In the olden days, entering a juried show was quite a production. You had to assemble the right slides, label them as required by the sponsors (heaven forfend if you wanted to reuse a slide you had previously sent to somebody else, and it didn't have the proper red dots, arrows, and information written in the right place). You had to include a self-addressed stamped envelope so they could send your slides back along with the sorry-you-lose letter. You had to put the slides into a little protector -- plastic? cardboard? -- and take the package to the post office.
Now, thanks to the wonders of technology, entering a juried show is still quite a production. Different, but still guaranteed to take up your whole afternoon. I'm not talking about the intermediate method of naming your images correctly, burning them onto a CD, finding a little protector -- plastic? cardboard? -- and taking it to the post office. No, I'm now in the brave new future of online entry.
In theory online entry is a wonderful thing. Why mess around with hard media at all when you can just upload directly to the show sponsor?
Because this method is new, different show sponsors are using different interfaces, some more user-friendly than others. I entered a show a couple of weeks ago and found it to be the simplest, cleanest entry form I had ever seen. I zipped through it effortlessly; they didn't care how many pixels my images were or what I named them. I was feeling really good about this until I hit the "submit" button and nothing happened.
Usually you get a satisfying click, or the online equivalent, and a little message that says "thanks for submitting" or "your submission has been received." Nothing of the sort. My filled-in entry form just sat there for about a half hour, then disappeared. I thought about it for a while and decided to call the museum to inquire. Explained my problem to somebody's answering machine. She did call me back, a cause for relief right there, since the entry deadline was that very afternoon. And she wasn't really surprised; other people had complained of the same problem. She graciously suggested I just send the images by email and put a check in the mail.
Yesterday I put in two entries to the same art center, but two different shows. They suggested you preview the forms, because once you went to the online entry page you could never change your mind or hesitate, a Roach Motel for artists. I did, and finally felt ready to do the actual entry. This being an all-media show, they had three fields for dimensions, but my entries being two-dimensional, I simply entered height and width. I filled in all the rest of the fields, selected the images, hit the button and waited for about five minutes while it slowly uploaded.
But then I got the red screen of death. YOU DUMMY! It told me, YOU DIDN'T FILL IN DEPTH!!! And by the way, you have to attach all your images again and let them upload. What should I fill in for depth, I wondered, and decided to write 1/2 inch. Hit the button again, waited five more minutes for the images to upload -- and got the red screen of death again. YOU DUMMY! YOU DIDN'T FILL IN DEPTH RIGHT!!! And by the way, bla bla bla. This time I decided to write 1 inch, and five minutes later it uploaded successfully.
After finally finishing my entry for show #1, I moved on to show #2. Again I reviewed the rules in advance, which told me that the images had to be at least 1800 pixels on the longest side. That was nice, because I wouldn't have to resize my larger images. Except that after I got to the actual entry form, it wasn't at least 1800, but exactly 1800. Quick, resize all the images and hope the form didn't time out.
This show wanted an artist statement as part of the entry, so I had written it and checked the word count. But on the entry form, here was a field called "quilt inspiration." At first I thought this was something other than the artist statement, but apparently not. The only way I figured out this was the artist statement was that it said "maximum 100 words."
But here's the best part: on both shows, you had to tell them the completion date of your work -- down to the day! Which you didn't realize until you had opened the entry form. Do you remember what day in 2009 you finished your quilt? If not, are you going to race into the studio and review your diaries for the last couple of years, all the while hoping your form doesn't time out? I recalled that these quilts were entered in Quilt National, for which the deadline was mid-September last year, and I had finished them just barely in time, so I wrote down 09/01/2010. I extrapolated another date by checking when the photo had been taken and backdating a week or so. I suspect my guesses were a heck of a lot more accurate than those of 99% of the show entrants, and I have to wonder whose brilliant idea it was to request such detail, knowing practically everybody will make up the answer anyway.
All told, I spent the entire afternoon on these two entries. Granted, that includes fifteen minutes to take a new detail shot after I realized the one I already had showed a stray thread in the middle. The fifteen minutes includes the time it took to find the quilt, unpack it from its roll and hang it on the wall. Can't blame that on the show organizers. But I'm still unhappy over having to upload the images three separate times, five minutes a pop, because it didn't like my answer about depth.
Still a few bugs to work out, but at least I didn't have to go to the post office.