This month’s exhibit in the solo show room of The Art League Gallery is a first — it’s a preview of the nine artists who will have solo shows this year. Like the shows themselves, the 2012 Solo Preview encompasses a wide variety of artwork: both the photorealistic, in-your-face colored pencil work by Suzanne Vigil and the somber grays and browns of Juan Hernandez’s oils; Pattee Hipschen’s intimate paintings of vivid country landscapes and the otherworldly landscapes of beekeeper and encaustic artist Georgia Nassikas.
Ordinarily, this space is used to exhibit a coherent body of work by one artist. Instead, this month it’s home to an eclectic peek into the future. This year’s solo artists were excited at the chance to preview some work before their own shows, and the gallery will probably continue the preview idea next year, says Assistant Gallery Director Megan Fox, who is the solo artist coordinator.
Applying for a solo show is a competitive process, winnowing down about 40 applicants to the nine who will get shows, and it’s worth it for the exposure an artist gets with an exhibition in a nationally-recognized gallery. Solo shows don’t only act as a springboard for further opportunities, they are also an exercise for emerging, local artists who may be preparing their first-ever exhibit, Megan says. Part of The Art League’s mission, after all, is “nurturing the artist.”
The process begins two years ahead of time when applicants send in digital images of their work and then bring it in for the jurors to view. The three jurors sit behind a table, “American Idol”-style, with five easels in front of them to hold each artist’s pieces. Successful solo shows involve a coherent body of work, something different from the monthly juried exhibitions, and make a statement — not necessarily outlandish, but clear, Megan says.
This jurying process is more involved than the usual juried shows, requiring artists to undergo a “personal development project” as they craft an artist’s statement and a proposal for their show, Megan says. After jurying, artists receive feedback in the form of the jurors’ comments — another benefit to applying.
After the jurors make their decisions, the shows are scheduled in tandem with the year’s other exhibits and the artist’s own schedule. This November, for example, Andrew Zimmermann’s photography show will coincide with FotoWeek DC. It’s Megan’s job in the months ahead of a solo show to check in with artists, make sure they’re on track to have enough work, and craft press releases and show cards. Ahead of the exhibit, the artist brings in the work to see it in the gallery space.
This year’s exhibits will start March 8 with the encaustic paintings of Georgia Nassikas before moving on to raku-fired ceramics by Marcia Jestaedt. Also featured are colored pencil, photography, oil paintings, sculpture, and collage.