Friday, July 25, 2014


Here is a lovely photo of me at an art openings enjoying the wine, the cheese, the talking about art. Sure, it looks like a dream life that day, but rarely do artists talk about what went into the opening. No, I am not talking about marketing, or struggling to find time in your studio - I am talking about getting accepted. Not just for juried shows, but for grants, residencies, galleries, fellowships, solo show exhibits, publications. 

There is nothing worse than waiting to hear about that result -  a grant application, a fellowship application, a residency application. I feverishly check my email hourly on the day of the published announcement. Then the email arrives and I open to this:

We appreciate all the effort you put into the application proposal and thank you for giving us the opportunity to see your work. Unfortunately your proposal was not selected for funding. 


We regret to inform you that your submission was not selected

It is without a doubt completely disheartening to read. No matter what successes you have had in the past, your worth seems to rest upon that email or letter received at this moment. To read many of these a month is paramount to jumping out of a window. Recently, I read a post on Facebook about a fellow artist  friend who was very frustrated with a recent rejection. I thought what would I say to this person because I have been there, too. 

Here’s what I do: 

1   I step back and re-evaluate for what opportunity I was applying. I find it very helpful when the organization published  has published the “winners.”  I will soon discover that I was not a good fit for them. In other words, the committee selected all digital work, or traditional landscapes. Sometimes, it seems that I should have been selected. When I look at the work objectively, I think I should have been there.  If this is the case, I will place the application in a folder to reapply. Sometimes reapplying helps the cause. Maybe I haven’t had enough experience yet for that particular position. Maybe I need to fill out more applications to get really good at it.

2    Apply to more opportunities that are carefully selected to where you are NOW. Too many “yes”–es to exhibits, grants, etc. feels like I am not reaching high enough or maybe relying on the same opportunities too often. I challenge myself by pushing my boundaries and apply to new galleries or shows. Conversely, too many “no”-s  could be that I am overreaching. I study the competition by reviewing the resumes of artists that were selected. My a-ha moment was once I saw that the selected winners have had dozens of solo shows over the years, I realized that I was overreaching. I put that application in  a folder marked a couple of years from now. To stay in the game, you need to get out there and the important part here is to get back on the proverbially horse and re-apply to  better choices. 

3   Finally, I remember the primary reason why I make work. The real reason is not seek fame or fortune – although that would be nice. I think as people, we have a deep need to be understood, to be heard and seen, to be valued. It makes us feel real – like the Velveteen Rabbit. When that rejection comes through it is a reminder for me that I wasn’t seen or heard. I lick my wounds and get back to the studio. Before I can be seen or heard, I need to tell a story and it is the telling of that story that makes me want to create.  I look at what was submitted. Could my images have been photographed better? Could my selection of images been more cohesive? Does the root of the problem lie in the work itself? What do I need to say more clearly to be heard? 

      The most important part is believing in myself - even when those rejections come in.  What drives me  to keep going is this internal fire to keep making and creating and to be heard. I need my story to be heard even if the only person listening is me. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your insight. You, indeed are one creative enlightened artist. I am proud to know you and call you friend.