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  • By Ruth Wolf

Another Set of Eyes

"Eyes" (detail) by Ruth Wolf, multi-print from a single block on canvas.

I like to go to crits. I like to what artists see. I like to hear artists talk about art, their art practice and process.

So, what is a “crit”?

"Crit" is short for "critique". It’s easier to say what it is not -- it is not a classroom seminar, it isn’t a how-to, and it is neither a cheerleading session nor a roast. What it is, is a group of artists getting together to share their work and their ideas. Artists bring work and the juror or the curator of a show (at whatever particular venue hosting the meeting) conducts and talks.

Conversation ensues.

Of course, Salvador Dali says it with a picture!

Many people think of a "critique" as "criticism" when actually it is "critical analysis". Here is how I like to think of it -- what we as art-makers choose to describe and discuss through our work, our art practice and process. It is based on the funded knowledge, on the experience of looking at many, many pieces. As our experience grows, our definition of “what is this thing called art” shifts and transforms.

Criticial analysis addresses the what and the why, not the how, of the process and the ensuing piece of art. Non-judgmental because the piece is in a nascent state, what I like to call "It". That kind of critical judgment is what we do in the studio: then “It” ends up suggesting other strategies or in the fireplace.

What are our expectations at a crit when we choose to attend and participate -- nothing more than another set of eyes, fresh eyes.

Talking about an art work at Cerulean Arts.

After many hours of looking at “It“, when we remove a piece from the studio (or other environment in which it is made), and place it into a different space, the work acquires a new identity. Then it is the art work that asks “what am I saying to you?”. The artist describes the intention. Viewers evaluate; express what they see. These are usually spontaneous gut responses - is “It” saying what the maker intended? Does “It” say more? Does “It” go in another direction?…

Everyone interprets and shares.

What you come away with depends upon answering questions honestly and listening. It’s all good and valid if you allow yourself to see through another set of eyes.

So, next time you see a notice for a crit consider attending. Bring a work

in- process, a problem piece, that rejected piece that-you-could-never-get- feedback-on, sketches, ideas, an open mind, and coffee.

It’s fun.

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