For Origins, our November exhibit, we asked artists to explore the notion of deep roots whether personal, cultural, familial or mythological. The result: 105 varied pieces that range in expression from figurative to abstract; literal to imagined; solemn to whimsical; subtle to bold. Baltimore-based mixed media artist and photographer Antonio McAfee, our juror for this show, painstakingly reviewed a total of of 219 digital images before making his final selections. Here he shares his take on the theme, his selection process and why Best-In-Show winner “Dropping the Gun” grabbed his attention.
The Art League: How did you interpret the theme, Origins?
Antonio McAfee: Due to the wide variety of work and takes on the word, I had a fairly broad interpretation. I was attracted by work that addressed the theme on a grand scale such as the cosmos and nature, to personal takes on family history and personal reflections. I thought about the theme as a way to talk about what is guiding individuals. What do they understand to be their foundation?
TAL: Were you at all surprised about how the artists interpreted the theme?
AM: I expected an expansive take on Origins. It was great to see the various works and have the opportunity to piece together some connections between pieces—family members and religion, for instance.
TAL: What type of work would you have submitted to this exhibit?
AM: I would submit my 3D images. They deal with the subjectivity of vision and how we learn and understand ourselves and others through photographs. The series is also influenced by how we evolved to see the way we do. The images are shown with 3D glasses so it can be pretty engaging work.
TAL: How important is subject matter and narrative in a successful artwork?
AM: It is essential. It was enjoyable to take a broad approach to the word Origins, but specificity of content guided me throughout the selection process. Those components allow me to get on the same page as the artist, assisting me to see how the artist sees.
TAL: Based on the artworks you selected, what is the overall mood or feeling of Origins?
AM: Hopefully, audiences pick up on eclecticism and openness. I wanted a multicultural show, people from all over the spectrum of culture together, articulating what is significant to themselves and where they are. I also wanted a show that displayed a wide array of media.
TAL: How did your own work as an artist influence your decisions?
AM: Not a whole lot really. I have a bias as a photographer so I understand that media more than others, which makes me appreciate other media and eager to show them amongst photography. The main influence was the body, especially solo portraiture, and experimenting with the human form.
TAL: What made the best-in-show award winner, Dropping the Gun by Chris Malone, stand out to you?
AM: When I saw Dropping the Gun it felt complicated and enigmatic, especially in regards to the facial expression and falling gun. [My reaction was] What is going on here? There is a potency and specificity to the figure, a specific demographic but the action was curious—am I seeing this figure’s action before or after an event? It is a loaded work that is timely and poignant. My emotional or intellectual response had me very curious and the piece stuck with me. Craft wise, it is exquisitely executed on a grand scale. It’s an ambitious work that struck me intellectually and technically.
McAfee relied on digital submissions when choosing the pieces comprising Origins. “It was very convenient and allowed me to go through multiple edits to get to the final selection,” he says, but, “There is a disparity between seeing pieces in person versus digitally that I had to get used to.” Here’s his advice for submitting work in a digital format:
- Provide clear, good quality documentation of your work.
- When given the opportunity, “Briefly write about important aspects of your work—subject matter, influences, technique, source material, etc.”
- Submit the maximum number of images allowed.
Origins is on exhibit in The Art League Gallery through Saturday, December 7.