March 2018 Issue
It was my first day at the School of Visual Arts, and I was waiting for a class called Third Year Critique to begin. As I nervously looked around my new classroom, it dawned on me that one of these things was not like the other…and that “one thing” was me. The rest of my classmates were holding archival print boxes while I held a black pleather portfolio book. Their oversized boxes contained bodies of work all surrounding a conceptual theme, mainly nude self-portraits…eek. In stark contrast, mine was filled with individual “real world assignments” with commercial concepts like “still life fragrance.” At the Fashion Institute of Technology, my previous college, projects were handed to the professor, returned with a letter grade and maybe a technical note to bring out the highlights. Needless to say, the concept of standing in front of a group of peers requesting feedback was entirely foreign to me.
With my back to the class, I pulled the prints from their plastic sleeves, tacked them to the wall and babbled as I introduced myself as the new girl. Turning around to greet my new classmates I was met with silence…like crickets-chirping complete silence. I had no idea I was supposed to explain my work or ask my peers questions to prompt their advice. I just stood there with my heart pounding until the professor finally broke the tension with “…Thank you…we look forward to seeing your progression this year. Who’s next?” Seriously, that’s it? Shouldn’t he have at least found something to say like, “you have nice composition I might suggest XYZ.” Gee thanks guy, I’m SO glad I’m paying private school tuition for this!
Listen I got it. The room’s muteness spoke loudly - my old commercial work did not fit in this new fine-art marketplace. But there’s a big difference between criticism and critique. In the classes’ effort to be polite à la “if you don’t have anything nice to say,” I was being robbed of the ability to flourish. Oh and you better bet I flourished, I was not going into college debt for nothing! Next class, I walked in with the start of a body of work and a list of questions so long it nearly hit the floor. I shut my mouth, and I listened…I probably almost pooped my pants, but I made it! I had survived my first real constructive critique.
Putting yourself out there and asking for honesty from qualified peers whose opinion you respect remains a fundamental part of my business....hell it IS my business! Have you ever opened yourself up to a constructive critique? Maybe it’s time to ask up, zip up and listen up because feedback is your friend.
PS: I don’t just talk the talk I also walk the walk. So I’m putting myself in the hot seat to ask for your feedback my, faithful friends. Please take five minutes to (honestly) answer five (anonymous) questions and support Editor’s Edges’ growth.