I woke up this morning to an e-mail from NAEA informing me that I've once again been rejected from the NAEA Member Exhibition. Rejection is a reality in the arts. Writers, actors, singers, musicians, and artists all deal with rejection as they share their "acts of expression" with others. Rejection is not exclusive to the arts, but it does seem to be perceived differently. Those who participate in creative expressions often feel that their work is an extension of themselves. Therefore, the rejection of one's work is a rejection of the artist themselves. This is a generalization. Every artist is different. Personality, temperament, and experience change the responses and reactions of being given a "no".
So what do we do with rejection?
This is something important for all artists...students & adults!
1) Rejection of one's work is not rejection of you.
I know that we become very connected to our work. However, we are not our work. Our work is a moment in time. Our work is an expression of a thought, idea, ideal, or question, given a certain acquired skills at a specific point in time, and being expressed through a given set of supplies/materials/resources. We are constantly processing our past, growing, changing, and being influenced by outside sources. It is like trying to hit the same water in a moving river twice. We are not the same. Therefore, our work is not the embodiment of who we are. It is a snapshot. They are not saying no to you. They are saying no to that moment. You have so many more moments to give!
2) Rejection doesn't mean NEVER...it means not now.
We can not misinterpret rejection. Sometimes artists can be a bit dramatic. We feel deeply. So when we receive rejection, we will blow it out of proportion. I NEVER GET SELECTED. I WILL NEVER SHOW MY WORK. NO ONE LIKES MY ART. Really?? Is that what you were told? I have to admit....I'VE GONE THERE!! ha ha I am not above the drama unfortunately. When I calm myself down though...I am able begin asking myself questions that recenter my thoughts & feelings. Did they say I'd never show my work? Did they say my work was awful? Did they say I should never submit my work again? How many times have I submitted my work? How many rejections have I received? Were others rejected? These questions bring me back to "reality". Not now does not mean never!
3) Rejection is not always about your work.
When we face rejection, we must keep in mind that we are not the only factor. In the NAEA Member Exhibit there were over 600 submissions. I cannot even imagine being a part of the panel that juried this show! We don’t know the other work being submitted. We don't know exactly what the panel is looking for in their selections given the work they received. There could be a feel or representation that they are trying to achieve that our work does not necessary "fit". So. Many. Factors. I have heard of people being rejected from other exhibitions because they did not fill out all the information correctly on their submission form. The rejection may have nothing to do with a weakness in your particular work.
4) Rejection is an opportunity for reflection.
Rejection should bring us to reflection. It is healthy to ask "WHY" when your work is rejected. It is an opportunity for you to step back and look objectively at your work. This should not lead you to self deprecation or despair. Don't allow "hurt" feelings to distort your thoughts. As we have talked about in the previous sections, it might not have anything to do with your work. However, if we want to continue to progress and grow as artists....we must look at our work with a critical eye and make adjustments when necessary. Does my work convey my intent for the piece? Does the craftsmanship of the work help or hinder the way the work is perceived? Was this work suited for the exhibition for which it was submitted? Honest evaluation of ones work will lead to greater success in the future. HOWEVER...DO NOT....DO NOT....PLEASE DO NOT....fall into the trap of diminishing another's work to elevate your own. Reflect on what you can control...not what you can not. It is also good to have others that you trust to give you constructive feedback. Sometimes we become "too close" to our work and struggle to be objective.
5) Rejection is a call to continue!!!
Don't allow rejection to stop you from your creative pursuits. You are in good company!!!! If every artist quit upon receiving rejection.....there would be no art.
If you have something to say..something to share..something that can only be expressed through your art..