I missed the boat for posting about my first exhibit at the Coconino Center for the Arts, Beyond the Border. Last weekend was the reception for our new exhibit, It’s Elemental. The event is produced annually and represents the crafts people of Northern Arizona. A jury selects the best from categories including: fiber, glass, ceramic, metal, wood, and mixed materials.
Northern Arizona University is home to a superior ceramics program and as such the area is littered with talented ceramists. This is reflected in the body of work entered and selected for the show. Though there are plenty of powerful pieces from each category.
It’s always a pleasure to hang work. Throughout most of college I only ever interacted with work in two settings, being created in a studio or already installed in a gallery. Hanging work is a very different interaction, it’s a finished piece but it can be influenced, by the pieces around it the arrangement of walls and pedestals in the gallery, even the type of light bulb used to illuminate it. It exists in limbo. Only after being nailed down and the lights set does it step into the presence it will hold with it’s viewers. Even my own opinions of it change the moment the gears click into place.
As the gallery assistant I am often the first to see a submitted piece of work as I prep the images for jurying. I get to take this whole journey with a piece; from downloading a jpeg, to unpacking a box, to nailing it to the wall. It’s a rare window through which most people will never experience artwork. I grow to appreciate work that at first did not seem to fit into my tastes, and I come to question why pieces appealed to me at first sight and fade as I become more familiar with it.
The more I do this work the more joy I find in this experience. It’s a sensation at the heart of the creative process. Creation, at least of my work, can often be broken down into questions and options. A piece can rise and fall on the order and selection of such choices. You never make all the right choices, and sometimes it’s better that way. How else are we supposed to make the right choice the next time?
Hanging these shows is a good reminder to ask questions when interacting with art. Why should I do this? Why did the artist do that? How does this line change the image? What does this light add to the display? How do these works complement each other? Keep asking questions. Eventually the answers might follow.