Sunday, October 17, 2010

Critique Day

Yesterday I drove down to Eugene, Oregon (about a 2 hour drive) for critique day. I belong to a group of fiber artists, from all over Oregon that meet twice a year. We bring 1 or 2 of our recent works to show and we have an outside critic who critiques them. Our outside critics are people from the art community—artists, teachers, curators—who are NOT fiber artists. It gives us a good perspective on the artistic integrity of our work, aside from sewing proficiency and fabric choices! It is always interesting—sometimes helpful, sometimes not.

I just discovered that my camera was set on the wrong settings, so most of the pictures I took are terrible. Here is our critique-er, Beverly Soasey, a mixed-media artist and curator of the Jacobs Gallery in Eugene.

She is talking about Mary Goodson's piece with the face, not the antique bear paw quilt hanging on the wall behind it. I liked her approach. She said since much of her work is jurying artwork for shows, she would talk about our work as if she were considering it for the gallery or a special show. She talked about what a juror might see in a digital image and how that might differ from the actual work. She talked about the importance, when submitting digital images, of including a compelling description of the process used, which she felt was much more important than describing the meaning or emotional content of the piece—that will differ according to who is viewing it, but technique and process are interesting to viewers when evaluating a work and putting together a cohesive, yet diverse collection of work to show.

Like many of our former critics, she was pleasantly (I think) surprised by the variety of work and how many different styles and approaches our group had to show. Also, like so many of our past critics, she got a little hung up on technique and how the work was made, but I think that is pretty typical of artists looking at work done in an unfamiliar medium.

These were the two pieces I took for critique. Her initial reaction was to "all those little tiny pieces!" But then she began to actually analyze the work. I was pleased that she pointed out and felt it was effective, the simplified, stylized background in the Douglas Fir cone piece. She said the piece had the feeling and appeal of a drawing, which also pleased me and echo exactly my intent. One of the earlier artists had made the comment during her own critique that she always has a hard time knowing when to quit when she is working on a piece. That idea came up again in another critique and then she praised my pieces as having "clarity" and said that I obviously do know when to quit! So I came away with nothing that I can use to improve my work, but it always feels good to get positive reinforcement. And hearing the remarks about other work is sometimes as edifying as hearing the remarks about one's own. It was a smaller group than usual, which meant we ended fairly early. Sometimes these things go on too long and I come away mentally exhausted. Yesterday I just had some good thoughts to ponder on my drive home. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed the drive. Since I was the only member from Portland that made the trip, I was alone, but sang along with the radio and offended no one.


  1. Sorry to have missed it. Would have been nice to have a critique of my new work. We drove by Eugen about 4:30 pm. I had such a good time in SF that it was worth it, I think.

    Sounds like she nailed your intent and quality of work.

  2. Well done Terry. Your work is always "par excellence" and a joy to see!

  3. What a great idea. I bet you look forward to doing this a couple of times a year. I have never thought about getting someone to evaluate my work who was not a quilt artist but the input could be so valuable. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This IS a great idea; maybe we should do that with our own crit group one of these days.

    And by the way - I simply love what you have done with the landscape around your new home. Beautiful!

  5. I'd love to participate in a group like that. I'm guessing that with each different guest you'd have a different takeaway -- some more personal, or useful than others.

    I knew that your Douglas fir was bigger than life, but I wasn't really getting the scale from your blog posts. Seeing it in context makes me like it even more than I did before. I think the largeness of it adds a lot to the impact (kinda O'Keefe-esque).

  6. That Douglas Fir Cone is fabulous!

    I wish there were a requirement that technique be listed for every quilt in an exhibit or show. PIQF would be much more interesting if I knew what I was looking at. Sorry to hurt anyone's feelings, but I would rather have that info that the angst that caused the artist to make the piece.

  7. Nancy9:37 AM

    I read your blog daily; I carefully study and always admire your inspiring work. But I, too, did not understand the scale with which you were working. You may post dimensions, but I interpret your art as much smaller in size. How interesting to see them in real life presentation!

  8. that Douglas Fir is wonderful and huge! I misinterpreted the size too...
    what a wonder group you are part of, wish I belonged to it too.