Studio 1212 Open Critique

Written by Harriet Monzon-Aguirre | November, 2021

What exactly is an art critique? How does it work? What purpose does it serve? Last Saturday, October 30th, I went on a fact-finding mission to get answers to some of these questions when I attended one of Studio 1212's art critiques.

What is an art critique? The Merriam-Webster definition of critique is the "act of criticizing, or to examine critically" Art criticism has its own theory and history that runs in tandem to the making of art that goes back centuries. There is so much to discover about art criticism, but in this case, Studio 1212 opened their space to the public to bring 1-3 unfinished works of art for members and participants to evaluate/critique the work and provide feedback. I must say that for me, the thought of putting a work in progress in front of other artists was quite nerve-racking. Because I regard my paintings as pure forms of self-expression and pouring my heart and soul onto canvas, there is undoubtedly a fear of rejection. In actuality, I had no reason to be nervous because the members of Studio 1212 present at the time were welcoming and made the whole experience worthwhile.

Sometimes I personally get tripped up with the word 'criticism'. Probably because of ingrained reasons, I think that criticism is mostly negative, but criticism means evaluating both merits and faults. Usually when critiquing art there are four components or steps.

  • Description = The What. You describe what you see in front of you.

  • Analysis = The How. You discuss how the artist made the work including points of emphasis, composition elements, any design principles employed, and your emotional response to these facets.

  • Interpretation = The Why. Why did the artist make this work? Establish historical context.

  • Evaluation = The Other What. Is the work successful? What is the value of the work to others, what benefits does it bring. Evaluation is difficult, and it's important to remove personal biases that may obscure your thoughts.

Each of us took turns standing in the front of the audience with our artworks. In this case the evaluation part was more directed towards answering questions for the artists. Everyone took something away, and it was interesting to see artists' personalities come through both while critiquing and having their work be critiqued. Some of us had something that was not quite right about our work and we looked to others to help solve the problem, some of us used the critique as an opportunity to boost confidence, some of us were willing to listen to opinions but were equally defensive and quick to block any commentary that had no basis in our minds' eye. What I did miss from this experience was interpretation and context. I came away uncertain about one topic. Can contemporary artists making work today describe their work using an art term from a movement that peaked 50 years ago? When do the chapters of art history close?

What I also have to keep in mind is that art criticism, just like act practice, needs exactly that - practice. You get better the more you do it. I will put the next art critiques on my calendar - November 16th and November 27th.

STUDIO 1212 ART GALLERY is a 501(c)3 non-profit artist group in Downtown Dunedin, Florida and was started in late 1970 and formally incorporated in 1971 by students of the internationally known artist, William Pachner, for the purpose of providing a place to associate, educate, create, exhibit and sell art. The Gallery is located on 234 Monroe, Downtown Dunedin, Florida 34698.