The Rejection

September 14, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Mov­ing to a new town is fun. New peo­ple, new inspi­ra­tion, new places. And, if you’re lucky, new pho­tog­ra­phy oppor­tu­ni­ties. And Nashville has been quite kind with those opportunities.

But then you get the note. “Thank you for apply­ing, but your work was not selected…” We’ve all received that mes­sage at var­i­ous times. I’ve cer­tainly got­ten my share of them before, but last week was the first time I’d been hon­ored with one since mov­ing here. And it broke the hot streak, which really I had no con­trol over any more than a MLB player’s socks have con­trol over his bat­ting aver­age. There are just so many fac­tors — the juror, the other sub­mis­sions, the pre­vi­ous work the juror saw, the goal of the call, etc. It’s as if the actual work is just a small, small piece of the puzzle.

And so it’s easy to get a lit­tle frus­trated, a lit­tle down. Why bother cre­at­ing any­thing if it might as well sit in a drawer? No one dreams of being Vivian Maier!

Accents 2014 #3

Accents 2014 #3

Sub­mit­ting work is a lit­tle like send­ing your child off to school. I’ve writ­ten about this before, and I still think it’s a work­able metaphor. You believe your work is unique and incred­i­ble but now your child will be part of a group where every­one believes their off­spring is spe­cial and has just so much to share with the world. And some­times your child doesn’t get picked for the lead role in the play, or even picked for any role. Which hurts, right? It stings and you feel judged both as a par­ent and you feel your child’s per­cep­tion of judgement.

But you pick them up, and you pick your­self up, and keep on with life. There are lessons in rejec­tion. We can hone our craft when we don’t make a cut. Even though there may not have been much con­trol over the selec­tion process, it is still an oppor­tu­nity to revisit and refine.

There will be future shows, and maybe even future shows where the same work is accepted. The time will come but only if we try again.

The Knoxville Show, July 2013

July 30, 2013 at 11:59 am

I have been show­ing work in gal­leries since 2000, but almost always in solo exhi­bi­tions. There is a com­fort in the solo show — you know all the work that will be there, you have con­trol over the lay­out and the flow of view. Group shows, in con­trast, have seemed far more ter­ri­fy­ing. What if my work is the worst? What if my work is great but stuck in a dim cor­ner by the trash cans? Many vari­ables, lit­tle control.

Although my child isn’t old enough to go to school, I envi­sion the process of drop­ping him off on the first day of school and then pick­ing up after to be sim­i­lar to the process of a group show. When I dropped off my work, I got a quick glimpse of the other pieces but no real time too con­sider them and see if they will mesh well with my work. Will there be fun? Will friends be made? And then when the open­ing exhi­bi­tion comes around, it is time to see how the pieces all came together. Is your work a good fit, part of the com­mu­nity? Does it stand out (in an encour­ag­ing or dis­tract­ing way?) Will there be tears or laugh­ter in the reception?

Of course, for every solo oppor­tu­nity, there are ten or twenty (or a hun­dred) group shows call­ing for artists. And since I’d always rather my work be shown to the pub­lic than stacked in my stu­dio, I have been apply­ing dili­gently for exhi­bi­tions. And ear­lier this sum­mer I had the oppor­tu­nity to be part of a group show in Knoxville. Below is a photo I made of my sub­mit­ted print with a lit­tle con­text of place­ment and sur­round­ing pieces.

Work at Emporium, Knoxville July 2013

Work at Empo­rium, Knoxville July 2013

First off, I have to share that I didn’t win any of the eli­gi­ble prizes (Best in Travel cat­e­gory, Best of Show) but the pieces that did win were exquis­ite. I was very happy with the results of the juried com­pe­ti­tion. The win­ning pieces in my cat­e­gories were well com­posed, well exe­cuted and well printed. Kudos to them.

That said, the biggest sur­prise was the crowd. It was a well attended event (maybe two or three hun­dred atten­dees?) and my work had a fair amount of atten­tion. At least some of it was com­men­tary along the lines of “It’s just a bath­room cab­i­net, I could have done that” — which is admit­tedly some of the most qui­etly grat­i­fy­ing crit­i­cism out there. But I did over­hear some praise for the color rep­re­sen­ta­tion and detail to the tex­ture and form of the sub­ject. An expected mix.

Of those whose work as in the show, I’d say that forty of the fifty rep­re­sented artists attended the open­ing. And that is where I heard the most sur­pris­ing com­men­tary. The grip­ing from the pho­tog­ra­phers around the Best of Show piece — Som­merville #84 on the artist’s web­site — was astound­ing. “It’s just a bunch of black with a build­ing” or “Who cares about an auto shop” or “It is so bor­ing” …I sup­pose I should not have been sur­prised, but I def­i­nitely was dis­ap­pointed. One artist on the street was telling oth­ers walk­ing in “Don’t bother, they chose a stu­pid photo for the win­ner.” So, so sad that appre­ci­a­tion of work passed by for so many people.

All that said, I was def­i­nitely glad I sub­mit­ted and went to the exhi­bi­tion. It was a good excuse to get to Knoxville and check out down­town, make con­nec­tions with a few other artists, and see how my work looked hung and in con­text of other artists and their photography.

Thanks to the Empo­rium in Knoxville and the Knoxville Arts & Cul­ture Alliance for host­ing the show. It was great fun, and I was hon­ored to be a part of the exhibition.