As I mentioned in my last post, ‘tis the season for juried art exhibits. Those of us who have entered these events have a variety of tales to tell, like ghost stories whispered around a campfire.
My original intent for this post was to share a few of those stories, to reveal what actually happens when artists are ushered out of the gallery and the judge is left alone to pick the artwork they believe deserves notice. I was going to share the honest to goodness truth: the judge who evaluated over 200 pieces of artwork in the span of just a few minutes; committees who create such convoluted rules and guidelines that there can be no such thing as “Best Of”; artists who chose their winners based on favorite colors.
Oh, I’ve got stories! And in all fairness I was also going to share positive observations of judges who agonized over their choices, and responded with intelligence and compassion.
However, what occurs to me after spending entirely too much time on memory lane howling with indignation, delight and laughter at these anecdotes is this: it is not whether you win a ribbon or not, or even whether you get in the show.
The issue is not what happens – or doesn’t happen. The issue is how we react to what happens.
My own personal stack of rejection letters - ouch!
When you enter the world of competitive exhibiting of any nature, you accept another person’s opinion of the value of your work.
Let me say that again: you agree to accept another person’s opinion of the value of your work. Not of you yourself personally, your work; your sculpture or your car or your dance step. That’s part of the bargain.
If you don’t fare well you can choose to focus on the weakness or the lack of talent or the obvious favoritism of the judge – or you can learn from the situation. I’m not thinking of the How-To-Get-Into-Art-Shows kind of solution. I’m thinking more along the lines of personal inquiry: why does it bother me so much? What do I hope to get out of this? How much weight do I give this win/loss? How important is this really?
Painful as it is, losing can be more instructional than winning. Evaluating yourself and your art will lead to more growth than will polishing a trophy – or blaming someone’s poor taste.
So what’s the conclusion of all this?
Elevating your game is important, and part of that is finding a way to challenge your belief in yourself and your self-imposed limits. Exhibiting your creative work in an environment in which you open yourself to criticism is tough but educational, if you can take it. Accepting the realities of each particular scenario is another piece. Selection committees and judges are people complete with all their quirks and oddities. That is a fact.
It’s up to each of us to decide how important that game is. You get to decide how often, or even whether, you play.
So, what’s your game?