This weekend I went out on a couple of shoots. For starters, on Saturday, I went over to the Hill Country Water Gardens and Nursery to shoot their Lily Blossom Festival. The lily blossoms were in full bloom and there was free bar-b-que there. It was crowded but then, I should have known that by the state of the free BBQ. Still, I good shoot, I think I got a nice flower or two and it was a nice day out so I enjoyed myself a little bit.
Then, yesterday, I went over to downtown Round Rock, in sort of the old town area for a night shoot. The shoot was supposed to start at 7:45 and run for an hour, the problem is that I had wanted to do NIGHT shooting (you know, after it actually gets dark) so I had to wait for the sun to set. I dragged out the trusty old tripod and walked around downtown in the Round Rock area to get some night shots. It was a nice night even if I don’t think I got anything worth keeping.
While I was over there, I was talking to a friend and told her that I had just submitted work for a particular show. “Oh, isn’t the juror for that…?” she asked. Yes, indeed, the juror was a woman who, as it turns out, we both know and have a history with. The woman in question, the juror in this case, is somebody who HATES my work. I mean, not just HATES but like HATES HATES. I’m so convinced she HATES my work so much that, I swear, I get this mental image of me drowning in a lake and her not lifting a finger to save me. I could see my limbs actually flailing about in the water and me shouting, “Help! HELP! HELLLLLPPPPP!” while she just say on the beach (or by the side of the pool) sunning herself. Seriously. Like she HATES my work that much.
As I was talking to my friend, she told me how this deep hatred goes even further, “she’s rejected work by almost everybody in Barbara’s old group.” Yes, it’s true, this “jury monster” lady not only HATES my work but she’s rejected the work of my entire GROUP. That’s like an entire movement of people-an entire art movement-she’s rejected soundly. HATES, HATES, HATES us all, or so the image in my head has already played out. Like, seriously. I have visions of her with bloody fangs, a pitchfork and a tail. That’s the kind of hate I’m envisioning here. (Imagine somebody saying something along the lines of, “I really HATE those cubists!” and then knocking them every chance they get, at each and every turn, and you start to see what I’m envisioning here.)
An interesting thing about this though, as I started to think about it a bit more. I’m sure she doesn’t actually really HATE me. I mean, I’m sure, I’m reasonably sure, if I were found drowning she would probably lend a hand. Most artists are nice people, even if they prop up a veneer of being “larger than life” or even if egos and the ugliness of the business gets in the way. Honestly, the art world is filled with good and decent people and artists are some of the nicest most compassionate people I know. Nice, nice, nice, right?
So, why on earth do I have this vision of fangs and a pitchfork?
It’s the nature of juried shows. The juried shows tend to prop up the juror. The juried shows tend to make the entrants feel small. The juried shows, they accept only 12 people (or some such thing) out of 300 entries (heck, sometimes 3000.) The juried shows, why they can make you feel small even if you are the most thick skinned person going. Juried show? Yes, they can be ugly, but people behind them? Maybe not so much, at least not as much as I had once thought.
There really are no juried monsters. In fact, I’d go as far as to say, if you asked this woman, if you honestly asked this women, “do you know XXX’s work?” and filled in the name of somebody (anybody, we’re not just talking about me here) from Barbara’s group, the juried monster, the same juried monster I envisioned having fangs and tail and, oh, I don’t know, leaving me to drown, would probably say something like, “Oh, I know that group! They do great work!”
If you haven’t figured this out already, there are no juried monsters and nobody hates you, specifically nobody HATES your work, they just maybe like something better than what you’ve presented to them at any given moment. When young children had nightmares and wild fantasies about monsters under the bed, art critics do not come crawling out with fangs and hooves and all sorts of odd pitchforks, tails, and the like. It just doesn’t work that way. To use a movie term, they aren’t “the bad guys.” They are only artists (like yourself!) trying to do a job, and they are trying to do the best job they can do. Somebody shoves a bunch of work under their nose, they sniffle, and say, “There! That one!”” and then get on with their lives, they aren’t, in fact, “out to get you” (whatever that means.)
A few years ago, I was rejected from a show (well, I’ve been rejected from better shows since then, but bear with me on this story, as it has a point, we’re getting to it, and it just might help you out too.) Shortly after getting my, ahem, oh so “lovely” rejection letter in the mail, I went to an art opening-it was a different/unrelated art opening. Sure, it was a fun opening, the work was all nice and all, but guess who was there? Yup, the juror from the first show! Can you say “awkward?” Oh no! There I was trapped between the little glasses of cheap wine and the crap on a stick artwork that was showing at the moment in this other, completely unrelated gallery.
I tried to hide behind some sculpture and figured that “mean girl #1” the jury monster would not bother to talk to the likes of little ole’ me (I mean, she was, after all, the big bad art juror and there I was, teeny little “art peon”) I kept trying to avoid her, not look in her general direction, and the like but, unfortunately for me, the gallery was small and I could not really leave (as much as I wanted to.) Much to my horror, at some point in the evening, the “jury monster” came over to me and started chatting up the group of artists I was talking to at the time. And, much to my horror, one of my friends actually said something to her, spoke to her, something like, “Oh, do you know Carol?”
I was horrified! I thought for certain she was going to say something like, “oh, yes, I know….HER” and look down her nose upon me. After all, this was the jury monster who had just rejected me. How could she possibly do anything other than that, right? What surprised me was what she actually said.
“Oh, yes, I know her work. Hello, Carol, it’s nice to meet you, I’m a big fan of your work, I’m….”
What?!? WHAT?!?! Really? If you’re such a big fan they, why oh why did you reject me? And how do you come off being so nice about it?!?!
It took me a long time to accept the fact that the jury monster doesn’t always get to take work he or she likes into the show-that sometimes work has to “go” with other work and that means, if you do work that’s “different” (and by “different” I mean actually different in any way, like say maybe even being “blue” as opposed to being “red”) they might not be able to show your work. And some galleries only want to show certain types of work and yours might not fit. And some galleries only have room for so much work and yours might not fit. And some jurors want to, oh I don’t know, give beginners a break or give a show only to very established artists or whatever and you, why you, frankly might just not fit. There are so many, so very many reasons to reject work for a show, many of which have nothing actually to do with you or your work. It’s easy to get rejected. It’s downright easy and expected and you just have to deal with it. Some days you are the pigeon and some days the statue, right? (Yes, I know that’s easier to say than it is to hear but that’s how the art world is.)
In case you could not guess by now, there really are no jury monsters. They really don’t hate you. Nobody hates you, it’s just a numbers game and, frankly, the only way to win it is to be in it so, if you’re an artist go out and do what it is you do. Just do it! You’re going to get rejected, yes, you will, but you’re going to get accepted too. Just keep going and, at some point, I promise, the acceptance pile is going to be larger than the rejection pile. There are no jury monsters, they are all just people and they love your work, really they do, even if they themselves don’t know it quite yet. Go ahead, make them a believer! You know you can do it. Don’t take rejection personally, just take it and move on, make bigger and better work and go out and get rejected from bigger and better places.
As for me and the juried show this year, my friend swears I’m going to get in and that this, in fact, will be “my year” for overcoming this particular jury monster. I tend to disagree with her, and I tend to think I’m going to get rejected yet again but, in some ways, in some small ways, I’ve already won this battle. You see, I’ve slayed the “jury monster” that existed in my mind. The fangs, hooves, and pitchforks? Why, they’ve already been run out of town. I’m left with a renewed sense of optimism.
It’s ok if you don’t like my work, that doesn’t make you some kind of a monster. You’re just a person with likes and dislikes and tastes and attitudes and, hey, it’s great if you like my stuff but, you know what? It’s just as great if you don’t. I do hope you find something you *do* like and that you enjoy that to its fullest, no matter what it looks like, heck, even if it has pitchforks and a tail because that’s what art is. On some level, it’s all about acceptance and love and that’s the kind of stuff that makes the world go ’round. It’s not about getting into one show or even into one gallery, it’s about doing what we do and keeping it going, making better work each time we go into the studio. It’s about making work I feel comfortable in presenting and work that expresses myself, how I think and how I feel, and you know what? Some people might not feel that way or like what I do. It’s takes all types for the world to go around so I’m going to let them have their peace and keep on doing what it is I do because that’s just who I am. My art reflects me, yes, but there’s room for everybody in this great big blue ball of a world. I’m not going to take it personally if I get rejected, nor am I going to stop doing what I do. I’ll just take it in stride and keep going, because that’s just the kind of artist I am, right? I’m doing the type of art I’m supposed to be doing and some people will get it and like it, or love it, and some won’t.
There just are no monsters in that equation. There’s just taste, and style, and a matter of personal selection and who am I to argue with that, right?
Until next time…