#205 In which our hero drives way too far to judge an art show and drink some admittedly delicious wine spritzers.
My creative director put out an email saying that Kent State was requesting some judges from the agency for a student digital art show. I went to her and said that I’d do it, because I love that sort of thing. But, they’re probably looking for graphic designers, not writers, I said, so if anyone else raised their hand you should probably pick them over me--and at this point she interrupted me to say that no-one else had come forward. So it was all me, baby!
I’ve done the judging gig a few times--but all for advertising shows. I enjoy sitting in a room with other industry people and discussing the work. Makes me feel like maybe I know what I’m doing, huh? But this was a straight-up art show, far as I could tell, so I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
So anyway, closer to the fact I get confirmation in the mail. I didn’t read the first letter that closely, but it’s Kent State Tuscarawas branch.
That’s about an hour south of Akron. And considering that I already have to drive 45 minutes to get to work from Cleveland, that was going to make for one long drive home.
I knew this going in, but half an hour into the drive I started thinking, “Man, they better really kiss my ass for this when I get there to make it worth my while.” Because I’m an asshole like that.
So I finally get there. The judging is slated for 6:30-7pm, with the public showing starting at 7. There’s about two dozen pieces on the walls of the gallery, and the judges are told to pick five that we really like. And that’s about the sum total of the direction we’ve given: pick what you like.
Now, this show isn’t for fine arts students, it’s for digital arts, through the school of engineering. And that makes for a very odd show.
There are several pieces that are 3D renderings, some impressionist mish-mashes, and a whole lot of manipulated digital photography. And with no input other than “whatever you think is cool” I’m a bit lost as to what to pick.
I mean, one piece is a nice 3D rendering of a grouping of toys on the floor. I can clearly make out what each piece is, and the textures of each are well done… but the piece as a whole is just flat. It looks like the artist (programmer?) assembled geometric shapes in a clever fashion to make them look like something. There’s no real life to the piece. It looks unfinished.
Then, there’s another piece that depicts a beautiful wooded landscape. But it’s really just a nice photograph that’s had a Photoshop filter applied to it. I don’t even know if the artist took the original picture himself. He might be working off of stock photography for all I know. I really like it and find it evocative and pleasing. However, I know the 3D toys guy has a whole hell of a lot more time and effort into his piece that Mr. Select/Filter/Artistic/Colored Pencil has.
I end up considering effort while judging, and pick the five that I think are both cool-looking and well thought out (and demonstrate some sort of effort on the part of the student). Only one of the five I pick win.
With the judging over I’m left with not much else to do but mingle with the other judges and the faculty. As has been well documented before, I’m useless in making small talk, so I mostly hover around the buffet.
As modest as the show is, they’ve put together a nice little spread. There’s the perfunctory cheese cubes and salted nuts, but also a chocolate fountain, mini-quiches and mini-deli sandwiches. Which are all greatly appreciated since I didn’t have time to stop for dinner on the way down. There is also the wine spritzer fountain.
Now, I have a long history with wine spritzers. These are, for the uninitiated, a delicious mixture of white wine and ginger ale. My dad called these “high balls,” and I was always allowed half a glass when my folks threw a party. Since I like my booze to taste like candy, these are the perfect drinks.
I dived right in and filled my glass with these delightful pink ambrosia. After the second one I realized that I hadn’t really eaten anything since lunch, and this stuff, cut with sugar water as it was, was going straight to my head. So I throttled back a hair.
As I was filling my gullet with free wine and eats, the general public started to roll in. This was, by far, the most interesting part of the show.
Tuscarawas is very much rural Ohio. Not that there’s anything wrong with that--Lord knows the crappy little town I grew up in isn’t exactly New York. The crowd was mostly family of the students with stuff in the show. Some made an effort to dress up for the occasion, some stuck to the more familiar flannel and John Deere ball caps. There were plenty of little brothers and sisters; some really into the festivities, others only present by eye-rollingly strict mandates from their parents.
And while I thought the show was mostly a bust (there was only one piece in which I think the artist really took advantage of the digital media and made something unique) the students were bursting with pride. They smiled big as they stood next to their art works while mom and dad took a picture. They talked in excited tones as they explained to their grandparents what exactly they were expressing through the art of digital manipulation.
This show might as well have been held at a swanky New York gallery for the enthusiasm shown by these kids. It was very cool to watch.
Presumably most of these students are local (I find it hard to believe that someone would travel out of state to attend Kent State Tuscarawas) and for some of them, this might be the biggest show they are ever a part of. Especially considering that they aren’t fine arts students, but rather budding engineers, animators and architects. And it was especially cool to watch their parents support them. It’s not hard to imagine that most of these adults were farmers or factory workers… people who might focus more on the actual than the arts.
But for one night they could be proud that their kid’s work was selected for a fancy art show (complete with chocolate and wine fountains) and slap them on the back and appreciate skills demonstrated with creativity, not calluses.
Bolstered by these happy thoughts, the ride home didn't seem so long.