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On Rejection and Acceptance

“There’s nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.” James Lee Burke

A really cool thing happened this week. A submission I made to a juried exhibit was rejected .

  • note #1 I very nearly wrote I was rejected

  • note #2 I am quite serious, in the end this was a cool thing, read on...

Let’s s start at the beginning. The artist's association I belong to ( out a call for a show of works honoring the Fauves. The Fauves, as explained in the website, The Art story ( were a loosely affiliated group of French painters inspired by the paintings of Vincent vanGogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, and Paul Cézanne.

Key Ideas One of Fauvism's major contributions to modern art was its radical goal of separating color from its descriptive, representational purpose and allowing it to exist on the canvas as an independent element. Color could project a mood and establish a structure within the work of art without having to be true to the natural world. Another of Fauvism's central artistic concerns was the overall balance of the composition. The Fauves' simplified forms and saturated colors drew attention to the inherent flatness of the canvas or paper; within that pictorial space, each element played a specific role. The immediate visual impression of the work is to be strong and unified. Above all, Fauvism valued individual expression. The artist's direct experience of his subjects, his emotional response to nature, and his intuition were all more important than academic theory or elevated subject matter. All elements of painting were employed in service of this goal.

When I read through the prospectus, I first I thought I would go through my work and find some work that corresponds to their tenets, brightly colored simplified forms ... I looked at the work of the Fauvists in books and on line. ( It was a short lived movement as art movements go) and decided I would assign myself a task to create a new "Fauve" work, my own individual expression of my direct experience of a landscape. I decided to take Andre Derain as my mentor. Here is one of his paintings.

Next I picked landscape. I had recently changed my route to work so that I could drive by this section of the Passaic river twice a day. One Friday on the way home, I went wandering through a wooded area on the side of the river and took photographs on my Iphone . I went through the images and picked out one to use as inspiration.

I made choices about color, like I always do when painting, but I created the composition based on the Fauve's approach to composition, and I imitated their paint handling. Now here is the important part, (remember this later. ) I had fun doing this painting.

I was quite pleased with the outcome. Now, back to the submission part of the story... I made my submission with great confidence. That never happens. For me, applying to a juried show is like buying a lottery ticket, sort of. A very wise woman once explained to me that every artist should watch a juror select work for a show. She told me there are two steps.

  • In the first step they select the work that they find appropriate ( work quality, theme in keeping with the theme of the show) .

  • In the second step they select the works that will compliment or work with each other as they build a cohesive visual experience.

Those words have given me confidence to apply for juried shows, over the years. See, even if there is work that is rejected in the separation of the "sheep from the goats", it does not mean the work is bad, the work just does not fit the vision of the exhibit, at that moment. Ok, so I made the submission, thinking I had produced the very painting they were going to want! Then, this week I received the email stating that they had received so many wonderful submissions and unfortunately they could not include mine in the final group for display. I will tell you my first reaction was "Huh? What? They didn't like my painting?!" Quickly followed by well I guess either my interpretation of Fauvism differed form theirs or they had more work that worked together better. Either way, it is , as the say, what it is. In some ways this was easier to deal with because it was an experiment, like a school assignment. It was my work and my interpretation, but not my work the result of self exploration to the extent my typical work is. When it is the painting that results form self exploration that gets rejected, I am much more likely to have to control that feeling of personal rejection. I'd prefer everyone like me and my work, but that aint gonna happen. So here is where the lesson is applicable to you whoever you are, whether you are an artist or not. Everyone experiences rejections and disappointments in life, both small and large. Passed over for promotion? Didn't get that job? Hoping for a gig that went to someone else? That man (or woman) who seemed so interesting and interested in you, just somehow, is not. Your husband (or wife) wants a divorce. What ever the situation is, big or small. Look at it. Have your emotional reaction. You are due that. Then look at it again in a broader context. 1. Accepting what is, is the only sane way to live. Dwelling on the "what ifs" amounts to not dealing with reality. Resisting the unwelcome (or distinctly horrible) outcome, only gives it new life in your mind, and prolongs the hurt. Continuing to focus your attention on what happened that upset you, what did not work out as you'd like, only causes you more pain. Buddha, and other wise people teach non-attachment to outcome. Do your best , that is all any of us can do and then put it out there , and let the chips fall where they may. 2. Instead of resistance, take action. Address what you can change (look for another job), get help dealing with the consequences (call that therapist ) and focus your attention on the good stuff.

“It’s common to reject or punish yourself when you’ve been rejected by others. When you experience disappointment from the way your family or others treat you, that’s the time to take special care of yourself. What are you doing to nurture yourself? What are you doing to protect yourself? Find a healthy way to express your pain.” ― Christina Enevoldsen

In my case, this is a little disappointment compared to many of the big ones I listed ( many of which I have survived). You learn to look for the good ( I was happy in that marriage for a while, I know what it is to be loved, I have a great son). Looking at this rejection and coming to accept this I realized;

  1. I had fun making that painting ( remember I told you to pay attention before)

  2. I tried something new and learned from it,

  3. I expanded my visual vocabulary.

  4. Beyond that I enjoyed my walk in the woods.

On balance it was a good experience and I have this (to my mind) nifty little painting. And now, I wrote a blog about the whole experience. It is all good. PS Please make plans to see Honoring the Fauves, I have seen a sneak preview of some of the work included in the exhibit to be shown and it is going to be a vibrant and interesting exhibit. at the SMI Gallery at Academy Square 33 Plymouth Street, Montclair, NJ Exhibition Dates: September 22 – December 18, 2015 Reception: Friday, September 25, 2015 / 7 – 9PM

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