Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Art of Rejection

It is the blog post I have been waiting to write. I am feeling a bit deflated by yet another rejection. I really had my hopes up with this one. The description of the exhibition sounded like a perfect fit for my work. And now, after giving my studio work full time status, I can take time to consider how my work might mesh with an exhibition’s theme. I looked critically at the images I made and selected just the right ones; the ones that encapsulated the open call description AND looked good for mere aesthetic reasons. I did not submit any old thing to see what sticks. This time, I really worked at it.

The stakes were high as I decided before submitting to this organization that if I received another rejection, I would consider not submitting my work to them ever again. There’s only so much rejection a person can take before it becomes demeaning. To give you an idea, I think I’ve submitted my work to this organization at least 10 times in the last 3 years. I don’t need to do the math, I know I spent at least 300 of my dollars to apply: pittance for a nonprofit trying to produce exhibitions and pay staffers. In this case, I didn't want to continue throwing my money down a drain, so to speak, if there’s no chance of getting accepted. 

I got rejected by this place, again.

I went through the stages of rejection grief: annoyance, anger, resentment, jealousy (well who DID get into this show!??), self-pity, defiance (I’m a damn art star, they don’t know what they’re doing), anger (again), self-pity (again) and then, finally, acceptance. Spending time with these emotions takes only 45 minutes to an hour of my concentration, but that is still an hour lost.

After the rejection, I spent some time studying the organization’s website and realized it was not for me anyway. (Why did it take me so long to discover this???) I do get into juried shows at other places. Many of the artists represented in the shows at this particular gallery had the same credentials as I did. But my work did not resemble the aesthetics that this gallery espoused. It was time for me to move on and break up with the organization that was just not that into me.

In all seriousness, I think it’s fair to expect certain things of organizations that do a lot of juried shows, especially those that charge submission fees. Here is my list of preferables:

1. Let the applicants know who will jury the show. (If it is listed, we know you will pick good people, with very good credentials to determine our fate.)

     2. List who got into the show, preferably not just by name. Show examples of their work, ALL of their work, in a catalog or online show format (But preferably online so all of us can access the results. Why suggest we attend the show if we live hundreds, maybe thousands of miles away? Even a link to the artist’s websites would be good.)

3. Stop picking the same artists if your format is open call! Seriously. If you want to pick particular artists, then just curate the shows you want to curate. I do think there is merit to blind juries because of this. One organization I used to admire I am cutting off for this very reason.

4. Come up with good exhibition themes. Sometimes you need to put together a show and that’s that. We’ve all had some curatorial clunkers. Some places, they repeatedly do such boring open calls based on content, like a call for portraiture, or calls by media or even size. I ask: why would you want to curate a show about that? How does that add to an intellectual discussion or show the best art out there? Without strong curatorial vision, the exhibitions are not that great no matter who gets in.

5. Stop hiking up submission fees higher than the average 35 – 40 bucks a submission, especially when your artists are low income (aka all artists). One gallery, I’ll just say it’s in the region, had a ludicrous submission fee of 55 bucks and up, for only 3 pieces. It made the organization look like it had bad business practices and no planning. It made me think this gallery wouldn’t be around for much longer.

6. Consider member’s shows that serve your local and/or favorite artists. Good galleries do this. This way you can serve artists in your immediate vicinity or ones who pay to support the gallery as well as branch out to discover new artists through open calls.

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