It's a major award! ...or the value of juried shows

Rebecca Mezoff, Emergence VII, 45 x 45 inches, hand-dyed wool tapestry
It has been awhile since I won a jurors choice award in a show. My piece Emergence VII was chosen as the juror's choice award in the Handweaver's Guild of Boulder show, Conversations. And I will admit that that made me happy. It also made me think again about the value of juried shows or shows of any kind.

This is what the juror, Jo Fitsell, had to say about my piece:
This show well represents both the way boundaries can be pushed and the intense beauty of working within them. The one piece which seems to bridge both worlds, Emergence VII, bravely struts out on its own with plenty to say. Yes, the shapes are large and graphic, but the artist also includes shadow with the power, and captures intrigue by communicating through color. A very powerful piece.
 So thanks for that! It is quite an encouragement to keep working, these little bits of recognition.
I have been thinking a lot about juried shows lately. There are moments where I am quite sure I'll never enter another one, though I've always changed my mind in the long run. This particular show was a local thing and I entered thinking that it was a way to show support for my local guild and to get tapestry out into the community.

I do think that shows are one of the things that can help us push back against the resistance that comes with being an artist. (See Steven Pressfield, The War of Art for a great description of resistance.) For many of us, having a deadline like a show we want to be in actually makes us sit down at the loom every day and produce inches.

Unless it takes us farther from the most important thing--our experience of our creation. I have also found myself working toward some specific show and losing track of what it was I was actually trying to express. I can't let the thought of my piece hanging in a particular venue shape what it is I'm actually working on. And to be honest, not once when I started working on a piece for a specific show did I get in.

I also think a lot about multi-media shows versus tapestry-only shows. When you go to see art, you don't usually see a whole gallery full of the same medium. I think tapestry-only shows are a bit odd actually. I do appreciate being able to go to a tapestry show and having so many examples of wonderful work to study and learn from. But when I stand back and think about the impact of the whole gallery, I wish for something else to challenge my interest somehow. Of course shows could be designed or curated in such a way to address a certain idea all in tapestry, but likely that wouldn't be your general-entry sort of experience.

All I'm really saying is that I think tapestry artists need to broaden their horizons. Let's enter shows about something and that likely contain various art media. Lets put our work out there where artists working in other mediums will see it. Where curators and dealers will notice it and say, "Hey, I didn't know anyone wove tapestry anymore. This is good!"

And if we continue tapestry-only shows, let's consider loosening the guidelines a little bit. Who cares if the warp shows? Isn't the idea the piece is expressing more important than that it follow a particular definition of tapestry? Let's be more human and open up conversations about what we make.

But above all, let's keep making things. Maybe we'll even win a major award!