The Meaning of Rejection

Veins: for Ellsworth, acrylic and ink on unprimed canvas, 14″ x 14″

On Monday night, I received an e-mail from Sylvia White with the subject line “This is why I hate my job.” That’s a pretty clever and even compassionate way to alert some one that they’ve been rejected from your show. I was disappointed, but not heartbroken, a reaction that caught me surprise.

It used to be that on the rare occasions when I mustered my courage and submitted art or writing to juried competitions, rejection left me crestfallen for months, practically for ever after if I chanced to recall the slight. I would question my competence. I would question my creative instincts. I would question my ability to ever improve, to ever create anything quality at all.

Veins: On the Warpath, acrylic and ink on unprimed canvas, 14″ x 14″

I suspect that what’s changed is this: I have faith in my own work. I used to  wish desperately that I could be an artist, while I secretly feared that I didn’t have sufficient talent or brilliance to claim that role. I looked for affirmation from others; every rejection felt like confirmation of my deepest fear. It was like I was afraid the world would judge me unworthy, take away my creativity rights, and make me go get a day job. Then some where along the way I learned that no one takes away your right to create. You only stop being an artist, or anything really, if you give up. Even if you’re broke, even if you’re working as a babysitter, or a bartender, or a pastry cook, you can make work; you can think from creation; you can claim your identity. Only I can say that I’m an artist, and only I can say that I’m not.

Veins: at Midnight, acrylic on unprimed canvas, 14″ x 14″

And guess what? I’m an artist. I paint because it brings me joy, because I have stories to tell, because I am interested in how the world looks on canvas. I’m proud of the work I’m creating. There will always be places that don’t want to show my work and people who aren’t interested in it, but there are also places and people that do and are. Because I’m committed to my art, to making it and sharing it, I’m also committed to tipping my hat to those that don’t want it and then continuing on to find those that do.

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