Good Bye Triennial – Good Riddance (parts printed in the Editorial Commentary from the June ’08 issue of Carolina Arts)
Let me warn you this is going to be a long piece – there is a lot of material and a lot of years to cover.
On Apr. 14, 2008, Jeffrey Day in The State newspaper offered what can be only seen as a “whine” piece on the loss of the SC Arts Commission’sTriennial exhibition at the expense of the SC State Museum’s 20th Anniversary Juried Art Exhibition – which wouldn’t open at the time until Apr. 25, 2008. While Day cherry-picked comments by artists (shown in past Triennials) and curators around the state on their feelings over the loss of the Triennial or their dislike of juried shows, he almost implied that this upcoming exhibition just couldn’t be any good – before he or anyone else saw it in place. Well, he wouldn’t say it – he got others to say it for him and his buddies at the Arts Commission.
While the Triennial was always dished up as a survey or snapshot of contemporary art being made in SC – it was always a picture with the lens turned toward the SC Art Commission and how they wanted people to see art in SC. It was never really a view of the wide spectrum of art being created in SC. At times it was just a look at what college and university art professors and their favorite students where doing in SC – before many left the state for greener pastures.
If a juried exhibition is such a flawed format for a statewide exhibition – tell me why 500 artists from throughout SC, hauled 1000 works of art to the State Museum for a chance to get in the exhibit? Why would they do that?
And, the funny thing is – many of the artists who have been lucky to be selected to be in past Triennials entered their work and many got in the exhibition. The good thing – the really great thing is – many other artists who would never get a chance to be in a Triennial – also got in this exhibit. And, in my opinion – this juried exhibit is one of the best views of the type of art being created in SC. It doesn’t represent every aspect of SC’s visual art community, but like all juried shows – the jurors could only select from the works entered.
The exhibition might have drawn more entries if the jury process was done by a digital process – after all this is 2008. And, a wider variety of artists working in mediums and subjects which have been “deemed unworthy” by the SC Arts Commission might have entered work if they knew that the Arts Commission had taken their bat and ball home since the State Museum no longer was willing to let them dictate what art was going to be seen in SC. That’s why there will be no 1/2 inch full-color catalog for this exhibition. The State Museum doesn’t have the deep pockets the Arts Commission does.
The really sad thing for artists around SC is that the State Museum doesn’t have any plans for doing more statewide juried exhibitions anytime soon.
Jeffrey Day’s article seemed more like a warning to the art community than newspaper reporting. The warning is – if you don’t play ball the way the Arts Commission wants – you might get chewed up in the press. It’s not the first time he has acted as an attack dog for the Arts Commission.
The whole piece was also designed to mask the real issue – that the Arts Commission had dropped the Triennial from its project list – not the State Museum. The Museum was still offering opportunities for SC artists – all its artists.
Go see the exhibition – you’ll be glad you did. I was. And, don’t forget – most of the works in the exhibit are probably for sale. So you could go home with some great art and a piece of history, from the show that couldn’t be any good, but was.
One final thing – Jeffrey Day offered a – surprise – negative review of this exhibition on May 11, 2008. The headline was, “Too much to see, too little to appreciate”.
New comments for this blog.
With a headline like this – “Too much to see, too little to appreciate” you have to wonder why Day is an arts reporter working for one of the state’s largest newspapers. He should just go to work directly for the SC Arts Commission.
Day, like me, has a large body of opinions he has written about art in SC. I keep copies of most of his articles about the visual arts. This review is one of the strangest – it contradicts many things he has said in the past about the Triennial.
It seems his goal is to tear down the SC State Museum for substituting this statewide juried show in place of a sixth Triennial exhibition – his favorite type of exhibit. As I said earlier, the death of the Triennial can only be blamed on the Arts Commission – they pulled out of this project on the State Museum. They took their funding with them too.
You have to read the entire review to get the full impact, but you’ll have to pay The State to see a copy from their archives or go to a public library in SC – or maybe do a Google News search. The article was on Apr. 13, 2008. But let’s start with the headline, “Too much to see, too little to appreciate” .
“Too much to see”. The SC State Museum’s 20th Anniversary Juried Art Exhibition has 122 works by 116 artists (6 artists have two works each in the show). The last Triennial, shown in 2004 in the same gallery space had 128 works by 29 artists (11 only had 1 work and 3 had only 2 works). Most of the Triennials had at least 100 or more works on display.
So as I get it, according to Day – more is less. More works to see in theTriennial was easier to see than less works in the juried show. I guess because they were made by fewer people.
Day also offers early in his review this statement, “But this first-time exhibition (named for the 20th anniversary of the museum) has little to offer after the initial surprises – no depth, no context, no concept and, when it finally comes down to it, not all that much good work.”
In the State Museum’s juried show, 25 of the 116 artists included have been in one or several of the previous 5 Triennial shows. That’s 21 percent of the exhibit. And since these artists represent most of the positive comments in his review – we get the point that he really likes theTriennial. And, we get the point that he doesn’t care for a lot of the other artists’ work presented in the exhibit. They’re clearly not his kind of artists, clearly not producing the kind of art he cares for and not the kind of art which a major museum should be showing in this state – in his opinion.
Day ends his review with this statement, “As it is, this isn’t really an art exhibition. It’s a display.”
So between Day’s preview article and his review – it’s clear he doesn’t like the juried show format and the art presented in this exhibition. OK, all art is subjective. I didn’t fall in love with every work I saw either, but it also didn’t make my skin crawl as I can imagine Day’s skin was doing as he moved throughout the exhibit – seeing works by artists he didn’t know or knew but didn’t care for. After all, he knows all the important artists in the state.
Where I have a real problem with his two pieces is the comparison factor. Even though the State Museum’s show is clearly a juried exhibit – Day keeps comparing it to a curated exhibition – to the Triennials. But, I don’t see where he is coming from when he says this exhibit has – “no depth, no context, no concept…”
About half of the artists in the Triennial 2004 exhibit had only one work or at best two works in the show. Where is the depth in that? Jane Nodine had one work in the Triennial 2004 and one work in this juried exhibit. How is that different – other than Day’s point that curators pick artists’ work better than the artists do – meaning a curator would be more familiar with the context of Nodine’s work than she would. And, as you’ll read later – Nodine is a perfect example of a perfect Triennial artist.
I’ve seen these Triennial shows and even after reading the in-depth comments written in the catalogues offered – I still didn’t see any connection between what I was looking at and what was written about it. Then again, I’m not as educated as Day is on the arts. I know I can’t compare art degrees with him. It should also be noted that the SC Arts Commission didn’t offer to fund a catalogue for this exhibit like they did for the five Triennials. Perhaps that would have offered the context and concept for this exhibit.
In fact, Day makes a lot of complaints and comparisons about this juried exhibit which I haven’t seen in many exhibits offered in a lot of art museums – except when it comes to major retrospective exhibits on individual artists. And, he’s made the same complaints about otherTriennials in past reviews.
Day also offers the following questions he claims are unanswered in this exhibit, “What are the artists’ backgrounds? How many make a living from the art? How many are teachers? How many are students?” As if all those things really matter on deciding whether art is good or not.
Is Day trying to tell us he thinks that the artists who are making the most money are the best artists in this state? I never got that impression before from his writings. Do only art teachers make good art? That would be a message you would walk away with after reading the Triennial 2004catalogue. And, I guess no student art can be good enough to be in these exhibits – even though you couldn’t tell who was or was not a student by looking at the work in the exhibit. Do these questions really matter?
I have always thought that the art works should speak for themselves. Why should we have to read something to get the artists’ meaning or intention. Shouldn’t it be there in the art?
In an Apr. 19, 1992 article about the first Triennial, Day offered this criticism, “A serious omission is the lack of any text panel explaining the show. A few lines would help the viewer – and the exhibit – considerably. As it is, the viewer has no way of knowing that the artists are even from South Carolina. While the work speaks for itself, as it should, the lack of a basic introduction shows the museum and Arts Commission making too many assumptions.”
This exhibit had work included by people who have had no formal training in the arts. Should that matter? And, if it’s a factor that should count – how did they fool the jurors? They had 1000 works to select from. Should we wonder what kinds of works were in the 878 not selected – whether those works were made by artists who made a living by selling their art or teaching art, whether they were made by students or teachers, or whether they were ever in a Triennial exhibition before. Would it matter if some of the artists were former convicts, made a living as a plumber, or worse – were voting democrats?
Doesn’t the work speak for itself – as it should?
In the past we are told by the Arts Commission that the purpose of theTriennial format is to show works by “contemporary” emerging artists or artists who are not often seen. Yet many of the artists whose works have been included in the Triennials – were neither emerging or hardly artists not exposed to SC’s exhibition scene.
I’ll cherry pick one artist who represents this hypocrisy – Jane Allen Nodine – she’s sort of an Arts Commission superstar. She also entered and was selected to be in the SC State Museum’s 20th Anniversary Juried Art Exhibition. She has also been in four of the five Triennial exhibitions. Nodine has also been awarded two SC Arts Commission Fellowship awards. She’s in the State Art Collection and has benefited by many programs sponsored by the Arts Commission. Nodine is an art professor at the University of South Carolina – Upstate in Spartanburg, SC, and is also the director of the USC-Upstate art gallery. She is a well exposed artists with a lot of connections.
Nodine is also a very good artist. I’m not attacking her as an artist or someone who has taken advantage of every opportunity available to her. My problems is that she is one of a very small group of artists which the Arts Commission seems to be focused on – at the expense of many others who just don’t seem to get the same exposure.
Just to show you how well exposed Nodine was in exhibitions, I went to her website and copied the list of exhibits she has participated in from 1978 – 2004, the last year the Triennial took place. Among this long list are 32 exhibits which took place in SC alone. And, as you will see there are many more – all over the region, nation, and out of the country. She was hardly a case of being either emerging or not often seen.
traces, solo installation, University of South Carolina McMaster Gallery of Art, Columbia, SC
Figure 8; Lee Hall Gallery, Clemson University, Clemson, SC
Southeastern Louisiana University Invitational, SLU, Hammond, LA
SECAC 2004 Members Exhibition, Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art, Jacksonville, FL
TRIENNIAL 2004, South Carolina Arts Commission & South Carolina State Museum, Columbia, SC
Digital Exhibition, WomanMADE Gallery, Chicago, ILL
SECAC 2003 Members Exhibition, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
Tribute to Trees, Outdoor Sculpture Invitational, Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC
traces, solo Installation, Thompson Gallery of Furman University, Greenville, SC
traces, solo installation, Milliken Gallery, Spartanburg County Museum of Art, Spartanburg, SC
Vision’s International Competition, Art Center Waco, Waco, TX
Photo-Based Competition Exhibition, WomanMADE Gallery, Chicago, IL
A Sense of Place; Continuity and Change in the New South, Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, Augusta, GA
SECAC 2002 Members Exhibition, Gulf Coast Exploreum, University of Alabama, Mobile
Spartanburg Views Winterthur, Artist Photographer Exchange, Spartanburg Museum of Art, Spartanburg, SC
Spartanburg Views Winterthur, Artist Photographer Exchange, Alte Kaserne, Winterthur, Switzerland
SECAC 2001 Members Exhibition, South Carolina State Museum, Columbia, SC
TRIENNIAL 2001, South Carolina Arts Commission & South Carolina State Museum, Columbia, SC
Winterthur Artist Photographer Exchange; Alte Kaserne, Winterthur, Switzerland
American Identities, Gibson Gallery, The Art Museum of State University of New York College, Potsdam, NY
What is Drawing Now, Weber State University, Ogden, UT
34th Annual National Drawing & Small Sculpture Show, Del Mar College, Corpus Christi, TX
SECAC 2000 Members Exhibition, Hite Art Institute, University of Louisville, KY
Upstairs Photography Biennial, NC & SC competition, Upstairs Gallery, Tryon, NC
Views from the Edge, Computer Art-Future Art, Florence Museum of Art, Florence, SC
USC International Digital Works on Paper Competition, McKissick Museum of Art, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Sanctity of the Family, Hunger Artist Gallery, Albuquerque, NM
33rd National Drawing & Sculpture Competition, Del Mar College, Corpus Christi, TX
Womanscape ’99 National Competition, Collier County Arts Council, Village Galleries, Naples, FL
SECAC 1999 Members Exhibition, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA
Southern Visions Photography Competition of SC and NC, York County Museum of Art, Rock Hill, SC
100 Years; 100 Artists, South Carolina State Museum & South Carolina Arts Commission, Columbia, SC
SELECTIONS from 100 Years; 100 Artists, Bank of America Plaza, Columbia, SC
Potent Figures, Views from the Edge of the Century, Winthrop University Galleries, Rock Hill, SC
contentions, solo exhibition, Slocumb Galleries, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN
Paper Constructions, solo exhibitions, Georgia Southern University, Statesville, GA
Manipulated Photography, solo exhibition, USC Spartanburg
Americas 2000, Works on Paper, Minot State University, Minot, ND
Women’s Art Works 7, Bausch & Lomb Inc., Rochester, NY
Paper Works: On and of Paper, University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL
32nd National Drawing & Small Sculpture Exhibition, Del Mar College, Corpus Christi, TX
Mixed-Media National, Slidell Cultural Center, Slidell, LA
Drawn from Nature, Dalton Galleries, Agnes Scott College, Atlanta, GA
98 Photography Biennial Exhibition of NC & SC, The Upstairs Gallery, Tryon, NC
VOICES, 701 Gallery, Columbia, SC
TRIENNIAL ’98 South Carolina Arts Commission & the South Carolina State Museum, Columbia, SC
TRIENNIAL ’98 Satellite Exhibit, NationsBank Plaza Gallery, Columbia, SC
connections, solo exhibition, Appalachian Center for Crafts, Smithville, TN
BANG! The Gun as Image, 621 Gallery and Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
connections, solo exhibition, University of Arkansas, Monticello, AK
Scissors, Paper, Stone, Lexington Art League, Lexington, KY
Women’s Art Works 6, Women’s Foundation, Rochester, NY
Lagrange National XIX Biennial, Chattahoochee Valley Art Museum, Lagrange, GA
Visionary Women National, WomanMade Gallery, Chicago, IL
Icons National, 800 East Gallery, Atlanta, GA
Rutgers National ’96 Works on Paper, State University of New Jersey, Rutgers, Camden, NJ
Women by Women Invitational, Salem College Art Gallery, Winston-Salem, NC
A’ LA ALBERS, Black Mountain College in CONTEXT, Context Alternative Space, Charlotte, NC
KY/SC/nyc Invitational, The National Arts Club, New York, NY
Wichita National 1995, Wichita center for the Arts, Wichita, KS
Through the Looking Glass National, Photography Exhibit, Fuller Lodge Gallery, Los Alamos, NM
Texas National ’95, Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX
Texas National ’95, Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX, Second Place Cash Award, Leon Golub, Juror
28th National Drawing & Small Sculpture Show, Del Mar College, Corpus Christi, TX
LaGrange National Biennial XVIII, Chattahoochee Valley Art Museum, LaGrange, GA
Visual Voices; The Female, University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL
Dakotas International Exhibition of Artwork on Paper, University of South Dakota, Vermilion, SD
Wichita National 1993, Wichita Center for the Arts, Wichita, KS
27th National Drawing & Small Sculpture Show , Del Mar College, Corpus Christi, TX
Americas 2000: Works on Paper, Minot State University, Minot, ND
14th Annual Paper In Particular, Columbia College, Columbia, MO
Revising Boundaries: Southern Women Artists, 1993 CAA Conference, Seattle, WA
Jane Nodine Solo Exhibit, Meteor Gallery, Columbia, SC
Art by Women in the South, Havens Galleries, Columbia, SC
Kentucky/South Carolina Exchange Exhibition, South Carolina State Museum, Columbia, SC
TRIENNIAL ’92, South Carolina Arts Commission & South Carolina State Museum, Columbia, SC
TRIENNIAL ’92 Traveling Exhibition, Gibbes Museum, Charleston, SC & Stanback Museum, Orangeburg, SC
South Carolina Expressions, Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC
Southern Exposure, 101 Wooster Street, DNC Exhibition Space, New York, NY
Kentucky Exhibition of South Carolina Artists, Owensboro Museum, Owensboro, KY
This Year’s Model: Upstate Artists, Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC
Southeastern Juried Exhibition, Fine Arts Museum of the South, Mobile, AL
40th Annual Exhibition, Guild of South Carolina Artists, SC State Museum, Columbia, SC
South Carolina Arts Commission Artists Fellowship Retrospective, SC State Museum, Columbia, SC
Ten Years of Southeast Seven, SECCA Fellowship Retrospective, Winston-Salem, NC
5th Biennial Paper and Clay Exhibition, Memphis State University, Memphis, TN
Gallery Artists Exhibition, Heath Gallery, Atlanta, GA
South Carolina Arts Commission Annual Competition, Gibbes Museum, Charleston, SC
Rutgers National Works on Paper, Rutgers University, Camden, NJ
Women in the Mainstream, National Women’s Art Exhibition, 1984 Worlds Fair, New Orleans, LA
31st Arts Festival of Atlanta, Traveling Exhibition, Atlanta and Southeast
25th Annual Springs Mills Traveling Exhibition, North and South Carolina
SPAR National Art Exhibition, SPAR Gallery, Shreveport, LA
4th Biennial Paper and Clay Exhibition, Memphis State University, Memphis, TN
11th National Exhibition of Works on Paper, Second Street Gallery, Charlottesville, VA
Second Annual Spoleto Arts Competition, Marble Arch Gallery, Charleston, SC
2-D National, Angels Gate Cultural Center, San Pedro, CA
Drawing Southeast, Arts Festival of Atlanta Invitational, Atlanta, GA
Southeastern Spectrum, R.J. Reynolds Gallery, Winston-Salem, NC
On of and About Paper, Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC
Magic in Art Invitational, Spirit Square, Charlotte, NC
23rd Annual Springs Mills Traveling Exhibition, North and South Carolina
Anuszkiewicz Shows and Selects, Marble Arch Gallery, Charleston, SC
5th National Drawing Exhibition, State University College, Potsdam, NY
9th Annual Exhibition of Prints and Drawings, Second Street Gallery, Charlottesville, VA
Southeast Seven IV NEA/SECCA Artist Fellowship Exhibition, SECCA Winston-Salem, NC
Southeast Seven IV, Traveling Exhibition, Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, AL
WEEA Project Invitational, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
22nd Annual Springs Mills Traveling Exhibition, North and South Carolina
Mixmaster National Mixed Media Traveling Exhibition, Kentucky Arts Commission, Louisville, KY
Appalachian National Drawing Competition, Appalachian State University, Boone NC
Art on Art of Paper Art, Illinois State University, Normal, IL
Southeastern Invitational Paper Exhibition, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Mint Biennial Exhibition of Piedmont Painting and Sculpture, Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC
SECCA 46th Drawing, Photography & Print Competition, SECCA, Winston-Salem, NC
12th Dulin National Print and Drawing Competition, Dulin Gallery, Knoxville, TN
Nodine is just one of the many reasons I’m glad the Triennial is dead, but I’m concerned that they are already drawing up new plans for a new format to feature the same group of artists – over and over again. Frankly, I don’t think the SC Arts Commission should be presenting any exhibitions.
I know this is upsetting to Jeffrey Day, as it seems like he has lived from one Triennial to the next – as if he was a part of them himself. Which he may have been.
In an article Day wrote for The State on Dec. 14, 1997, he describes what it was like to be the only other person to view the slides entered forTriennial ’98, other than the jurors and Arts Commission staff members. He goes on to say he made a list of 88 artists out of the 270 who had entered – who were “worth looking at more”. Once the 35 artists were selected to be in the Triennial – Day gives readers his 2 cents worth and gives the exhibit his stamp of approval with this statement, “Looking at the list makes me feel very good about art in South Carolina”. That’s the list the jurors made.
It just seems to me Day has just too cozy a relationship with the people he is supposed to be reporting on objectively.
But, like most of us who follow Day’s writings know, his mood can change quickly. When he gets around to reviewing the Triennial ’98 exhibition in an article on June 21, 1998 in The State, he offers this final summation: “The exhibit provides a look at artists who haven’t shown much in South Carolina; it also brings back artists we’ve seen often, who aren’t doing much new; and introduces some who aren’t ready to be seen. While this year’s show is stronger than the previous three, it is still amazing how much undeveloped work finds its way into the exhibit. It’s always difficult for anyone who is intimate with the state’s art scene to view shows like this without a little cynicism and frustration about the good artists who didn’t get in the show. In the end, what this exhibit shows – which is what it should show – is that regardless of what anyone may say to the contrary, there’s good art being made in South Carolina.”
I think this statement says a lot about Day. First, he would like to be in the position to select who would be shown and who wouldn’t. After all, he made his list of 88 worthy artists. He also feels he knows all the good artists out there. And, it also shows he doesn’t keep track of things too well. This Triennial was the third version – there were only two previous exhibitions in 1992 and 1995. And, you have to wonder what happened between the day he looked at the entry slides and when he made the statement that this was a good list of artists. Perhaps the curators selected the wrong works to show. Could that happen?
The thing is, Day’s mood changes and he has been inconsistent in his support of this exhibit format. He’s currently in the – I can’t believe there will never be another Triennial and there will never be anything worthy of replacing it – mood.
By the time 2001 rolled around Day’s mood about the Triennials was still cool and the public’s taste for them had soured too. In an article titled, “ATriennial Simply Isn’t Enough” written for The State on June 17, 2001, Day states: “With the dearth of venues in South Carolina where the state’s best artists can exhibit, the once-every-three-year survey of the state’s art at the State Museum – the Triennial – just isn’t enough.”
Day goes on to write, “The current Triennial is refreshing with much srong work, but enthusiasm for it has not been high. This might be because the museum and the co-sponsor, the SC Arts Commission, did almost no promotion.” Adding, “It might be because there are so many new artists in the show. Those who have long supported the show, be they artists or patrons, stayed away because the work is unknown and everyone is more comfortable with the known.”
Now there’s a couple of gems. The show is failing to attract viewers due to a lack of promotion and the show’s regular supporters stayed away – because they did not know the artists or the work being presented. So people have to be sold to go see this show with a big promotional campaign and supporters are not interested in seeing it unless it includes the same old artists they like and know. This is the Triennial he’s talking about. The greatest show on earth.
Day offers his review of the exhibition in another article offered that same day on June 17, 2001. That’s because at The State – they seem to only offer arts coverage in Sunday’s paper. In this article Day writes: “As is usually the case, this year’s Triennial is not sharply focused. Still the exhibit at the State Museum provides a fair representation of our art at this particular moment.”
Wait a minute – “As is usually the case, this year’s Triennial is not sharply focused.” Isn’t that one of the complaints Day makes about the current juried show being featured at the State Museum? But in 2001, Day says that up to that point (four Triennials) they have not been focused either.
In Day’s review of the SC State Museum’s 20th Anniversary Juried Art Exhibition, one of his main complaints it that the exhibit has – “no depth, no context, no concept”. So what, apparently neither have the Triennials – according to Day.
He goes on in the 2001 review to say, “If all the works are not tightly connected, one nonetheless can find webs of continuity throughout the gallery.”
Well, here’s another revelation – if you go to see an exhibit that you already have negative feeling about – you won’t see anything positive. But, if you’re trying to find something good about an exhibit format that you want to support – you’ll look hard to find the silver lining – the webs of continuity.
This is the core reason readers of art news presented in The Statenewspaper have a hard time figuring from article to article where Jeffrey Day is coming from – hot then cold – about the same issues – never a bit of consistency to hold on to – other than his desire to protect the Arts Commission, promote contemporary art (his version of it) and keep happy what few friends he has in the art community in SC. It’s not easy being an arts writer – you never know who your friends really are. I know – believe me