rejection and juried shows

It’s no secret that an artist’s life is a hard one. Yet every year art students graduate from good schools dreaming of becoming the next Picasso. What they don’t know is just how hard it will really get. The work is difficult and, more often than not, does not generate enough of a living to survive on. All my art friends work day jobs in order to pay the bills. It’s a given, you’ll work long hours for little financial compensation.

As if that’s not enough, add the emotional insult of being rejected from an exhibition because someone decided your work didn’t fit into the show. It doesn’t matter how skilled or advanced your work is, everyone has an opinion on what good art should be. I’ve suffered many rejections in my career, but instead of getting me down, it energized me, made me more determined to make my mark. Each time one of my paintings didn’t get into a show, I made sure I saw that exhibit to determine why. Sometimes it was an abstract show and my photorealistic paintings really didn’t fit. Sometimes it was simple logistics…too many paintings submitted and not enough room to hang them all. Also, sometimes the work accepted was so advanced my paintings just didn’t meet the same standard. I learned from all of it.

It was only after I had the opportunity to jury a major art exhibit did I realize how haphazard it really can be. First off, I was one of three jurors and we were asked to go through five hundred paintings over a two day period. Each painting submitted to the exhibition was numbered. We used a three point system. Number one meant “yes”, number two “no” and number three  “maybe”. This is where it gets complicated. After the three jurors independently went through all the paintings, we sat in a room together and went over our lists one painting at a time. Often we couldn’t agree, and we each allowed paintings into the show we didn’t agree with, in order to get in pieces we wanted. In the end, the show was compromised and weak.

There was a lesson in all this. No one should ever have the power over my art except myself. Tastes and opinions change, but the artist is the one who must stay true to his or her convictions.