Totally Unfair!: SFUAD’s 5th Annual Juried Art Exhibition

Exhibition judge Claude Smith and Studio Arts faculty member Tom Miller talk about the selection process. Photo by Maude Metcalf

On Feb. 23, SFUAD’s Studio Arts Department held its annual juried student art exhibition, Totally Unfair! Students from any department were encouraged to submit art for judging and those selected had their pieces displayed in the Southwest Annex Fine Arts Gallery. The accepted pieces ranged from audio/visual projects, traditional work like paintings and sculptures as well as 3D graphic designs and embroidery. Exhibition judge Claude Smith says, “One of the things that immediately stood out to me is there’s a great diversity of different kinds of works … I wanted to be a bit more inclusive, not necessarily creating a theme per se, because juried exhibitions don’t really have a theme, but kind of like the narrative of the vast diversity of art practice.”

Smith is the exhibitions manager at 516 ARTS, a nonprofit contemporary arts organization that runs a museum-style gallery in Albuquerque, NM. He has degrees from the University of New Mexico in both art history and biology and has curated exhibitions at Tamarind Institute, Inpost Artspace, and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. “I really like the format of juried exhibitions. Sometimes they can be really freeing, oftentimes from an institutional perspective,” Smith says. “We have to present our exhibitions usually around a specific theme or a specific context. So juried exhibitions … being able to have a chance to look at artwork in person, which I think is really important, but being able to just come in and look at artwork and respond to it and be receptive to what the artists are trying to say, in a lot of ways makes things easier [for the curator].”

Graphic Design junior Rufino Medrano has one of the first pieces viewers see upon entering the exhibition space — six works of 3D graphic design that look as if they could be photographs. Medrano creates new pieces daily in his “Everyday” series, and when he was approached by Tom Miller, a Studio Arts faculty member, to submit to the exhibition two hours before the deadline, he pulled from the supply of pieces he’d already been building up. “My whole point is to show everyone that if you want to get somewhere you should make it a daily effort,” Medrano says about his works. “You know, making this stuff every day can lead up to something else, I guess.” Medrano has been in showcases with the Alexis Collective, but this is the largest exhibition he has shown in yet.

Matilda Gutierrez is a junior Studio Arts major at SFUAD. Photo by Maude Metcalf

Juried student exhibitions such as this are an excellent way for student artists to get exposure and experience as a professional. “It’s an important step in the process,” Smith says. “It’s a great way to get your work in front of different people, different professionals, different curators. And you never know what’s going to happen.” The process for actual submission was simply turning in the work and then filling out paperwork explaining how the piece would be displayed. Choosing what to submit, on the other hand, can be a bit more complicated. “So mine is obviously a series,” Studio Arts junior Matilda Gutierrez says. “There’s six in the series but I don’t think all six are good, so I turned it into a triptych. I chose three of them from that series and then it was mostly really sitting with my work again and figuring out which were the stronger ones and how to arrange them.” Gutierrez’ paintings in the exhibition focus on the humorous portrayals of millennials in the media. “I think humorous paintings are often frowned upon. So I was trying to take something that’s not so serious and paint it in a very serious way.”

The show’s title, Totally Unfair!, alludes to the general feeling many have toward the rejection that can follow juried shows. “They can be unfair but, as Tom said, they’re super important to your journey as artists,” Smith says during his talk about his selection process. “If you have an opportunity, I would suggest submitting to as many as possible, as they make sense, as you feel compelled to.”