The Latest from American Women Artists

Carrie Waller Abundance


With more than 2,200 works entered in AWA’s Lifting the Sky online show, our jurors Emily LarsenMonika Meler, and Mary Williams had a big task of selecting the 150 finalists. All three jurors were highly impressed with the artwork created by women artists across the US and Canada! We asked the jurors to share their criteria for jurying the show. Here are their responses:

Emily Larsen, Head of Exhibitions & Programs, Springville Museum of Art, Springville, UT:

“When I jury I look for works that are technically well done and show a mastery of medium and design. I then look for works that are interesting conceptually or innovative in some way. That can mean a lot of different things; it might be a work that’s combining elements in a way I’ve never seen before, it could be a work of art that makes me laugh, or makes me feel connected to something bigger than myself, or reminds me of a human emotion or experience. The best works represent both this technical mastery and the conceptual development. I also look for artworks that work together as a whole. Does the medium, message, composition, etc., all match and work together to further the idea of the artist? Especially when you are looking at thousands of works in a juried exhibition, initial visual impact also plays a role, and the works that stood out visually among the rest usually ranked higher.

“Overall, I was impressed with the works that women across the country created for this exhibition. It was interesting to see both the trends in subject matter and style, and also the different types of works the women were creating or experimenting with. There are so many talented women creating art and I was honored to jury this show that celebrates these women artists! Bravo to everyone who entered!”

Monika Meler, Foundations Art Coordinator and Assistant Professor at the University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, IN:

“When I am jurying, I look at composition above everything else. How things are arranged on the page/canvas/sculpture is most important. How the space is used. I don’t want all of the work to be focused in the middle. I am looking for innovative ways of arranging elements in the piece. The composition is the window into the content of the work. All of the formal elements come into play, but arrangement is the most important for me.  After that, I am most invested in the story; what the artist is trying to tell me? I do look at technique, but that part of it is always tied intimately to content. Some works are photorealistic and in those, I expect the technique to be really tight. But if a work is less tight, it is not a bad thing as long as it relates to the overall theme/content of the work. I try to imagine who the artist is and what their role in telling the story is. Craft is also important but that is most difficult to judge from pictures.” 

Mary Williams, Owner of Mary Williams Fine Arts, Boulder, CO; art collector & life-long art dealer: 

“The piece must come across as a clear professional execution, whether I like it or not, at almost the first glance. It must make you want to look at it more closely. A good painting does this, whether the client knows it or not. You can tell when the client stops right in front of it and just stares at it.

“Composition is very important to me. Interesting and balanced or very unbalanced (on purpose) makes for a painting the viewer can “travel” around in.

“Palette choice shows good decision-making. Unexpected color choice, as well as a serene and even palette, delights the client. So does well-applied mark-making. I could not discern the subtle mark-making in the limitations of the computer, but I have a trained eye and spied some of that. Good mark-making is charming.

“The choice of size matters quite a bit to me in evaluating a piece. There was piece that I found somewhat everyday and almost too busy until I realized it was 6”x6.” I said to myself…’Holy Cow; how did she do that!’! A whole new appreciation for her compositional execution on such a tiny surface swept over me. A bold choice for such a small footprint. Bravo to her. 

“The choices you make concerning the subject matter matter quite a bit to an art dealer. I always say to my group of artists that choices almost matter first, assuming you are the kind of artist that wants or needs to sell their work. Choose something that is original to you. Look at what other people are choosing too often and stay away from that! When you are in a post-recession art climate (meaning it is still tough, especially after we lost 50% of our galleries in the U.S. from 2008 to 2012) where most galleries have way too many artists due to all the gallery closings, and probably way too many paintings hanging on the walls, you better find a way to stand out. Again, this is assuming the artist is interested in selling and or showing their work.


Images: Young Dancer, Bronze by Kristen Kokkin; Walk by the Water, Oil with Cold Wax Medium by Karen Husty; Dolores, Colored Pencil by Megan Seiter; Unshorn, Acrylic by Jane Ingols