I asked several artists who exhibit regularly and participate widely to let me know how they deal with artistic rejection. See earlier posts for more background.
Liz Roth, who calls herself at times a “proposal machine,” said “Rejection is a part of all competitive endeavors. Once you make the decision to function as a professional artist and put your work out in the public sphere, you begin to have opportunities for feedback. Most of this feedback is: rejection.”
Roth teaches at OK State University and is known for her candid, challenging business of art course that pushes students to begin submitting for opportunities immediately. She also has great success herself with receiving wonderful international residencies, grants, and exhibitions. Roth is working on a book about artists’ professional practices and has allowed me to excerpt from the chapter of her book on rejection. I am going to post a few entries from her book.
“Unfortunately, because being an artist involves putting your work constantly, there are all too many opportunities for rejection. You might not make an expected sale, be invited to an exhibit, get the scholarship or grant, get into graduate school, get the job, get the commission. These rejections can be heartbreakers. They can be unfair, unexpected and just plain wrong. What can you do when this happens?
Most importantly, you must not let any rejection define you. A lot of artists allow one rejection to sidetrack their careers. One reason is that artists are psychologically very close to their work, and a rejection of the work seems to be a rejection of the human being. It is complicated by the fact that these rejections can involve money and opportunity, which in fact do influence an artist’s financial future…”
“Art is a competitive field, and you are by definition going to be rejected from some things. Just because you don’t get the prize THIS year, doesn’t mean you won’t get it next year. There will be a new panel of jurors, you’ll have different work. Is this exhausting? Yes. Is rejection disappointing? Yes. Again, it is a matter of defining this rejection and putting it in context. Yes, it is horribly disappointing that you got into no graduate schools this year. But considering the span of your life, a year is just not that long. And if you use it to make some of the best work you’ve ever made, it was a year well spent.”