Thursday, December 29, 2011

Meet the Juror: A Conversation with Allyn Bromley

Yesterday’s receiving day for the 2012 Hui No’eau Annual Juried Exhibition yielded 306 original works of art from artists living on Maui, throughout Hawaii, and beyond. The Kaluanui living & dining areas, now public exhibition spaces, were bursting at the seams with art of all media. Our hard-working exhibitions & events coordinator, Rachel Edelman, could not keep the staff away from the space- our reactions to the work bouncing off the walls barely faster than the some 30 Camp Kaluanui keiki bustling through the grounds at recess. Simply put: receiving day is awesome. The energy of the artists and volunteers, the suspense of not knowing who will submit, the excitement of meeting new faces, and the exceptionally broad range of artwork making its way into the house all combine to make these days stand out as some of the most fun we see.

Today I was introduced to the woman facing the greatest challenge of all the artists combined, Honolulu-based Allyn Bromley who has been working all day to jury this most competitive exhibition. Rachel and I were invited into the Hui’s artist cottage, where she is staying while on Maui, to share some lunch together during a much-needed break and to chat about the selection process.

A bit about Allyn, who has lived and worked in Honolulu since the early 1950s before earning a BFA from the University of Hawai‘I and MFA from the University of Colorado. She has done post-graduate work at Pratt Graphic Center in Manhattan, and at Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Washington. Allyn retired from teaching printmaking at the University of Hawai‘i in 2000 to pursue further explorations in the art of the print. Her current interests are in deconstructing the screen printed format to recombine and reconstruct images in the third dimension.

Allyn is an elegant, thoughtful, fascinating woman. When asked “so, how’s it going?” her response was this: “it’s a tough challenge being a solo juror, because the exhibition is based completely on my opinion. And my opinions are rooted in my belief that art is an important part of a social context. I see this Hui exhibition as a symposium for ideas, for taking art forward and for reflecting what we are today.” It was clear that Allyn was facing a thrilling challenge brought on by our artist community.

I proceeded to explain to Allyn that one of the greatest challenges we face is responding to the artists whose work was not selected by a given juror. In other words, “why are you making the selections you’re making?”

“So much of what I’m seeing is skillful, beautifully crafted, or dazzling- but lacking the relevance needed to actively engage in a communal discussion," she responded, "This is a forum beyond the decorative. In some cases I was drawn to pieces that I would hang in my own home, but this was not their place. Many other pieces simply needed their own, separate space, and by including them here the whole room would have been thrown off. Then there were pieces selected for the exhibition that don’t speak to me, but I found it important that they be SEEN. They have formal values, things about them that are interesting, they’re provocative, they represent new ideas.”

Ultimately, Allyn is creating a cohesive, visual conversation with the space offered to her. In her artist’s statement, she uses key words like structure and technical skill as well as sincerity and passion.

When asked what it was like to observe Allyn’s process, Rachel responds, “She has been incredibly thoughtful. Every piece has had an equal opportunity to be included. Lots of time went into the selection process. The “logic vs. instinct” dichotomy she explained in her lecture last night was clearly visible- and her instinct does not trump the logic here.”

“I’m a mother and a teacher,” continued Allyn, “I want to encourage people and I want everybody to be realized in their artistic endeavors, which makes the jurying process even more difficult for me. I almost feel like a midwife whose responsibility is to assist in putting something out into the world that will take the whole dialogue of art further. Art must be intellectually challenging. We’re not here to passively look at what has been said over the years, no matter how beautiful it is, it has to be reflective of who we are as a people.”

Please join us next Friday, January 6th at 5 pm to view the final selections, meet many of the artists, and have a first chance to make a purchase. All sales support the educational programs of Hui No’eau, one of Maui’s only remaining nonprofit visual arts education center.

Mahalo nui loa to Jack & Carolyn Schaefer Gray, Robert & Frances Davidson, and Louis & Jolene Cole for sponsoring this important exhibition.

-Kelly McHugh, Youth Programs & Marketing Manager

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