Emerge 2018 is Bullseye Glass Co.'s tenth biennial juried exhibition for rising talent in kiln-glass. Three jurors were tasked with reviewing hundreds of entries, selecting a group of finalists, and then selecting seven award winners. After the jury process ended, Bullseye Projects curator Michael Endo sat down with jurors Heidi Schwegler, Diane Wright, and Benedict Heywood to discuss the award winners, the competition, and the landscape of contemporary glass. An edited excerpt of that conversation is published in the catalog Emerge/Evolve 2018: A Showcase of Rising and Evolving Talents in Kiln-Glass.
In this final part of the conversation, the jurors discuss three honorable mention works and offer some advice for future applicants. In addition to Michael Endo and the jurors, Mary Kay Nitchie, Bullseye's Marketing Manager, and Lani McGregor, Director of Bullseye Projects, were present.
Michael: In addition to the award winners, I gave each of you an opportunity to select an Honorable Mention. These works didn’t win awards, but deserve some recognition.
Heidi: We did it as a group. First, is Kalina Bańka, Noise.
Diane: I love the use of found objects. It was really refreshing to see somebody articulating this format that's usually in paint onto a piece of glass.
Heidi: I liked her ambition for multiple reasons. The ambition of taking something completely low brow, and in some ways illegal, and then translating it into something that was very high brow in terms of the material. And also just the scale of the project...
Benedict: It was the biggest piece in the show.
Heidi: It's the biggest piece, it probably came from one of the most distant countries. I'm excited to see where she goes with this idea.
Michael: For me, what struck me about that work is that often artists will replicate a material, try and make glass look like metal, or they'll put an image on the glass. She is doing both, she's transforming the glass into metal and into the paint, stickers, and decay on the metal. It is a step beyond what I often see.
Heidi: Absolutely. Then there was Evelyn with her bones, which I could look at forever. They are stunning objects. I could go on and on about why representing natural objects is interesting and complicated.
Benedict: Yeah, and not just bones, but decayed bones, so bones that are not actually even useful, particularly in a scientific manner.
Diane: They are really beautifully made. The texture on them...
Benedict: Yeah, it is crazily good.
Heidi: And then the last one, Andy Plummer. We had so many conversations about Andy. From his background – he worked in the coal mining industry – to openly admitting that this is a very new medium later in his life. And then the political component, in that he's taking a very relevant issue and doing something with that. With objects that are, I'm finding out, are very, very challenging to make. I really enjoyed the scale of them. So every decision he made, I felt, just really came together. It was a pleasure to not only read his statement but his bio, and then to look at the objects; so all of it kind of came together and led to a really interesting conversation for us.
Diane: And I think it's really brave of him as a man to take on a topic like this, and to title the piece, “I Moved On Her Like A Bitch.” Admittedly, I was taken aback slightly when I read that and immediately thought this piece would be off-putting. I thought that the piece would be challenging for me, as a woman, to understand. He did a really good job of not only creating objects that are visually stunning and beautiful, but also connecting the visual component to his idea. These objects are beautiful while also looking like bullets and dealing with a challenging idea.
Heidi: I felt like it was one of the more confrontational pieces. Obviously, executed in a very beautiful way, but it was really exciting to have a piece that had a bit of confrontation to it.
Diane: I mean, how much glass actually really challenges you like that?
Benedict: It was interesting for me to see a critique of macho culture from a non-American perspective. Coming from Australia, the piece causes one to think about how this macho culture is prevalent throughout different societies. And, as you said, all the choices that he made were good ones. Down to the colors...
Diane: Which he says relate to gender and violence. I think it's really well-thought-out and executed.
Michael: Previously we touched a little bit on advice for future Emerge applicants. Let's reiterate that a little bit. Heidi, you had something specific to mention.
Heidi: There are a couple things. I encourage future applicants to think about their work outside of their own personal intention; to consider their work in a broader context, which may be conceptually a broader context or materially. Why glass? If it is glass, how does that fit within a larger sort of contemporary art conversation? The second thing is to really consider the presentation of the objects and how that can add meaning to these seemingly autonomous forms.
Diane: I would echo those ideas. Also, I think [applicants] should consider the importance of the statement. It is important to develop your own voice and not to use a voice that mimics what you hear other people saying, or what you think people want to read. Your own voice is going to be better at explaining your work. Just honor your own ideas and your own voice.
Benedict: Say what you do, and say why you do it. Once you've written that down in a few hundred words, give it to somebody else to read and make sure that they understand it. Statements should be designed for someone else to read. Write it and then give it to your mother or a friend and see whether they get some kind of sense from it. We're not particularly impressed by complicated language because we deal with that kind of language all the time.
Heidi: One of the things I really enjoy about a successful artist statement is when it shows a depth of understanding. One of the exercises that I always give to my students is to write that first statement and take note of words like memory, remembrance; words that you use often. Choose just one of them and write a three page paper on that word and you will begin to understand or develop a much deeper understanding of what these mean to you, and universally, that could be unpacked. There were so many artist statements that I read during the jury process that packed in 20 different ideas. Give me one of those and unpack it to a much deeper level.
Diane: Short, concise, and clear, rather than complicated and long.
Heidi: And genuinely honest.
Benedict: Less is more.
Heidi: But it means you have to write a thousand pages and then edit.
Diane: Well, it's hard to write short and concise.
Benedict: It's incredibly hard.
Diane: I think you just acknowledge that it's hard and that you have to write over and over and over again to get to where you want to be, and then you enlist others for feedback.
Heidi: Take the same level of dedication that you just put into learning glass, and use that same energy with your writing. They really should have the same level of craft and dedication.
Benedict: It is difficult to write an artist statement, but then again, no one told you it was going to be easy when you decided to be an artist.
An edited version of the interview is included in Emerge/Evolve 2018: A Showcase of Rising and Evolving Talents in Kiln-Glass, available for purchase at bullseyeglass.com.
Emerge/Evolve tours to Chrysler Museum of Art April 5 - July 28, 2019, and to Bellevue Arts Museum August 23, 2019 - January 12, 2020.