By the Book: Barbara O’Brien, #88

As the last juror to review New American Paintings submissions as part of the analog world (is a digital image better than a reproduction that the artist oversees?), the memory of the jurying process is one of being surrounded by hundreds (yes, literally hundreds) of file folders and thousands of  8.5 x 11" sheets of paper, each bearing the image of a single work of art.

I remember thinking that each sheet of paper was both a sacred trust and merely quotidian ephemera; a print-out of a work of art into which the artist had placed their talent, time, current obsessions, and not a small bit of hope - that amongst all the submissions, their's would stand out and be selected.

Round One...manila folders being lifted out of the several cardboard boxes in which they were shipped. Round Two..."yes", "no", "maybe" piles grew like Leaning Towers. A marvelous evening of sitting at my dining room table, "reading" the images as if they were part of a collection of poetry, an Exquisite Corpse of one image building on the next and the one just prior offering counterpoint of challenge to what followed. Round Three...Artists selected for my solid choices; alternates laid out in a 20 square foot area of a floor. Uncertainties gave way to increasing clarity. Individual images coalesced into the winners of the New American Paintings Southern Competition 2009.

Barbara O'Brien
Juror, Edition 88
Curator, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO


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