The Politics of Critiquing Art

article written by Erika Sampson

Okay so the photo that I took for this is so totally staged. But can we just pretend that I am this artsy when I critique submissions?

My weekly critiquing task does somewhat resemble the photo, just not as perfectly staged. I always have a notebook, my laptop, my glasses (no brainer), and at times the cactus joins the party too. Every week I receive anywhere from ten to twelve pieces of art, which are organized into what is referred to as a ‘subpack’. I receive new subpacks roughly every seven days, and to put it simply, it is not an easy task.

I am a History and Political Science student, so I am very used to reading and picking things apart everyday of the week. At times however, these subpacks are unlike anything I cover in class, which makes sense. My program is very logic centered, whereas this is very creatively centered. I would call myself a creative person, but it is refreshing to read these artistic pieces every once and while. It makes life a little more interesting, and gets me out of my comfort zone.

I treat these weekly subpacks like mini assignments. They are tasks that go into my weekly planner, and as enjoyable as it is to read poetry and rate art, it can be tricky at times too. I approach these subpacks like one of my TAs, as objective as possible, and with as much of an open mind as I can. Each subpack generally takes me about an hour to read and interpret. On top of school and my part time job, my plate can be quite full.

But this leads me to the point of all this, why make my life more busy than it is already? Well, great question, I do it because these are the skills I wish to excel at. I am someone who never wants to leave school, and I would love to further my career in academia, either pursuing a Masters in History, or Museum Curating.

Wow, you might think, super cool! Well, yes actually, the nerd inside me is jumping up and down at the thought; but it also means I need to practice my ‘critical thinking’ all the time. I need to immerse myself in a variety of subjects in order to be the best. Ottawa Arts Review has exposed me to themes and styles that my program has not, and for that I am grateful. I think it also helps to have readers who are not necessarily English majors, as this keeps the interpreting process different too.

In a perfect world I would be writing this in my pjs with a hot cup of coffee in hand, looking out my apartment window, at the start of a new day. In actuality, I am sitting in between classes finishing my response, while emailing professors, and figuring out my exams. “Is that not what being in academia is all about?” I certainly hope so dear reader, because it’s challenging enough, and I would not change it for the world.

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