FRESH 2018 Juror’s Statement

FRESH 2018 Juror’s Statement

It is unusual for an individual to be asked to adjudicate an exhibition two years in a row. When I was asked to take on this responsibility, my immediate impulse was to say no; I thought that the entrants deserved a different perspective.

Artist Charles Beneke, Juror for FRESH 2018

But, Summit ArtSpace was doing exactly that, choosing to take a different perspective on how it formed FRESH 2018. The organizers were curious to see how time and cultural movement in this volatile era could have affected the artists of our region and how any potential changes may have become manifest in the artworks they produced and chose to submit as evidence of who they are one year later. As with any sound experiment it is wise to change only one variable at a time, otherwise, it is impossible to quantify any differences in outcomes. FRESH is about the new directions in the visual arts in our regionand is obviously the changing variable. In this experiment, Summit ArtSpace asked me to be the constant. It is definitely an unexpectedly fresh approach to a juried exhibition and has been an exciting challenge for me.

In my juror’s statement from last year’s FRESH, I spoke about the presence of our nation’s political and social crisis that I saw in the works submitted. We are reeling in shock; now we begin to join together to heal, stand for the causes we hold true, and find ways to move ahead as one. FRESH 2017 explores new definitions of space and this new place that we must all learn to navigate and inhabit together.

One year later I find it is as if we have been in the center of some strange swirling storm; you never what is going to last, stick, or have meaning or what is going to unexpectedly appear, fly past, or mysteriously vanish. Sometimes it feels as if the storm is settling, but most of the time it feels like this churning is simply our new normal. Whatever the case, we must look around, take stock, question, and try to piece things together so that we can make sense of things and define how we live and move ahead. Visual artist are primed for activity as it is what we do every day. Making art is about gathering, piecing together, and making sense and that is precisely what I see happening in the works presented in FRESH 2018.

As I viewed the many engaging works submitted for this year’s FRESH the idea of piecing things together started to become an evident thread. In many of the works there was a gathering of information, a making sense of observations, and a defining of new understandings. All the selected works somehow deal with pulling things together, in my mind, whether it is content, color, marks, materials, etc. If FRESH 2017 was a reeling in the face of a shocking new narrative, FRESH 2018 is about artists constructing a better narrative.

It has been my great pleasure to have the opportunity to review the works submitted for this year’s FRESH and to select a body of work highlighting the vibrant visual arts community of our region. It is not uncommon to hear it stated that art is a mirror of society. I prefer Bertolt Brecht’s assertion. “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” We are fortunate to have such an engaged community of visual artists in Northeast Ohio actively contributing to the shaping our future.