I’ve been writing and painting regularly, after a long hiatus, for close to two years now. Part of what I do involves submitting work (written or visual) for publication, exhibit, or gallery representation. I’ve had varying results in both endeavors.
I started out with several initial submissions being accepted. I was on a roll it seemed and then I got my first rejection for an outdoor festival in my home town because they ran out of space. That didn’t seem so bad. It was over a year before I received another rejection this time of poetry I had submitted for publication. But at the same time I was getting that rejection I also got accepted into another publication and to a show. Things seemed to balance each other out. Does that mean all rejections result in the same reaction? Absolutely not.
There are some people who write short, terse rejections. You can tell they are ‘canned’ because they don’t provide any specific reason for why your work wasn’t accepted. I had one interaction with a literary editor of a magazine recently who could not explain why the same poets, writers, photographers and artists showed up multiple times in each of her publication. One of those repetitive contributors was the editor herself. I was indignant and discouraged.
How can you ever get noticed when publications pick their ‘favorites’ to support and you aren’t one of them? One way is to just put keep putting yourself out there and hoping you won’t get shot down too many times. The situation I just related left me angry. But some just leave you with a vague sense of sadness that permeates your every action for days. I received one of those this morning.
I had submitted work for representation in a new gallery in New York City. I knew it was a long shot but after looking at the work of the artists currently in their ‘stable’ I felt like I might actually have a chance. On top of that they were a very different kind of gallery – moving to various locations in the city for exhibits rather than having one brick-and-mortar location. I’ve been waiting for months to hear the results the longer I waited the more hopeful I became.
When I received the email that said they were still reviewing work and wouldn’t be finished until November, I tucked that away like one might do with a flower pressed in a handkerchief after a hopeful romantic encounter. The rejection I received was long and, overall, positive with my apparent main failing being a ‘thin Curriculum Vitae’. I assume that meant that I hadn’t been in enough shows and/or publications not that I didn’t have a degree in anything resembling fine art. Perhaps I should have felt good about the response but for some reason it left me with a malaise that I know will color several days to come.
No matter that this would have been like a Cockney flower girl being passed off as a Duchess I had let myself believe in the possibility. I have equated it to the resume of a newly graduated student which gets the response that they don’t qualify for the job because they don’t have enough experience. How can one get experience if no one gives them the chance. Even the positive statements were couched in mildly discouraging language for an artist just starting out in the autumn of their life.
There were works that they loved but not enough of them; amazing works submitted but not in line with the gallery’s mission. It’s funny, the pieces I submitted to them would be too daring for most regional galleries but for them they didn’t meet the need for artists whose work ‘pushes the boundaries’ and ‘challenges …visually and intellectually’. And of course my body of work was not ‘complete’ enough. So after two years of painting over 30 paintings a year my body of work is still too incomplete for gallery representation.
How is all of that supposed to make me feel? On the one hand it wasn’t an utter smack-down but it wasn’t what I’d call a confirmation of my artistic sensibilities either. So for the next several days I will be in a bit of a funk. I should have just had a good cry when I read the email and have been done with it. I’ll know better if there’s a next time.