Rejection is a universal human experience. It is a particularly awful one, and it can rob you of your confidence. Rejection in the art world is especially soul-crushing. You (the artist) submit your work; vulnerable, hopeful, excited, exhausted. You wait. And then a "we regret to inform you..." appears.
My work! You say to yourself. How could it be? Can't they see my talent, don't they get my vision? (Or at least, I said this to myself.)
I was recently turned down for a gallery membership at a gallery I really admire, and did their 'No' ever sting. It HURT, it really hurt.
Prior to my application, I sat with an experienced photographer on several occasions to review my photos and discussion my portfolio. I felt confident dropping it off, and left with a bounce in my step.
When I returned, I anticipated a 'Welcome to the Gallery' response, and I was giddy with nervous excitement. A small group laid out my photos in front of me, informed me that there had been strong debate over my portfolio, but ultimately were not going to accept me. While I had several images that stood out, overall the portfolio was not membership-ready. Then they proceeded to go through the list of improvements I needed to make. The photos lay there taunting me, evidence of my failure.
I was crushed; devastated, even. I went home, sat on my couch and cried for a very long time. I wanted to give up, to throw a childish temper tantrum. Enough with the rejections, unreturned emails, failed attempts at making a photography life for myself! I was over it.
My tears eventually subsided, and many supportive people in my life, who believe in me and my work, helped me pick myself up. A little voice inside me told me not to give up, to stop wallowing and feeling sorry for myself. I have been through enough shit, and I wasn't going to let one gallery stop me from pursuing something that I am really good at, and that I love as much as I do. And I had to admit to myself, the portfolio committee had made valid points. I am still an emerging photographer. I have so much to learn. Working with their feedback would only make me a better photographer, and I was able to get over the sting of being rejected a lot quicker. I might even face more rejection in the future in the art world, and that is part of being an artist.
At the end of the day, I stand by the work I submitted, I am proud of it, and I only want to make it better. I am determined to reapply and be accepted by the gallery this year. The art world is a hard nut to crack. The art world in NYC, even harder. But as the saying goes, try, try, and try again.
One day in the near future, I'll be writing a post about how good it feels to be accepted. Stay tuned.