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When “Last Dim Sum in Singapore” won entry in the 2010 All Florida Competition and Exhibition, Boca Raton Museum of Art, I was completely surprised because it depicted a city halfway around the world, as far away from Florida as you could get without leaving the planet. Maybe the juror wanted to show the international flavor of the exhibition, though only Florida artists were allowed to enter.
When I returned home after delivering the painting to the museum, I felt like I had lost a brother. I had never been so fond of a painting and didn't know what it was like to part with it. I imagined it hanging on a wall in that dark museum surrounded by the strangest things. You know, artworks.
When I saw the painting hanging in the most prominent place in the gallery and a photo of it used in the brochure to accompany the juror's statement, I was excited about winning a prize. After all, the juror, Linda Norden, had written, “I’m partial to direct, clear expression--painterly, structural, but also things that are hyper-real, as in some of the realist and surreal paintings and photos submitted.... I found myself being toughest on the photography, given the preponderance of photographic imagery these days, and how easy it is to manipulate images digitally."
What better judge could a painter like me have, an artist who uses plant oils, animal-hair brushes, and rough cotton canvas, imperfect tools from his own hands, not a computer? Well, so I thought. The best of show turned out to be an odd assortment of chairs displayed in a room somewhere outside the main gallery, a room that few visitors knew existed or even saw. I could understand Norden's problem with making aesthetic judgments in an era when aesthetics is so diverse and trendy, but when she stated, "I'm also looking for work that's arousing, without relying on cheap shots," how could she have picked such a work that most art lovers would call a “cheap shot?”
"I want to be excited or surprised or moved or made to laugh," she stated. Well, I'm sure everyone who attended was just that. And I wonder where all those ugly chairs went. My Last Dim Sum is back home where it should be.