By the number of reminders in my mailbox, it's Membership Renewal Time! Arts organizations across the country are reminding me to plunk down $20, $30, even $60 for another year of membership in their exclusive we-only-let-a-few-of-you-in clubs.
The prevailing wisdom is that it's important to join professional organizations to show. . . well. . . how professional you are.
One priviledge of membership in professional arts organizations is that you, as a member in good standing are allowed to use the initials of that organization after your name. For instance, signing my name P Scarborough, IAAPPG would show the world that I am a member of the International Amazing Artist's Professional Painters Guild. Proving of course that I am Amazing as well as Professional.
My signature is already tricky enough to scrawl across a painting as it is.
Not quite messy enough for medical credentials, and not florid enough for signing declarations of independence or anything else, my signature will not improve by adding any more letters.
But I digress.
The importance of adding letters behind a signature is to ensure for Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Patron the validity and quality of a work of art. I know this because the organizations with which I hold membership tell me so.
Imagine this scenario:
Mr. & Mrs. Patron are looking at a fabulous painting by, oh, say, P Scarborough.
©2010 PScarborough Firefly Morning 36x48 oil
In hushed tones, she says, "I love it. I must have it...even if it doesn't match my sofa". To which Mr. Patron says, "Of course! The composition is strong, yet subtle. The artist is a master of her technique, rendering light with a skill and understanding unseen in other paintings in this gallery. And yet..."
"What is it darling? " Mrs. Patron responds with alarm.
"There are no letters. No alphabet soup after the nearly illegible signature indicating membership in a professional organization thereby indicating quality."
"No darling. Without those letters this painting could be, well, un-professional."
And Mr. Patron gently takes Mrs. Patron by the elbow and directs her to another painting, one that matches her sofa perfectly, and has extra letters attached to the signature. "You see, dear? It's a better piece. It has letters."
I haven't decided whether or not to renew my memberships for the coming year. It's a risk, not having letters. Patrons might whisper about me behind my back. They might leave me, unable to stand the risk of adding a letter-less artist to their collection. On the other hand, it's kind of exciting to be a rebel, fighting the good fight, armed only with a palette, a handful of brushes and a canvas or two.
When did it become de rigeuer to join up? Tell me, do I need letters?