Every three years, the Boise Art Museum shines a light on contemporary art across the Gen state with its Idaho Triennial, a show that takes a snapshot of contemporary art, through the lens of an out-of-state juror.
Juror John D. Spiak curated the “2017 Idaho Triennial.” The director and chief curator of the Grand Central Art Center at California State University, Fullerton in Santa Ana, Calif., says in Idaho he found art that “pushes the bounds of the art world.”
BAM received 917 entries from 180 Idaho artists; Spiak selected 41 pieces by 24 artists that fit his criteria.
Jurying a show is a very personal task.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, the work has to first be interesting to me,” he says. “That’s how the process works. My perspective is based on what I’ve seen and the experiences in my life up to now.”
Spiak has a broad perspective of contemporary art across the board from performance to fine art. Since the late 1980s, he’s worked at galleries and museums, and at Arizona State University. He now heads the blocklong multimedia arts center that is a partnership between Cal State Fullerton and the City of Santa Ana. It holds multiple gallery spaces for visual art, event and performance spaces, black-box spaces for theater and film, and live/work studios for graduate art students and artists in residence.
This is his second time working with Idaho artists. Spiak served on an Idaho Commission on the Arts selection panel for the visual arts fellowships in 2012. He toured Boise State’s graduate student studios and the Boise Art Museum.
For the Triennial, Spiak received the 180 artists’ submissions digitally, then he spent hours digging into the work, contemplating it and feeling his responses.
“I looked for what’s moving the field forward, what’s progressive, for things I haven’t seen before and what’s challenging the concepts and realities of the current art world,” he says. “I also think a museum should explore and challenge those conceptions and show work that might not have an opportunity to be shown in a commercial gallery.”
The other challenge is that the work must hold together as a cohesive show, so Spiak considered the mix of media, the subject matter and other elements that help these 41 works hold together.
Spiak’s choices include video, sound and sculpture installations, digital photography, plus traditional painting, sculpture and drawing done with a contemporary edge. So, you will not see traditional landscapes or figurative works.
This collection says something about art in Idaho and the Northwest, but it also speaks to what’s happening around the world, Spiak says.
“Of course, art will be influenced by where you live, but that doesn’t mean artists in Idaho don’t make work that’s in the global dialogue. They do,” he says.
For artists, getting into a show like this daunting, especially when there is so much good work out there, says ceramicist and Boise State art professor Caroline Earley, whose pieces “Clinch II” and “Aftermath” are in the show.
“You put your best work forward and see what happens,” Earley says. “It’s about the right piece at the right time with the right curator. When it comes together, it’s awesome. But you never know. I just feel lucky.”
This is her second Idaho Triennial. In 2013, her ceramic installation “Domestic Disturbance” took the top prize. Earley came to BSU in 2010 from New Zealand, where she lived for many years and where she recently won the prestigious Portage Ceramics Award, which gauges ceramic arts in that country. This year, she has sculptures in the show from two different bodies of work.
The Idaho Triennial started as the annual Idaho Art Exhibit in the mid-1950s when the museum was called the Boise Art Gallery. As the museum added galleries and began running exhibits longer, programming became more complicated, and the annual show became a biennial in 1979, then a triennial in 1991. The time frame also allows artists to create new work.
Spiak will be in Boise for the “2017 Idaho Triennial” opening and to decide the exhibit’s cash awards.
The ‘2017 Idaho Triennial’ artists
Boise: Multimedia artist Jill AnnieMargaret, digital artist Brooke Burton, Ashley Carlson, video artist Braxton Duncan, ceramicist and Boise State art professor Caroline Earley, multimedia installation artist and an instructor at College of Western Idaho Goran Fazil, sculptor Thomas Finnegan, fine art photographer and Boise State art professor John Francis, painter Geoffey Krueger, mixed-media sculptor Pete Kutchins, sculptor and fiber artist Rachel Lambert, sculptor and Boise State assistant professor Lily Martina Lee, multimedia artist John McMahon, mixed media drawing on paper Troy Passey, multimedia artist Jessie Proksa and mixed-media artist Reba Robinson.
Meridian: Fine art photographer Inna Raw and painter Rena Vandewater.
Twin Falls: Mixed-media installation artist and College of Southern Idaho art professor Milica Popović and multimedia sound artist Chad Seelig.
‘2017 Idaho Triennial’
Saturday, Feb. 18, to Sunday, July 16, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. 670 Julia Davis Drive. $6 general, $4 seniors, $3 grades 1-12 and full-time college. Free for ages 5 and younger and members. Donations on First Thursday. 345-8330, BoiseArtMuseum.org.