I got rejected…again.
by Amelia Kanan
I wouldn’t know though because I still feel the sting of pain.
Every month my gallery (when I say “my” I mean: the gallery where I work) has monthly exhibits that are all jurored by local/”known” artists. The first show of 2013 was Urban Edge, jurored by a Heidelberg artist named Tim Burke. All week, I watched the submissions come in, drew my own judgments and on the last day of intake, at the very last hour submitted two pieces that I was…not too keen on but because I was just so desperate to submit something, I submitted anything. I got rejected and even though it hurt I was okay because I wasn’t proud of my submissions anyway. Plus, it didn’t hurt that the juror was someone who I admired and looked up to.
I wanted to be in it to win it for the next submission since I wasn’t on point for Urban Edge.
The next show was “SIZE matters”. An exhibit that’s only qualification was size. I entered a 16 by 20 photo of the the image posted above (get it? Size matters? I know…it’s kind of cutesy and maybe annoying) and another piece that was an oversized frame which showcased multiple abstract photos in a certain design. This time I submitted something that I was excited and confidant to be judged. So, again. I watched all the submissions come in. Made my judgments. And on the last day, in the second to last hour, I submitted my pieces: Matilda and Looking Up.
Before I continue, I need to share a little more about the part where I said “Made my judgements”. On Thursday, last week, a woman came in for intake. She brought with her two submissions and shared this was her first show ever. “Congratulations and welcome!”, I told her. One piece of hers was, in my humble opinion, striking. In a giant frame and surrounded by empty white space was a tiny stamp that said “Love”. At the time, I thought she had painted the tiny little postal stamp however, I didn’t look closely. She left and after a few hours, my director, two board members and I gathered around the pieces to have an informal discussion about all the work that had been entered already.
“Wait. This is an actual postal stamp.” I realized .
“You didn’t know that?”
“No! You guys, this should not be in the running for the show. There is nothing original about this piece. Even how she used all the empty space to make a point.” I was pissed.
“Amelia, what is art? Does it create a dialogue? Can you hang it on a wall? Is it something that ignites you?”
“That doesn’t matter. Especially when we look at this so called artist’s other piece she submitted.”
This other piece was a bracelet…made of…(I’m so embarrassed to even tell you this)…buttons. Which proves that this woman is into craft making as opposed to creating original pieces of art.
I lost my argument and was mildly ok with it because, at the time, I was drinking wine.
Fast forward to Sunday, the day that juror came into the gallery to “Yay” or “Nay” all the pieces that had come in that week prior. I wasn’t there. Instead I was in a car with a friend when I received a phone call.
“Amelia, no one wanted to call you…” It was my director and she was laughing but also oddly whispering so, I felt it couldn’t be that bad. Maybe one of my pieces got rejected and one got in. I was totally okay with that and kind of expecting it.
“Hey, Amy. What’s up?”
“So, both of your pieces got rejected and the one with the stamp not only got in but won ‘Best in Show'”
“Oh. My. God.”
Strangely, I wasn’t upset. In fact, I thought it was funny. And, I’m not embarrassed to admit that in my brain I just thought less of the juror. I just assumed he was maybe good at producing his own work but unfortunately not very good at choosing different mediums and creating an exhibit. Oh, defense mechanisms.
When I came into the gallery Wednesday, “SIZE matters” was hung on the walls. All the rejects (including mine) were surrounding the space. “I hate it.” I thought. “I hate how it’s hung. There is so much dead space. And I can’t believe THAT got in. Or THAT one. Ugh, and THAT? And not mine. Obviously this guy has NO clue.” I also saw the notes from the jurying. My 16 by 20 piece had originally been in the show…there had originally been a “YES” next to it. It must have gotten nixed at the last minute….
Then my director began to chime in about the juror. “He has been amazing. He is so involved. He was extremely instrumental in the hanging of the show.” Blah Blah Blah. Great. Now, it’s just me against him. Everyone else seems to love him. I smiled and listened and said “Ohh, that’s so great! I’m so glad!” because it would obviously be in poor taste to be cold and bitter. That lasted two days.
That week artists, whose works were rejected, came in to pick up their pieces, I realized how many pieces had been turned away. Painters, photographers, ceramicists and sculptors all shared their emotions of being rejected. Some were in disbelief, some were angry, some were confused and some were just…unsure if they were allowed to feel anything at all.
I shared with most of them that I, as well, had been rejected and that art is subjective. “Just because someone doesn’t choose something doesn’t mean they don’t value it or find it interesting.” I was obviously not just telling the artists this but myself as well.
It made me feel a little better. Watching the rejection of quality get signed out and exit the gallery by the hands of talent but it also fueled my fire about the juror. Who I had still yet to meet.
My director however was stoked about the exhibit and the pieces the juror had chosen and not shy in sharing it. After those two days of listening (with a smile on my face) to her gush about the show and the juror, I snapped.
“Amy, I need you to know something. I am trying so hard right now to be positive for this show and the works showcased in it however, I hate it and I’m angry. Not just because my pieces were rejected but because I hate how it’s hung, I hate how some pieces weren’t included and because I HATE that some were chosen. I don’t think this juror did a good job at all and frankly, from how it sounds, he’s a bit entitled.”
She, again, laughed (which is why I love her) and nodded. “I think you’re going to like him.”
“He better be fucking amazing.”
Today, I was behind the counter and a young guy with black glasses came in. I knew it was him from his self portraits.
“Is Amy here?”
“No. She stepped out for a moment. Are you Craig?” I was really sweet. Probably overly sweet because I was forcing it.
“Hi. I’m Amelia”
We shook hands.
“Wow. Your hands are ridiculously soft.” They really were, I wasn’t trying to seductive.
“I was going to say the same about yours.”
He smiled. Oh man. He was cute. And he was…really sweet. God damn it.
What happened after that I can’t really explain. We talked. A lot. About so many things. Men. Women. Western culture vs. Eastern culture. Monogamy. Marriage. What makes people think something is provocative or controversial.
After that, I realized…I’m totally into him. He’s smart. Talented. And all in all, I’m really glad I’ve gotten to work with him because even if my work lost out on an exhibit, I’ve actually gained a new friend which…is probably more important in life.
The show is tomorrow night and although I’m not in it and not really stoked on how it is displayed, I am still really excited for people to see it and hear the conversations and debates that will come from it.