It was a pleasure to serve as juror for the second “We Are SNAG” online exhibition, “Contemporary Smiths.” When I first joined SNAG over 30 years ago, none of us were using the internet, e-mail, digital images, or computers. At that time, we entered exhibitions with 35mm slides or actual works sent through the mail. Surely, no one in those days would have considered the possibility or value of a “virtual exhibition.” Over the years, my own professional career has been enriched through engagement in the camaraderie, education, and valuable programs SNAG sponsors, such as Metalsmith, the annual conferences, and exhibitions like “We Are SNAG.”
When Sue, Greg and I met in early September, to select works for “We Are SNAG: Contemporary Smiths,” we had several discussions about what constituted “contemporary smithing” among the artworks we were reviewing. Our goal was to select the highest caliber of work, representing the broadest range of ideas and processes from among the submissions. Because this is a virtual exhibition, we paid close attention to the presence and impact of each photographic image representing an artwork, and used this criterion as a gauge of the artist’s or designer’s overall professionalism. We also looked for more than a display of mere technical mastery: we sought those works that made a statement and revealed a unique personality or vision.
The Old English origin of the word smith, smitan, meaning to strike or hit hard, connotes forging and manipulation practices used to shape and form metal. While some works selected for this exhibition might have not have been smithed in the traditional sense, we strove to select those that were creatively informed by smithing practices. Our choice included smithing in the traditional manner, represented by such artists as Joost During, David Huang, Zach Lihitsh, and Patrick Quinn, whose technical skill presents a deft handling of metal with the use of hammering processes. Yet other selections are more whimsical, speculative, or conceptual versions of contemporary smithing: these include the works of Joshua Kosker, Peter Evonuk, and Masako Onodera.
While we were highly impressed with the quality and vitality of the works submitted, we also noticed that many noteworthy artists, whose work fits the theme of the exhibit, did not choose to enter the exhibition. The membership of SNAG comprises a great diversity of contemporary “smiths,” from blacksmiths, goldsmiths, silversmiths, bladesmiths, and related categories: artists, designers and makers whose works encompass traditional craft practices to more theoretical, conceptual interpretations.
I applaud the artists, designers and makers who entered this year’s “We Are SNAG” exhibition, along with our invaluable host of volunteers, and the SNAG leadership, all of whom helped to make the exhibition possible. I hope that viewers of “We Are SNAG: Contemporary Smiths” will be inspired by the works presented here. We trust that the exhibition will motivate viewers to stay involved with SNAG, and continue to enjoy its abundant opportunities for developing artwork and putting new ideas forward. It is through diversity and engagement that SNAG will continue to showcase and stimulate the art of our time.
- Tom Muir