Hi all! I'm back in NY for a week to hang a solo show entitled "Eggsistential" at the Viewpoint Gallery (41 eggshell paintings). I'll return to Maine next week for the rest of the summer. I've missed my daily "chats" with you all and hope to make up for it by summer's end. In the meantime, I've been thinking about the role of art societies and want to solicit your opinions.
Over the past decade watercolor has been the dominant medium for my work (I use oils and acrylic to a lesser extent). During those ten years I've competed in a number of national and international exhibitions sponsored by watercolor societies such as the American Watercolor Society (AWS), the National Watercolor Society (NWS), the Transparent Watercolor Society of America (TWSA), and so on. When I can, I visit these exhibitions in person and I receive catalogues from most.
It's apparent to me that these societies greatly influence the subject matter and techniques of the artists who compete or who strive to become competitors. There's always a large number of flower paintings, people paintings, and city scapes in these shows. There's also a lot of photo-referenced work. And, there's a lot of ultra-realism. And, there are a lot of imitators of other successful artists from shows past. It's gotten to the point where I can predict what a national/international watercolor exhibition will look like before I even see it.
It seems to me that these societies, which serve as the gatekeepers to what is acceptable in the watercolor world, have very conservative taste. Avant garde work has little to know chance of finding entry into these exhibitions. This reminds me of the Paris Salon, so entrenched in its traditional taste that the newly emerged Impressionists had to find their own venue so their work could be seen.
So, here are some questions for you: Do you think that art societies, with all their influence, help or hinder the progress of art? Do they keep step with the contemporary dialogue in art? I'd love to know your opinion!