The Walter Darby Bannard Archive

Juror's statement (1974)

Juror's Statement for catalogue of the "Davidson National Print and Drawing Competition", March 1974; p. 2.

Judging the "Davidson National" is harrowing. 3709 pictures, more than 6000 separate "takes" - sometimes 20 or 30 times on the same picture, toward the end. 30 solid hours of looking at and judging art, of having to judge it, and having to judge myself, to do it right. It is a tough test of body and brain, of habit and taste, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

Every art critic should go through this, maybe every artist. We'd all be better off. Four days of judging this show is easily worth four years in graduate school. Not to learn "about" art but to learn what it is all about: the essence or heart of art, or at least how to take it in properly. All my aesthetic preferences, predilections and preconceptions were put on the line. I was surprised again and again, especially on going over what I'd seen before. Almost-rejected pictures came back strong - some got in the show and some got awards. Many pictures I went for at first finally faded and failed. And some hung on from the beginning to end; maybe these were the few I was ready for.

The quality of the entries was excellent and just about guaranteed a beautiful show no matter what. Not much was simply bad - lucky for me; that would have made it easy and I wouldn't have gained from it. Picking out the less than 5% that got in was done in part by looking hard at detail, to find an awkwardly drawn hand or a lifeless line. But in the last reckoning, as always I had to take in each picture all at once. The final selection for awards was an embarrassment of riches. I hope I made the best choices. If I did, I owe a lot to what I learned here.

Herb Jackson is a tough taskmaster. This was no picnic, despite Laura Grosch (Jackson's) fine cooking. His instincts for organizing and running a show like this are just right. He has set a standard; I'd like to see it go on and on.