Saturday, January 9, 2010

Seeking Approval

I've spoken time and time again about dealing with rejection in the arts and submitting to shows (in fact the subject could practically have its own label), but now I want to address another factor that comes into play. Why is it so easy to take not getting into a show personally in the first place?

One reason is that sometimes an artist submits art to a show in order to seek approval. Essentially, by submitting an artwork to a show and having it be accepted, that can act as a form of validation. But this stance can be a very self-destructive way to see oneself and one's value as an artist (or as a person for that manner).

I recognize that being juried into a show can be seen as a means of validation because it holds up those accepted artworks as a standard of sorts. And some people even go so far in seeking approval as to think that their artwork isn't worthwhile unless they're winning major awards with it. But, no matter who you are, getting into shows and winning awards isn't always going to happen, especially in a blind jury process or when venturing outside of one's comfort zone.

Whether or not an artwork gets in or wins an award depends on many many factors. It doesn't simply break down into whether it was good or bad. A lot of amazing art doesn't get accepted because it doesn't seem to suit the theme from the juror's interpretation, doesn't flow with the rest of the work, doesn't physically fit due to limited space... And what wins awards relies on even more factors, including that juror's likes and dislikes, the wow factor, and what else was submitted. It just isn't a cut and dry issue.

Most of all, it can be extremely hurtful to rely on others to validate oneself. True peace of mind comes from self acceptance and self love, not others' praise. So many artists I know are so harsh on themselves and their own artwork. We can be our own worst critics. But we need to turn that around. I'm not saying that we should indulge in excessive ego-stroking or think that we're better than everyone else, as some people do. That attitude wreaks frustration and an inaccurate sense of self too. But I think it is best summed up by the magnet that has graced the front of my fridge for years: Never apologize for your art. Especially not to yourself.

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