The Walter Darby Bannard Archive

Artstravaganza (1989)

Juror's Statement: exhibit of the Association of Visual Artists, Chattanooga, Tennessee, May, 1989. Includes related interview by the Chattanooga News, April 9, 1989.

It was a pleasure to jury this show. There is a nice diversity of good work in many styles. I included as much as I did because there were so many kinds of good things which I thought should be seen.

There is a refreshing absence of "art magazine" trends, as Mr. Greenberg pointed out last year. Some of the realist work is exceptional. Much of the abstract work shows promise and some is very good indeed. I wish I had seen more sculpture and photography. Craft is very underrepresented; there must be dozens of potters in the area and they should submit to a show like this.

It is a fine thing to coax art out of secret places to be shown and seen in the center of the city. The people of Chattanooga can be proud and happy that it is happening.

The Chattanooga News published the following interview with Bannard on April 9, 1989.

I could see American art magazines having an influence all over the place. (A lot of the work) looked as if it had been done in SoHo. That was upsetting because the Australians have a wonderful landscape tradition, that is all but neglected.

First, you are not seeing the picture clearly - (by that I mean) the surface or the feeling of the paint as it went on. Second, the size is so critical.

I always refer to the size of the work first, then mentally turn it into the size it is. That is extremely important.

You could see that they had been working very, very hard to get it just right.

You have to look beyond that you try to look for substance and honesty and technique and craft. Sometimes it turns up in a picture of a little girl with a doll in her hand.

If something works, it becomes nonverbal and intuitively obvious. That is why it is very hard to criticize because you are always criticizing negatively when what you really want to do is point and say "this was done well and that was done well."

Whether any of the things are truly exceptional, I will have to see them in the flesh. There were a few pieces that looked terrific, but you can't be sure about the really good stuff until you see it right up in front of you.

On the value of critiques:

They are absolutely essential. Artists have a hard time seeing their own work. They need to be challenged. A knowledgeable, positive critic with a good eye, someone who knows your work and what you are trying to do, is very important.

On his writing:

Most of my writing in recent years has been tirades. I have gotten kind of tiraded out. I'm sitting around flattening my fingers at my poor old Underwood. Who am I kidding?

On what's necessary for commercial success:

You have to go to New York or be part of a regional market (like the Southwestern cowboy-and-Indian boom) that is strong enough to support your work. It's like anything else - you have paint; you have to get out there; you have to enter contests; you have to pester gallery owners. Competition is fierce. There are 100,000 artists living in New York. If each one of them makes only 20 works a year, that's 2 million pieces of art.

On producing quality work:

You have to have a lot of people around you who are also producing quality work. You have to work hard at your craft without falling into patterns. You have to get the craft correct so that you know how to handle your materials.

On new artists:

Among the more successful artists (the current crop) looks pretty grim. (Everybody has a gimmick) and extreme gimmicks really get in the way of any kind of art. They exist because that's what the art-buying customer wants. Artistically, it's hard to find much to get excited about and, believe me, I look hard.

On his own work:

Two years ago at a workshop in Barcelona, I began doing large brush work paintings. I use street brooms and floor squeegees to make paintings that are 18 feet wide. I also use a great deal of gel, which is a substance like plastic mayonnaise. It's fun - looks a lot like dry brush.

On his family:

I live in Rocky Hill, N.J., about 45 miles from New York. I have a two story house and the lower floor is all studio. I have a wife and son. I coach Little League - and I find that just as hard as painting.