abstract textile art with organza grid

On The Art Critique

Years ago, I was tasked with curating and critiquing a textile art exhibit. I had no problem with the curating aspect. I love curating exhibits, pulling disparate elements together into a cohesive whole is so satisfying.  I was not enthusiastic about critiquing the submissions but it was required. I felt like such a fraud looking through the images of other’s heartfelt creations and analyzing them, deeming them worthy or unworthy, good or bad. I muddled through the process and made an attempt to do a clinical critique while still being encouraging and supportive to each artist.

When, I was immersed in the life of a studio artist in an art center I participated in many critiques both formal and informal. I never shook that feeling of discomfort that accompanied me both when receiving and giving a critique.

One day in a casual conversation with my friend in the studio next to me, I received the most incredible unforgettable critique. I was showing her one of my latest pieces and she asked simply “where are you in it” ? That 5 word sentence was life changing for me. Yes, I had created an interesting thing using an interesting technique that included my joyful making of it but there was no ME in it. It was fun but had no soul.

That was truly the only critique I ever heard that ever got to the crux of creating art.

Where are you in it?

I never went to another critique session after that.

Years later, while immersed in research about the differences between our left and right brain hemispheres I really understood why that sentence is so powerful and why I always felt that critiques were somehow not beneficial.

Critiques were not a thing until 1719 when Jonathan Richardson attempted to create an objective system for ranking art. It is interesting to me that critiques emerged at the same time as the industrial revolution and machine age were taking hold. The beginning of an age where analysis, measurement and concreteness, all functions of the left hemisphere, became more valued by society than the harder to describe right hemisphere way of deeply knowing, often called wisdom.

Art critiques are a left-brain analysis of something magical, indescribable, and soulful that emerges through connection with something whole, complete and outside of thought delivered through our right-brain hemisphere. Art is filled with wonder, awe, wholeness and emotions that can’t fit in the tiny world of words.

Art critiques are no longer a part of my world. No one outside of me can know my intention because it is emerging through the work. 

I trust only myself to put ME into my work.

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