Editorial

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13-17

[page 13] As one of the judges at the Second Fantasy Art Show at the Seattle Convention, I have been asked to jot down a few random thoughts and explanations. These, I am told, will be coupled with remarks from my co-judges--Algis Budrys, G.M. Carr, Dick Eney and Smiling Sid Coleman-- to obtain a rationale for the selections made. It behooves me to thann @thank@ everyone who submitted to the show, for the pleasure I received just _looking_ at the work, and thanks are also due to Bjo Trimble and the others who had enough confidence in my esthetic sense to ask me to judge the show in cooperation with those noted above. It was in many ways a heightened moment of the Season for me, and I must assure readers of this brief diary that I approached the task with considerable care, a good deal of trepidation and a bound sense of judging the work as impartially and sensibly (according to my lights) as I was able. In the main, I don't think there were any serious errors--either by myself or the panel of judges as a whole-- although there may possibly have been a few omissions with which observors @observers@ might quibble. Necessarily stated at the outset is the fact that while there was an infinite variety of work, styles, approaches and media submitted, the mass of the work was several notches higher than last year's show, by my dim recolection @recollection@. This is not to say that all the work was of a golden degree, for there was much submitted that was amateurish and, though well-intentioned, execrable by any rational standard of art criticism. However, where the high points were reached, they were reached with great enthusiasm and an exhilerating originality. It might be best to explain at the front why there is such a vast disparity of opinion as regards the work of George Barr and Dave Prosser, by the judges and the Public-- the latter who dug both, and the former who seemed to ignore both when it came award-time. At the time, it seemed to me, all of the judges (but one) were firmly intent on seeing only work that would be considered "quality" by the accepted standards of artistic criticism, dubbed with accolades. There was no sentimentality, (Oh, she's a good kid, and a BNF, so give her a ribbon.), no politics (He's got the leading fanzine this year and he might get sore.), no hedging (Jeezus @Jesus@, he's got three hundred canvasses here, we got to give him _some_thing!), and no foolishness (She means well; she tried; let's show our faith in her.). It was strictly a matter of _What have you done_ and _How well have you done it_? Once or twice it was necessary to accept a piece that we personally did not consider absolutely first-rank in the sense that 99% of the other award-winners were, but this was only in categories where the submissions were short or the quality overall was so low. I'll get to that in a moment. In the main, though, it was as sober and perceptive a judging as I've ever encountered, with very very little of the _poseur_ decision so dearly loved by art critics in the Big Wide Mainstream. [page 14] Would that everything I write gets this sort of conscientious attention by a group of intensely interested and knowledgeable critics. Well, then, to the decisions, and my reasons for same, as well as my recollections of the other judge's attitudes and spoken reasons (at the time) for their reactions and decisions. If I'm inaccurate or outright incorrect in my observations of my co-judges, I'm certain they will understand, excuse, and step right up to correct me, which is as it should be. But, again, the decisions, and why: When we decided to select the Most Promising Artist Of The Show, we looked for someone who captured our imagination and interest and enthusiasm (which seems to me, even now, as the most important facet of selecting this sort of winner, for spontaneity of attraction is the surest way to spot someone who has something different; extreme and extremely well-developed talent will show itself without prying, I feel, and indicates a _sustaining_ element that insures "promise"), but we also looked for someone who knew @theri@ craft, who said what they wanted to say in a new manner, and propounded an artistic philosophy distinctly separate from the inept and idle rocketship drawings of most s-f or fantasy amateurs. Filling all of these criteria was the work of a new artist to this genre, Miss Luann Meatheringham, signed M.L. Meatheringham on her work. Her small presentations--somewhere over half a dozen--drew judges in a most peculiar manner. We had all seen them, and purposely made our rounds without stopping at her work, in much the same way a child will eat the cake part of the cupcake before the chocolate frosting, saving the best for the last. Finally, we came to Miss Meatheringham's display,and I think the word _enchanted_ is as close as I dare come to our feelings. Her "Pen and Ink Wizard" had charm imagination, excellence of execution, vast detail, depth, and a certain _je ne @sas@ quoi_ that made Sid Coleman simply cluck his tongue in admiration. Budrys grinned in that Cartier gnome-manner of his. Eney beamed and rocked back on his heels. I raved like a madman. Mrs. Carr was mildly impressed, but reserved withal. "Bambi Revisited" (one of several in color) was, as I recall, an oil, very delicate in nature, with a number of strange creatures watching a forest fire, and a gamin of a girl with long blonde hair (very Sylvia White-like) sitting among them. It had strength and yet gentleness. It was weird and wonderful and it stirred a feeling in me that I was looking at the work of someone who was first to say the things being said. "Birdman King" (which I later managed to obtain for my own wall) had a darkly chromatic brooding look to it, a bird-man seated on a throne, in a setting that seemed flat black till it was seen in direct light, and then the subtle shadings and wild riot of reserved colors leaped up to dazzle and make the painting nine times what it had been in shadow. This was the way it went with all the Meatheringham work. The eye was drawn from one to another, with the heightened sense of luster and wonder and joy growing like a dust storm climbing to the sky. It @rea ly@ was quite a thrill. With the exception of Mrs. Carr, M.L. Meatheringham was unanimously, hands-down voted the best, most promising talent in the show. Second place went to Sylvia White, for the depth for perceptivity and inner conflicts of her work (it is now apparent to me that most of the reason for this award was Sylvia's brilliant "World of Shsha" which brought her yet another prize). I had seen much of Sylvia's work on canvas in her New York apartment, when I was living in the Village, next door to Ted and [page 15] Sylvia White, but had frankly never been impressed by the careful, almost mechanical, dull phantasmagoric shapes and plains of impressionistic work she had done for her own amusement. It was a distinct shock to come around the corner that shielded "The World @Sesha@" from sight, and see the terrible intensity of that @wierd@ woman, her face and soul shrouded in darkness, her eyes still glowing. It was enough of a shock to net Sylvia a solid second place. Third place seemed not quite fillable after the high degree of work shown by our first and second place winners (easily two of the four highest levels of true artistic achievement in the show), but Barbi Johnson's series of color sketches for "The Enchanted Forest" showed this newcomer to have a talent richly deserving of praise and prize, so it was decided to give her an Honorable Mention. The light whimsey of the drawings brought her yet another prize, thus confirming our mutual opinions. We moved on happily to Outré Art, a catch-all catagory that allowed us to give first prizes to other works in other @catagories@, by stretching the @boundries@ of the semantics involved, and also allowed us to give a first prize to Richard Bergeron's memorabie "Invasion of the Birds". Bergeron, overly familiar to many of us through his line drawings mimeo or hecto reproduced in fanzines for the past ten years, is no dabbler. He is a professionally- competent and artistically integrated craftsman whose work, though uneven, is far above the expected level of amateur artists in this field, and easily on a par with that being used in many of the mainstream magazines catering to "slick primative" art. That is to say, Rich's work is very often superficial in its cleverness, too slick and shiny, _too_ professional if you will. But when he manages to stop trying to ape much of the bland pudding of the commercial field, Rich hits a level of excellence all too memorable. It is this truth of inner achievement, in "Invasion of the Birds" that we saw, and agreed to award first place. It was a breakthrough, in appearance, from the clever workmanlike stuff he exhibited alongside "Invasion" and a many- leveled bit of personal statement. Cynthia Goldstone's "Illustrated Boy" was our second place choice, as the most integrated of a great many paintings all in the same style.There was disagreement in this area... not as to the awarding of the prize, but @at@ to _which_ of these Goldstone daymares was the best. Some said one, others said another. I voted for "Boy" and I fear slightly pressured the others away from "The Doll Maker" which I thought diffuse (while still excellent). We all compromised by giving "Boy" the prize and "Doll Maker" an Honorable Mention. Mrs. Carr was highly impressed by Goldstone as were all of us. AJ dug "Doll Maker" and Sidney Coleman went with me on "Boy". All of us were happy about the decisions, I think. Meatheringham took a third with "Birdman King" which--I assure you from a vantage point across from it in my living room--is a really superior bit of fantasy painting. This girl has got "it". @whatever@ "it" is. The Honorables in this @catagory@ were all unique and of a high enough level not to be ignored merely because they did not reach the same pinnacle of achievement of the first/second/third place swingers. This was our most crowded @catagory@, and the work was easily the best. Heroic Fantasy was a sparse genre, with the judges reluctantly choosing professional artist Roy Krenkel's sort of Tarzan pencil and charcoal sketch "Moment de Verdad" as First. It was a handsome drawing, make no mistake, but there was serious discussion as to whether Krenkel qualified, as a professional. Coleman made the valid point that we were not concerned with the man's status. If he was in the show, we judged what we saw, not what we knew about him personally. That seemed reasonable, and the judging moved [page 16] on quickly from there. (I mention this to further validate my claim that these judges were no piddlers, that heavy consideration was given to each decision and that conscientiousness was the watchword.) The only other award, considerably less impressive--to me--was Knowles' "Gilgamesh" which everyone else thought a fine piece of work, and which I @though@ dreadful, and dreadfully amateurish. The eyes, in particular, seemed taken from an inept college student's art and anatomy session. But the voting was so strong against me, I suspect this was one of my blind spots, and though I abstained from the voting, everyone else gave it an Honorable Mention. While I cannot go along with this award, I respect my colleagues' opinions enough to know that the fault lay with me. Fantasy Art was Firsted by Sylvia's "Seshe" as noted, and I bulldozed at them again for Barr's "Comanleigh" which I thought a striking example of ingenuity in media. The sea-green look of the fingerpainted woman held my attention, and seemed so much better than any of Barr's other @entrys@, I felt it should recieve a prize. They fought me, and as with Knowles, I stood alone. It was perhaps more to placate me than conversion to my viewpoint that won Barr his prize. I like to think, though, that they thought it was worthwhile. (Since this is a personal journal, everything is seen through these biased eyes, and I may have motivations all fouled up. If such is the case, I apologize profusely to those concerned. And now that I think of it, Gem Carr was with me on this one.) The third prize to Bergeron was a second thought, after we had looked over the work many times. The Honorable for "Paris" was, I thought, a nice touch. "Paris" was like many other Bergeron's on display, but with a strength and craftsmanlike delineation that made it a valid @soupcon@ to our porridge of choices. From there on out (as I tire of writing all this in graphic detail) the choices were obvious (Particularly the two Thompson cartoons as "Judge's Choice", a catagory no one could define, but seemingly appropriate for unclassifiable fragments like Atom's "Don Quixote" and "Horatius".). There was a helluva fight in Astronomical Art, but I'm too weary to go into that. The final choices were wise ones, I'm satisfied to report. In only one catagory was the output deplorable. This, in perhaps the one catagory where expectations were the highest for a surfeit of entries. Of all the areas for sterility, Science Fiction Illustration surely was the least expected. But here we could only find two illustrations even _passable_, and I must report that though a first and second prize were awarded, they were done so reluctantly, with the first to Metzger a charade, and the second to Simpson a throwaway. I thought both frankly inept, and one of them bland. AJ dug the Simpson and was joined by Eney and Carr. I could work up no real enthusiasm for it, but was forced to concede that @afyer@ the Metzger it was the best we had on hand. But without hedging, it @wad@ a fairly competent _Analog_ decoration, and as such I could not fight a second place. The Metzger I'd rather not think about. Momentary madness gripped me. There was, of course, nothing from which to choose for the "Fellowship Of The Ring" @catagory@, so no award was made, with resultant gladness from the Tolkien nuts in the crowd, as well as the judges, who feared lynch law and mob violence. I won't make any comment about the Popular Award, save to remark that I wasn't surprised, and I suppose _there_ is as good a place for mass emotionalism to enter as anywhere. But I'm glad there were judges rather than large groups [page 17] to pay the deserved homage to Sylvia White, Barbi Johnson, Luann Meatheringham, Rich Bergeron, @Cynthis@ Goldstone and @Edear@ Curtis, who might otherwise have been lost in the crowd dazzlement at oil-slicked bodies and superficial art tricks. (Or would that be construed as a rueful opinion?) Again, it was a pleasure. Thank you very much. I'd like to do it again sometime. But as for another report of this length, my agent would kill me if he knew I was writing fanstuff rather than the new novel. On second thought, strike that. It was fun. And once a fan, always -- dammit! -- a fan. ----Harlan Ellison.

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