Sandra Zilker Juror Statement

Sandra Zilker – Juror Statement

Why do we have student exhibitions outside an academic setting? What do we expect to see and why do we want to see it? I believe we like to see potential, growth—we like to be surprised and informed by precocious levels of skill and unexpected directions and ideas. We believe that student work is an indicator of health and or activity in a particular field. It’s taking the pulse, the temperature and activity level.

Enamel’s strong and significant history presents a double-sided challenge. The history and evolution of an important process/material gives the present depth and technical/aesthetic foundation. On the downside, it can stunt exploration. So when I looked at the images I was looking for both—knowledge and skill with the traditional aspects of enamel and experimentation with concept and how enamel is used. The other interesting aspect of jurying enamel is looking at how the enamel elements are integrated into metal or other materials used. Did I find both? I did.

The unpredictable aspect of entries that are dependent on individual students entering—does not result in any real accurate reading of the field. Many entries were obviously done early in the enamel experience. Some appeared to be from the same program and even the same project. But still, I got a strong sense that the traditions of enamel are alive and very healthy. And some of those traditions are used exquisitely as in The Crane and Plum by Haiyin Liang, an obvious prize winner. Fragments of Heritage by Haiyin Liang also focused on strong traditional technique in an interesting interchangeable presentation component. In direct contrast, Listen, Speak, Act by Winona Hwang was refreshingly and graphically simple and direct. I wanted to see more unpredictable ways of using enamel, although I did see imagery and subject matter that was current and very contemporary. The best pieces united idea and process in an undeniable collaboration. The least interesting submissions were ordinary subject matter unelevated by weak technique. Michael Hull’s Can Lid Teapot is a strong representative of enamel used on a three dimensional object. There were a few excellent pieces that appeared to be heavily influenced by well-known work; not uncommon in student work. This was the case with our Honorable Mentions – Seed Pod Necklace #2 by Chloe Darke and Going Home by Jessi Sawyer.

There were a few pieces that were intriguing but frustratingly lacking a detail or good photograph. Some entries were great on the metalworking aspect but the enamel was insignificant.

My goal was to make choices that represent the scope of possibilities with an amazing material that is transformed by heat from powder or liquid to glass. I appreciate the opportunity to look in on the status of the field of enamel. I was definitely convinced that student exhibitions are important- and that enamel continues to be an intriguing process.