What would Picasso do?

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“Do not let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”
John Wooden

I am faced with a difficult challenge in the coming weeks. Each summer, our gallery hosts a juried show that offers a solo exhibition or group exhibition to selected artists. Most juried shows, are by nature, an eclectic blend of a juror’s vision. By definition, this show is a subjective and singular vision, based on my personal tastes and aesthetic. So little research has been done in the area of developing a sense of taste, a style, an aesthetic preference. Mostly, we assume this is a result of our collective visual experiences. Our eye becomes trained to like that to which we have been exposed and our brains are programmed to respond to familiarity. Training in art history and looking at contemporary art, in combination with our life experiences and associations, slowly start to develop our sensibility and mold our vision.

In selecting an exhibition, I let my instincts guide me. As difficult as it is to judge work from a computer monitor, I review each image in the same way I look at actual art. There is no way I can define what I am looking for. Style, composition, content, artistic integrity all play a role, naturally. But, in each case I am looking for the artwork to speak to me, to reach out to me in some way, to touch my inner spirit or stimulate my intellect. It is only in this way that I can define what becomes a unifying theme of an exhibition. Each piece that is selected, regardless of media, must touch me in some unique way–spiritual or cerebral. But, that’s not all. Jurors look for a lot of different things when putting a show together. Although the quality of the art and the impact it has on a particular juror is what constitutes art that makes “the first cut,” there are a number of other complicated factors that artists are usually unaware of. If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to read “Pick Me, Pick Me: Tips for Getting Your Work into Juried Shows.” Often times, the consideration of how a show will “hang together” becomes more important than an individual jurors feelings about a particular piece. Painfully, I often have to omit pieces I genuinely love. In other cases, size or media restrictions eliminate pieces that otherwise would have been chosen. The venue, laying out the show in my mind, and how pieces interact with one another, are all important considerations. In the end, there is no way to predict how or why a juror picks specific pieces. Regardless, for the artists that get eliminated, it is usually a devastating experience. You start to question, “Did I pick the right work?” “Was the photograph of my work as good as it could have been?” “Did the juror spend enough time looking?” “Maybe I’m just not any good.” But, part of being a mature artist, is accepting the responsibility of putting yourself in a vulnerable position. You have an obligation, not only to yourself, but to your work, to “get it out there.” Ultimately, as trite as it sounds, the most important thing is that you tried. Another ArtAdvice.com article, “Understanding Rejection,” may help shed more light on this complicated emotion.

So, what now? Whether you’ve been rejected or you’ve been accepted, what exactly does that mean to you? Will it affect the way you look at your work? Will it change the way you approach you next piece? Does it change the way you think about yourself or your work? What would Picasso do? I think he wouldn’t care. He would go back into his studio, day after day, unaffected by either the criticism or the accolades. He would continue to do work on his terms…not looking for approval from critics, curators or collectors, nor giving much credence to praise. Remembering his only obligation is to himself and his work. By creating the best quality work you can, in the hopes that eventually, the people who most need to be touched by it, will find it. I believe that surrounding oneself with art, enriches our lives and nourishes our soul…I think Picasso would agree with me.