Last Sunday I met with my students who were in the show that I organized at Riley Street Art Supplies, along with a few of their significant others. The purpose of the gathering was to sit with the work, look at it fully, and share thoughts and questions about it. We also talked about the process of making and showing. Some of these artists had been drawing or painting for years without ever showing it in public. For some the process of selecting work was challenging, and seeing it hung in frames, formally, on an exhibition wall was entirely new. This was an opportunity for all of us to come together to celebrate and review the work.
If we were at art school we might have called it a critique. “Critique” suggests judgment by the authority. I’ve called this a review.
Reviews are important moments in our lives. They are a point of reflection in a body of work - of close looking, thinking, talking and/or writing where we consider what we’ve been doing and take note of our intentions. Is what we wished for in the work happening? Do we want something more for the work? Can we leave some component behind and pick up another, perhaps more personally or aesthetically meaningful idea? What are we learning from our work and how do we respond to the news? We can find more clarity about what we’re doing which helps us to be more decisive about what we want. We assess our path and either continue or make changes. Reviews substantiate the work we’ve done, and help us move forward.
Something I observed with this group, which was different from my own art school days, was that they compared themselves to each other with fondness and a sense of trust. They each expressed appreciation for the others’ work and spoke of how it inspired them.
The takeaway seemed to be an honest appreciation for their own work as well as the other’s, not a sense of “I am less than” or “you are better”. The review seemed to buoy them up as well as show them new possibilities.
The review also helped to bring more of a sense of community to everyone involved. The photo of some of the group shows their delight with each other so sweetly.
The review showed me something new too. In a way it was a review of my teaching. What I learned was that making the time to sit and look with my students is really important. We do this at the end of each group class and it builds more understanding and more community. But taking the time to do a review with my private students, or my more advanced ones is important too. We all need contact with others who are involved in a similar process.
I walked away feeling happy to have connected so richly with people doing the same thing as me. I think we all felt that way.