One of the highlights of each fall semester, the Penn State School of Visual Arts' (SoVA) Undergraduate Juried Exhibition provides SoVA’s undergraduate students with the opportunity to have their work juried by a professional artist and compete for a Kara D. Berggren Scholarship Award, as well as several merit awards. This year's Kara D. Berggren Award winners are Ricky Bardy and Abigail Grix. Students selected for merit awards include Riley Bronaugh, Vicente Ortiz Cortez, Anna Crane, Mackenzie Slater, and Caitlin Ungar.
Through the support of the John M. Anderson Endowed Lecture Series, each year SoVA invites nationally and internationally recognized artists and curators to serve as jurors for this special exhibition. This year, visiting scholar and art critic Barry Schwabsky served in this role and offered the following comments in response to the students’ work:
It happens pretty regularly that I am asked to jury a prize or exhibition, and most of the time, afterwards, someone asks, “What do you look for?” Although it would be fair to answer the question with a question and say, “What were they looking for when they asked me to jury?,” I usually try to be more forthcoming, which means explaining what makes the question hard to answer. It’s because I don’t think art is about fulfilling criteria, but about questioning them. So there is not one thing to look for except—in the first instance—some sign of the artist’s awareness that his or her work has to negotiate this situation of uncertainty. But that’s just a start. Making something interesting out of this quandary is a challenge, and so is coming to a conclusion about whether an artist has succeeded in doing so. Luckily, I don’t see my job here as drawing conclusions. Especially when it comes to undergraduate artists, conclusions are necessarily premature. I know enough art history to realize how many great artists I might have advised to try law school, based on their early efforts, and I have been visiting schools long enough to have noticed how many prize students never became artists. So while I like to see skills, skills aren’t enough. I’m impressed by ambition, but ambition’s not enough. Ideas are crucial but, no, they’re not enough, either. Art needs a problem. So rather than looking for a completely resolved work, I like to feel that an artist has taken on a little more than he or she can handle. In this “discomfort zone” I sometimes see a space in which to move forward. And it’s a possible way forward that I am really looking for.
SoVA Director Graeme Sullivan said of the show, “The key is that art is about something. Some problem or issue is taken on—and when this is done seriously, and attentively, it is “discomforting.”
Congratulations to this year’s award winners and all of the participants on a fantastic show.