BANGOR, Maine — Just what does George Kinghorn know about the painters currently working in the Middle Atlantic States?
Not much, the University of Maine Museum of Art director admitted recently. But Kinghorn considered his unfamiliarity as just another challenge he faced while serving as a juror for New American Paintings, a bimonthly juried art exhibition in print that surveys the top contemporary painters working in the United States.
There are six regional editions of the national magazine. Kinghorn juried the edition that covers the mid-Atlantic region, which comprises Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
“I’ve done a lot of work in the larger markets like [Los Angeles] and New York, but I had very limited knowledge going into this process of artists working in the mid-Atlantic states,” Kinghorn said recently. “It was a great opportunity for me to get to know [the area]. That’s one of the most rewarding things about being asked to jury a publication like this. It was a wonderful learning experience for me and obviously provides fuel for my own curatorial projects.”
Kinghorn said he’s not sure if the publisher, Open Studios Press in Boston, intentionally places jurors in unfamiliar areas, but Kinghorn feels there’s a benefit to the system.
“You’re not just relying on a curator who knows a specific group of artists,” he said. “I liked that. I have to say, there’s not one single artist in this book I ever really worked with before.”
Kinghorn said the periodical’s publishers told him he is the first Maine museum professional to curate an issue of New American Paintings.
Another big challenge for Kinghorn was choosing just 40 painters from the more than 800 submissions.
“Just the process of going through the quantity of submissions takes a long time,” Kinghorn said. “There are so many artists who are working a wide range of genres, styles and approaches to the media, from representational imagery to abstraction.”
In addition to sparking ideas for his own work, Kinghorn said, the experience was valuable in that the periodical gives some recognition to the UMMA. The cover has a graphic showing his name and the museum’s name.
Kinghorn was also recently in Boston to help jury a survey of students in Master of Fine Arts programs from Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
“One of my goals since I arrived here is to increase the visibility of the University of Maine Museum of Art, certainly throughout the region, and ensure that people begin to come and see the UMMA as a valuable resource for modern and contemporary art,” said Kinghorn, who was hired last May. “As a museum professional, engaging in these types of opportunities is very important.”
New American Paintings is available at many bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and Borders.