Getting rejected sucks. After putting hours and hours of work into such a strange thing as art, we scramble to win one of the few opportunities to get our work shown, or to get some funding. So we dole out the $35+ it costs to get someone to look at a picture of our art and tell us “no.” Again, and again.
Rejection triggers self-reflection. Why am I doing this? Is it worth it? Does it really matter? I could just be focusing all of my energies on raising my son, instead of splitting time between him and scrambling to find time to paint, to write (to shower). Do people even care to see paintings of American Muslim women, women who are diverse, who live here, and work alongside the rest of us; who are empowered, and passionate, and beautiful, and don’t all look the same or have the same story? I mean, if I knew a bunch of sad women in burqas, that’s what I’d be painting. But I don’t. These are the women I know, and they are smart as hell, and they inspire me, and they clearly don’t need a bunch of entitled jerks to save them, or show them what being civilized looks like…and clearly, I think they are awesome. Do we want to also hear of the women who flourish? Do they matter? If they aren’t “exotic”? Do we care about them, since they don’t need us, since we can’t feel sorry for them (and as a result, somehow better about ourselves)? I’m not trying to deny that many women struggle, and that these paintings do not represent every woman’s story, every American Muslim woman’s story, but there is space for multiple truths.
I’m fairly new at all this, at putting myself out there, at applying for grants and juried exhibitions. And, really, I don’t think that I need to take these rejections personally, or think that it means I should change. I think we’ve all heard that story, of a creative person who is rejected over and over again in their life. And then they finally get that break, something finally works out, and we can’t even imagine why, how, anyone could have ever told them no. But sometimes believing in myself is exhausting, and it all feels selfish and narcissistic. Like I must be totally detached from reality, and really full of myself, to keep trying to make this work.
But I do… I keep trying. And the bottom line, the absolute bottom line, is that I love what I do. I love what I make. And even if not one other person wanted to see my art, even if I don’t ever get grants, or into galleries… I want to look at it. And I am terrible at, or hate, just about everything else anyway. hahaha
On a lighter note, check out this photorrealistic sketch of my husband’s mutant feet.
And yes, that says “green boa?” on the top left…