Having the opportunity to review the Ceramics Monthly Emerging Artist submissions each year is an honor and a responsibility we take seriously. We go through three rounds of review before choosing the finalists.
During the first round, Forrest Sincoff Gard, Holly Goring, and I sit in a room together and look at the submissions, with each of us selecting the ones that we would like to have considered in the semifinalist round.
As we look through the images, we evaluate the technical aspects of the work: demonstrated understanding of material handling, craftsmanship, attention to scale relationships and proportion, as well as cohesiveness of content and style throughout the images submitted.
I had the opportunity to see work by several of this year’s Ceramics Monthly Emerging Artists on view at different venues in Pittsburgh during the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference in March.
The quality of the photography also plays a role, with the size of the image, resolution, overall focus, depth of field, proper exposure, adequate and uniform lighting, a neutral background, and other technical aspects of the image being of top concern, as they allow us to properly see and evaluate what the artists have made. During this first meeting, we also consider conceptual and contextual elements, and think about what the pieces convey.
For the next round, we lay out the semifinalists on a long table and discuss the submissions in relationship to one another. Our conversations often include topics like whether the work is making new discoveries or advances within traditions, whether it conveys a strong, individual voice, and whether it demonstrates a synthesis of different resources, references, influences. At this point, we also group and compare work in similar genres (like figurative sculpture, installation, sculptural vessels, design-focused pieces, tableware, interactive or performance work, etc.).
After looking at the work individually, and in the presence of other submissions that are both similar and in striking contrast, we select the strongest work from across the broad range of categories submitted.
For the last round, selecting the finalists who will be included in the issue, we spread all of the images out on a long table again. We critique and champion pieces that we feel strongly about, then select the top two to three strongest pieces from each artist. We take another look at their bios, resumés, and statements for additional context and refer to the contest rules to help us make our final selections.
It takes dedication to develop a strong body of work. We also know, through our own experiences, both as artists and as editors for the magazine, that it takes courage to send work out into the world for others to see and to judge. To everyone who applied, thank you for participating, and for giving us the opportunity to see so much great art. It is energizing to see the depth and breadth of expression in the ceramics field!