“And I feel like I’m naked in front of a crowd
Cause these words are my diary screaming out loud
And I know that you’ll use them however you want to.”
This past week I submitted a number of artworks to two shows, one a juried show in a prestigious gallery, the other an all inclusive community arts council show that would be awarding numerous prizes. At the same time, I am waiting to see whether I will be voted into a cooperative gallery that I am hoping to become a member of. All this anticipation of my work being critiqued by others has made me realize what an integral part of many artists’ lives adjudication has become.
We submit our artwork to shows, galleries and collectives, hoping they will find our work to be worthy of acceptance and maybe even recognition, while bracing ourselves and developing our thick skin for the inevitable rejections that come our way. We do this in order to have our work seen and collected by a wider and more appreciative audience, having garnered esteem and credibility through these associations. I wonder, though, about what we lose in the process of trying to gain acceptance.
Submission implies compliance, a relinquishing of power and control. When we submit our work to the appraisal of others we are not only allowing them to make value judgments of our work but also giving them a measure of control over our careers and our progress as artists. We can all too easily become like Sleeping Beauty, waiting to be discovered by the prince who will make us successful ever after. A few rejections can leave us sleeping for an eternity while a bit of recognition may get us to the palace only to discover we have been brought there as scullery maid. With time and experience artists can learn to take back control and use the system of submission to our advantage, choosing carefully the associations we foster that will best promote our work. Where we show then becomes almost more important than what we show.
One of the pitfalls that the savvy submitter needs to guard against is the enticement of creating work to satisfy those we submit our artwork to. While knowing the criteria and preferences of our judges is invaluable in knowing whether our art will be well received, it should not result in a loss of creative integrity. Fortunately, the submission game is one with no clear rules or expected outcomes so the best strategy remains to use these opportunities for submission to create the very best work we are capable of while staying true to ourselves as an artist and a human being. By doing so everyone wins at the submission game.