First, VAA is a group of artists, real artists, not just photographer artists. At the critiques there is no competition, no prizes but some very interesting rules. Each person can bring up to ten pieces for discussion. Time is proportioned to the number of artists showing work.
There are no ‘judges’, no specified reviewers. Each and every person in attendance MUST comment on each group of pieces. Very, very intimidating so I prefaced my remarks on the first artist with an explanation that I have no actual knowledge of what art is, nor do I have any idea how to talk about it. I was informed that by the next monthly critique I would know both. Not sure I would bet on that.
There were about thirty people in attendance. There was probably ten or so painters and three photographers including myself and Paula Powers that brought work to critique.
Somehow I managed to get through all the comments hoping that I did not sound to bloomin’ stupid. However, as I am prone to do, refused to follow the ‘pattern.’ We were supposed to say something nice—which with most was simply ‘I like it’, then anything negative and finish with telling the artist how to ‘improve’ the piece.
I explained that I would not tell anyone how to do their work differently. I am a firm believer that is counter-productive and can only lead to a regurgitation of ‘rules.’ I found it interesting to look for possible clues to personal symbolism when several works were presented. I wanted to ask questions rather than give answers. And frankly Scarlet, would love to be a part of a photography group that had critiques rather than competitions.
Most of the critiques I thought were constructive. But I will never understand telling an artist or photographer, how to do their work differently without asking questions. If I do not know what the artist is trying to accomplish how can I possibly expect to help him accomplish his goals? No, to me the question is what is important, not the answer. First off asking questions encourages the artist to examine their art more closely and possibly from perspectives that they had not previously considered.
I won’t drag this on but later I will write about the piece I took and the reactions I received. Right now I am enthusiastic about VAA and am looking forward to getting involved in their activities. I have tried a few ‘art’ groups over the last few years and have found them to be very standoffish and unfriendly. I think that maybe VAA is going to be different.