Ladies and Gentlemen of the Juried…
By Tom Wachunas
“There are still many more days of failure ahead, whole seasons of failure, things will go terribly wrong, you will have huge disappointments, but you have to prepare for that, you have to expect it and be resolute and follow your own path.” ― Anton Chekhov
As I mentioned in my comments about the 72nd Annual May Show at The Little Art Gallery (posted here on May 12), an artist friend whose work (which I have admired considerably) was not accepted for the exhibit told me that he considered the rejection as a rejection of him. He wrote to me: “The art, the artist; same thing. It has to be this. If it’s not you (me) hanging on the wall, then it’s bogus. It’s just furniture, something to decorate a room.”
This is certainly not an uncommon attitude – ‘I am my art, my art is me’ – and one which I espoused more heartily in younger days. Perhaps another way to put it is, ‘I define my art, my art defines me.’ So yes, in accordance with the hopes or expectations that come with such an attitude, I am certainly sympathetic to (and very experienced with) the frustrations and painful disappointments that ensue when one’s work is rejected.
But as time goes on, I’ve found this perspective to be an overly- precious kind of Romanticism tinged with hubris. The substance of my own art has evolved over the past 12 years to a point that symbolically examines my sense of self - my personal identity - in relationship to truths (ideas, realities, phenomena) wholly separate from me which nonetheless beckon me to somehow embrace them, to live in symmetry with them. And that symmetry itself, that balancing, is in such a constant state of growth and transformation – call it creative, purposeful flux – that for me, the making of the object has become of central importance. It’s more the responsive process, and less the product, that defines my passion for art. This is not to say the product is of no consequence, but only that I remain larger than any and all works of my hands.
If any of my pieces could be equated with the totality of me, it is only to the extent that a fossil represents what was once a more complete entity in its time. Evidence of a past life process. Or, in the case of an art object, evidence of past decisions in my engagement of a methodology. Once the work has been released to “the world” for “judgment,” I am free of it, for better or worse.
Viewers or jurors aren’t looking at me per se, but at an artifact that I permit to exist on its terms and in the highly changeable climates of their interpretive methods, biases and agendas. I don’t seek their acceptance as an ultimate validation of my personhood, though I’m gratified when it comes my way. Likewise, though rejection can often feel like a rocky detour on my self-esteem map, it is but a fleeting setback that does nothing to diminish my insatiate desire to make art or, if you will, necessary furniture.
PHOTO: found on “The Art League Blog” – an arts organization in the DC Metro area, posted Jan. 3, 2012