Westercon Art Show

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18-22

[page 18] UNTITLED MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN A PAPER ENVELOPE by Dick Eney "...And by the way, Dick, you're going to be one of the judges for the Art Show tomorrow," said Bjo, @silping@ her coffee in the Fan Hillton manner. I choked on my own cup. "Tomorrow?" I asked. "In the morning?" Well, it was only @3;30@ a.m. by the clock in the coffeeshop; plenty of leeway to freshen up. "I wanted," she explained, "to get as diverse a panel as possible, so the sum of the judgements would strike a mean." Something occurred to me that had been an objection when I applied before. "How about Ron Ellik? You said last time that it'd be undesirable to have one TAFF candidate judging and not the other?" Bjo glanced at me with that slow, sinister smile we all recognize. "Oh," she said cheerfully, "I don't think that anything that happens now will change the outcome of the TAFF race...." -oOo- Being a <Struck out: goshwow type> enthusiast about Art and Criticism and things like that, I made a methodical approach to this judging business: sprang up at 9 that morning and went over to the show with paper, pencil, and notes about What To Look For. (All right, stop and have your laugh out.) I don't do this sort of thing often enough to have sound judgements at first glance; I thought it was only fair to start early and make an objective checklist to be sure I judged everything on the same basis. I use a four-category set of bases for judging artwork: theme, execution, technique, and impact. "Execution" is the translation of theme into picture; "technique" is the mechanical aspect of that translation, with a specific note that I do _not_ put down "slickness" here. (My ghod, is there any other field in which craftsmanlike competence in handling one's materials constitutes a demerit?) "Impact" is my reservation for subjective personal judgement. (Well, almost; there's always the niggling little wonder-how-people-will-react-if-I-tell-them-I- like-this -- you know how it is with us non-authorities.) The ratings in each category go by a self-explanatory four- point scale: poor, commonplace, novel or inspired, and excellent. For those who raise an @eyeborw@ at the apparent rating of inspiration below excellence, note that I mean inspiration in the sense of being suggested by some identifiable story (or event, or even Feghootism); the proper function of art is illustration or illumination ("where an illustration stands in for 10,000 words, illumination is a picture no wrds could stand in for." -- the Unauthorized Version), and I count recognition of this fact as placing the artist a cut above the common. [page 19] The judges seemed to have no profound @asthetic@ comments on tap -- unless they were saving them up for their conreports -- though there were a number of wrangles over decisions. For a rundown on each category, imagine Harlan Ellison acting as a sort of chairman of committee and the rest of us placing nominations bofore the house, as it were. Outre Art went to Rich Bergeron's "Invasion of the Birds" with a unanimous first place; I note that I've given it top marks in all my categories and everybody agreed when Sid Coleman suggested it. There was a long but pretty subjective difference over second place; I was shouted down when I put forward Ed Curtis' "Family Portrait", but it took a while for the others to decide between Cynthia Goldstone's "Illustrated Boy" and "Doll Maker". The Heroic Fantasy Award was considered while we inspected a charming piece entered by Karen Anderson in full costume, which was, however, ruled out on a technicality; Karen claimed to be entering herself but I pointed out that the actual creative work had been done by her parents, who are non-fans. She removed herself from the contest and stalked off, brandishing her cutlass... where was I? Oh, yes: before awarding anything for Heroic Fantasy we had to settle the status of Roy Krenkel -- should a pro be considered in a fan art show? True, Roy wasn't a really active pro (yet) and "Momento de Verdad" was a fanzine cover /-/ on AMRA /-/ but did we want to see the show overrun by Emsh and Freas and that crowd? We eventually decide to leave it undecided, and give Krenkel first prize with no other prizes awarded. My own suggestions for second and third places were turned down; Barr's "Starfisher" because Sid and Algis Budrys thought it "too beefcake" (what kind of objection is that to avowedly Conanesque art?), and Prosser's "Pan as posed by Ted Cogswell", which Harlan thought an OK joke if you know Ted but otherwise unworthy of an award. Eventually only an Honorable Mention was given out, to Knowles' "Gilgamesh". Fantasy Art was a category in which I hadn't any first choice any longer; I'd tagged "Invasion of the Birds" here originally. I had reservations about Sylvia White's "World of Sesha" only because, after a good beginning, the background fuzzes out as if Sylv's inspriation had suddenly stalled and spun in. It was ahead of the other contenders -- Bergeron's "Plant Lover" and Barr's "Comanleigh" -- in impact, by a perceptible, margin. At this point the panel went slightly insane and passed up Ed Curtis' "Bomb in a Residential Area" and Joan Young's "Sun Serpent" to award an Honorable Mention to Bergeron's "Paris" (the mythological character, not the city). Algis Budrys claimed he could do as well as "Sun Serpent" himself, but before I could @recal@ what I'd done with my gauntlet we'd passed on to another subject. Doesn't _anybody_ else dig understatement? With the category of Children's Fantasy we ran into a difficulty on which we'd no instructions: Barbi Johnson's finished and slick (remember, I don't use that phrase as a put-down) illos to "The Enchanted Forest", though none quite made it into the [page 20] first rank individually, had a total effect we couldn't pass over. After wishing for a moment that there had been a "group" category and considering giving a Judge's Choice award here (-"if at first you can't decide, make it Judge's Choice"- dotdotdot Sid Coleman), we gave first prize to the set of illos as a whole. Second prize went to M L Meatheringham; we started out considering "Jungle Girl" and "Bambi Revisited", but the latter was rejected as a bit feeble and then, despite Harlan's fierce fight for "Jungle Girl" /-/sounds like a plot synopsis from a Fiction House mag, huh/-/ the dark horse suggestion of "Pen and Ink Wizard" won out. My own contention that we ought to give George Barr's "Tarzan" some sort of award for Childishness was coldly received.... In the category of Science Fiction Illustration there was another almost-no-award, most of the work here being a little _too_ illustrative--@fir@ instance, Barr's "Ride the Scenic Northern @Pacif@..." I beg your pardon, I see from my notes it was actually titled "Lepers". Harlan claimed that Simpson's "Brennschluss", a rocket ship spiralling down in flames, was -"perfect storytelling"- ...yes, I snarled, all it needs @it@ an F86 with smoking guns in the background... and grotched at my own choice, Metzger's "Homecoming". I grant you Metzger's spaceship coming home with a skeleton in the cockpit is no brilliant theme, but it's several notches above the other, and technically no worse. Judge's Choice was unanimous -- indeed, I can't even recall who first suggested it; we all agreed at once on the pair of colored ATom-illos displayed by the Busbys and Wally Weber. On Astronomical Art I missed the boat entirely; I looked for real pictures of astronomical subjects (you know, that crazy Morris Dollens stuff?). Before I could confess my error, Algis Budrys dismissed the whole category of pseudo-Bonestell and led us around to Rich Bergeron's "Sun From Jupiter". Harlan, thus turned on to non-objective astronomy, put in for Knowles' "Hyperspace #2", while GMCarr pointed out Bergeron's "Sunrise on Saturn"; we had a brief three-way deadlock and eventually made the awards to these last three paintings, in order mentioned. The award for Most Promising was given to M L Meatheringham without real dissent; Sylvia White got second place here, and we gave Honorable Mention to Barbi Johnson though either Sid or AJ pointed out that her polished technique was hardly that of a new artist. The award offered by the Fellowship of the Ring was not awarded after very little discussion. The only contenders were Sylvia White's "Galadriel" -- but _not_ Tolkien's Galadriel or anything identifiably more than a pretty, cheerful young woman -- and Karen Anderson's scarf embroidered with the symbol of The Tree and The Stars, nice but not award material. Sylvia, later told me that she'd entitled "Galadriel" at the last moment, and not with the intention of making it a competitor for the [page 21] Tolkien award; Karen had entered her scarf only to avert the possibility of no competition for Tolkien-art at all. Our decision agreed as well with the appraisal Pelz and Johnstone, the driving spirits of the Fellowship of the Ring had made, so nobody with any interest in the matter had complaints about the decision. This didn't prevent one chap from starting a rumor about the corruption of the judges. The Art Show was full of goodies this time; definitely, though not emphatically, superior to the Pittcon session. At the latter there was -- for just one thing -- nothing to compare with Bergeron's best stuff, or with tho Meatheringham-Gold -stone--Johnson trio; the only point in which the Seacon· was inferior was in sculpture, a rare art-form with us anyway. The most surprising thing to me was the shocking failure of the SF Art category to have any really good contents; it's interesting to find it rated as no challenge by visual artists. Perhaps it's the judges, I grant you; maybe we needed an approach as different as the one Algis Budrys introduced with non-objective astronomy. The only really controversial point which came up was that of professionalism, with regard to which the judges on the spot decided to take no action. Next year's Art Show may have a ruling on this, but I point out what we considered our surest defense against inundation by the pros: namely, their own proper pride. Like, what happens if they enter a contest with amateurs _and_ _don't_ _win_? We had another rumor started on this subject; the author of it added some fabulous details -- that we were arguing over Prosser (instead of Krenkol), and refused rather than granted an award to the contestant challenged for professionalism. The represtational artists are still in the lead, and some shared the characteristic of painstaking draftsmanship. That may be an odd note for the curious; does this draftsmanship suggest to you, as it does me, what de Camp mentions as the essence of the childlike Sense of Wonder: the ability to convert imaginary subjects into solid-seeming edetic images in the mind's eye? Only two winners (both by Bergeron) were impressionistic, describing the apperance of things without troubling with actual details; only one, Sylvia White, went as far as surrealism, realistic expression of anti-realistic fancies. Maybe the chief drawback the Art Show has still to over- come is the ghod-double-offal mundaneness of the trophies. The bright idea that redeemed the Children's Fantasy trophy from triteness -- fixing a screw in a colt's head before plating it, to make a unicorn colt -- should have had at least an honorable mention itself. The other efforts to devise fantasy tropies -- my own mounting of a plastic skull on a conventional trophy base and the Fellowship of the Ring's use of an embroidered sampler -- may be described as "nice tries, but...." [page 22] They did succeed in being trophies which nobody would mistake for something you won at the neighborhood bridge tournament. As to the rest -- the cups and wings and people standing tiptoe with arms stretched overhead -- least said is fewest offended. You have my permission to remember this against me next year when I try to engrave a plaque witn Kodak's photochemical stuff, in another effort to come up with a trophy which looks as if it were intended to Fantasy Art, OK? Another thing you'd better remember next year is to bring money, too. If the Art Show continues at the level of quality it's shown this time, I see a dandy chance to get started on a nice little collection. Right? ----dick eney.

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