Ceramic Artist -Richard Notkin juried nearly 500 images to select 54 pieces of art which incorporate a contemporary spirit as well as a technical mastery of the material. The show is a rare opportunity to see a variety of styles and techniques which encompass the field of contemporary ceramic arts.
At the risk of becoming repetitious and/or redundant, I will reiterate what has long become my juror’s mantra: “The jurying of works of art is a subjective endeavor — a different juror would have chosen an entirely different exhibition. I do not accept the juror’s mantle lightly, and am uncomfortable with the role of gatekeeper and the notions of expertise or authority.”
On the other hand, it is a serious responsibility to be a juror, whether in our legal system of citizen jury trials or within our field of the ceramic arts. And I believe in transparency and frankness. All that said, there were nearly five hundred entries in the pool for “Workhouse Clay National 2014”, and I was given the difficult task of narrowing the exhibition to between 50 and 60 pieces. In the end, I chose 54 works, approximately one out of 10 entries. To do so required eliminating some very fine pieces. Quite frankly, the final choices reflect my own set of prejudices and opinions about contemporary clay. I gravitated towards sculptural works with figurative imagery, implied or overt narratives, a sense of craftsmanship and personal vision, and attention to detail. I am also drawn to works in the realm of social/political commentary — no surprise there. As the jurying progressed, a loose theme began to develop along these lines. In that regard, I was very tough on strictly functional ceramics, and rejected the vast majority of pottery pieces submitted — although there were some remarkable entries. As juror, these choices are my prerogative, and I accept responsibility for my decisions. When one juries an exhibition alone, he or she is to blame for the final choices. You make about fifty friends, and a few hundred enemies. When you are on a jury with one or two other jurors, you have a little ambiguity in the final choices, and can always blame the others for the pieces that weren’t accepted.
Most of the ceramists in Workhouse Clay National 2014 are, generally, young and emerging artists, as opposed to internationally renowned ceramists who have been on the scene for years. Yet the work is, for the most part, already very accomplished, and displays a tremendous potential for future evolution. I will look forward to observing this growth in these artists’ work, and wish all of the artists who submitted entries long and productive lives. To that end, if you are a smoker, please quit.