 18 from the Four Corners – the exhibit is truly impressive in scope. Perhaps even more impressive was the job of whittling down the 291 entries to 50, which was the task of juror Josie Lopez, of Albuquerque.

Lopez is the curator of 516ARTS, a nonprofit, contemporary gallery in downtown Albuquerque.

“When I’m considering a juror, I want them to have a very well-rounded knowledge of contemporary art themes and a broad knowledge of mediums,” DAC Exhibits Director Peter Hay said of his choice. “I have a ton of respect for 516ARTS and all they have accomplished.”

In addition to offering her jury duties, Lopez is also holding portfolio reviews for local artists. Hay said he was grateful Lopez agreed to perform this added service. “Not all would agree to that,” he said. “It is something I very much value when bringing in an outside juror. (Portfolio reviews) provide a chance for our local artists to talk about their
work and receive feedback from someone who is completely unbiased and very knowledgeable.”

In discussing the portfolio reviews Lopez said, “I think this is a valuable process and contributes to providing (artists) not only the opportunity to show work, but to work through how an audience is experiencing them.”

And speaking of audiences, Hay is optimistic the show will appeal to a wide variety of people, with entries ranging from video and large-scale mixed-media assemblages to paintings, drawings, prints, metal and fiber art, photography and encaustic. “Nearly anyone can walk in and find something that they like or that catches their attention,” he said.

The show’s works are consistently high in quality and execution. Arguably, however, taste in art is personal, begging the age-old question: how does a juror choose work for a show without bias of one kind or another?

“Is that a trick question?” Lopez quipped when asked.

She admitted that the jury process is always somewhat subjective, but ultimately, it is about how the elements come together as a composition. She begins with basic elements of art and then thinks about how artists are engaging with the body, time, place or space.

“We all have our own personal tastes and biases. I think the most important thing is to be aware of those biases and try to avoid acting on them,” she said. “I think that is where technical criteria keep me honest.”

With so many entries to cull through, Lopez developed an evaluation process, weighting the artwork on a scale of technical merit. She did not read artist statements until narrowing the choices down. “I created a spreadsheet with a scoring system that considered technical elements based on the media, including composition, value, contrast and technique. These components can be looked at fairly objectively,” she said.

To view so much art in person would be logistically impossible – if not extremely difficult. As a result, Lopez evaluated the work digitally. She is apologetic about the process and acknowledges it creates challenges of its own. “Unfortunately, with an online submission, poor images can actually make a big difference,” she said. “When it comes to judging painting, it is difficult to see the quality of brush strokes and in other works, the nuances in color and line. Scale is also a challenge. I think the impact of some multi-media work can be lost in reproductive images.”

At Friday evening’s opening reception, Lopez will have the honor of presenting cash awards for Best in Show ($400); Second Place ($200); and Third Place ($100).

Many of the artists appearing in the show are well known to Durango art enthusiasts. One such artist is Anna Wilson, whose black-and-white photograph “Magic Kingdom in the Badlands” is reminiscent of Ansel Adams’ exquisitely detailed silver prints.

Local artist Rebecca Koeppen is another familiar name. She entered a large, beautifully executed pastel, “Breakfast Clean-up,” while another outstanding landscape by Milt Beens demonstrates his finesse with a pallet knife on a canvas titled “Last 

Snows.” Semi-abstract in style, it invites the viewer to linger and experience the color and reflection of the scene.

Environmental artist and Durango treasure, Mary Ellen Long, has two pieces in the show. One is a wooden recipe box containing numerous “recipes” for saving the planet. Each recipe is written on hand-made, decorated paper. And local sculptor Jeff Glode Wise’s tall, black metal sculpture is a curious mixture of kinetic art and whimsy that is ingeniously designed.

From far outside the local area comes artist Luba Zygrewicz, a Chilean-Ukranian artist who now lives in Louisiana. Her piece, “Nesting Flight Upon a Thousand Wishes,” is remarkable for its materials, as well as its sculptural form created from empty tea bags, ink, paper and hand-written wishes.

Obviously, the above descriptions merely scratch the surface, but it is safe to say the 42nd Juried Exhibit is every bit as good as, or better than, most art displayed at the gallery. It is an extraordinary achievement and a great gift to the community.


Going big

An "Environmental Recipe Box" with hand-made paper and messages by local artist Mary Ellen Long./ Photo by Jennaye Derge

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