Saturday, October 29, 2011

Self Doubt

I want to take a few minutes to write about something that we all, as artists, have experienced at one time or another: rejection. If you haven't yet, you will. This ugly word strikes fear in the heart of any aspiring artist who has swallowed that lump in her throat and risked entering a juried show. Juried shows, unlike open shows, allow the judge(s) to weed out any piece he/she feels is not worthy of judging. I have entered many shows over the course of my painting career. It comes with the territory. An artist spends hour after hour in the studio creating beauty and one of the only ways to share it and gain recognition for those efforts is to enter a show and display the piece. Early in my career some of my pieces were rejected.  When that happened I was always angry and full of angst about the perceived insult to my artistic "talent".  After all, many artists consider the production of a piece of art almost as painful as giving birth! I want to forget Marni Kotak, who decided to share a bit of "performance art" by giving birth in a New York gallery this week. I consider that a shameless display of self-promotion and a personal affront to artists everywhere who legitimately work on creating real art. I can say that because I've had some babies. It is work but it is not my creation- it's God's. I give Him all the credit where that is concerned. But you can see here the divide between what some people consider art and others consider 'private family stuff'. Anything in the name of art, right? I hope not.

Anyway, I am digressing. This rant is regarding rejection! I have a drawer full of ribbons that read "Best of Show" and "First Prize" so perhaps I have grown complacent. A few weeks ago I entered a piece in a small juried portrait show. When the little rejection card showed up in my mailbox this week I was stunned. I shouldn't have been, but I was. Filled with self-doubt, I questioned the actual quality of the painting I entered. Was it too dark? Too impressionistic? Was the message too obscure-- the focal point too vague? Many of  my artist friends had loved it and one confessed that she thought it might even win the Best of Show in this small local show. I had basked in their praise, not even considering that it might not even be accepted.

The hard truth is that not everyone is going to like your art. Art is, by definition, subjective. Which brings us back to the woman giving birth in the art gallery and calling it "performance art". Other people, many of them in positions of importance, actually agreed with her. They allowed her to set up a birthing room and publicized the event for her. Her baby's birth gave her that ubiquitous 15 minutes of fame. Judges are people too and they have their own preconceived ideas about what art should or shouldn't be.

If there's a lesson here it is to choose your shows wisely. Learn about the judge or judges and assess their qualifications. Are they people you admire or respect? Have they actually worked in the medium you use and are familiar with it? Is their work creative and wonderful or does it resemble the afterbirth? (OK, that was crude but I couldn't resist.) The show I entered did not announce who the judge would be and the last I heard this was not decided on even three weeks before the take-in. Be suspicious of shows that lack organization. Most shows require an entry fee and money is hard to come by these days. If the exhibition area is a room in an obscure location run the other way. Look for well- lit, well advertised shows and find out who the judge(s) are. I entered this show because it was sponsored by a group of painters I regularly paint with and I wanted to support their efforts. The venue was not a high profile gallery and will not see much traffic.

Don't be discouraged by rejection. Remember that it's only one person's opinion and many others won't agree with that opinion. If nine out of ten people find your work beautiful don't let that tenth person steal your joy. Above all, keep creating. It's what we as artists are made to do. :)

Here is the painting that was rejected. "Blind Date"

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