Friday, December 28, 2007

Looking back, looking forward

Remember that scene from “Rebecca,” when Laurence Olivier lays his hand tenderly against Joan Fontaine’s check, gazes into her eyes, and says, “It’s gone forever – that funny, young, lost look” ?

I feel the same way! My youthful phase as an artist has passed; I’m now officially “mid-career.”

How do I know I’ve reached this stage?

Today I’ve been going through files of old art career-related paperwork. I’ve carefully saved all of the “Congratulations, you have been selected to participate in our exhibit” letters I’ve received over the years, and reading them today, I can still remember how EXCITED I was when I first received them.

I wanted to jump for joy, run out into the street and tell everyone how thrilled and honored I was, that someone liked my work enough to select it out of the hundreds of submissions from other hopeful applicants.

One of the most thrilling acceptances was when I got into a juried show at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. It was a prestigious national exhibit, and I was invited to participate when I had only been out of art school for a year. My husband, the dear man, was so excited for me that when he saw the acceptance postcard had arrived in the mail, he jumped in the car and drove to my workplace to show it to me in person.

I’ve been exhibiting my work for 10 years now; it’s been 10 years since I finished graduate school. And I realize as I look over these old acceptance letters (the rejection letters are long gone, into the circular file) that I’ve lost that overwhelming, euphoric reaction.

Not that I’m not excited to receive acceptance letters any more; I definitely am. But the experience doesn’t have the same sense of WOW! any more. I know I’ll have fun at the opening, get kind feedback from visitors to the show, learn a lot from seeing my work displayed in a new space, perhaps sell a piece, perhaps read a review of the show in a newspaper, and ultimately be inspired to get back to the studio and make something new.

But nowadays when I’m accepted into a show, wonderful as it feels, it’s like a link in a long chain, one part of an ongoing series of exhibition experiences. I still feel a tingle of joy, but it’s a softer, more subtle tingle.

Clearly this indicates a change, a new stage in my career and in the way I perceive myself as an artist. I’m proud to have sustained this level of commitment and achieved this degree of success after 10 years, in a profession that is a difficult one to stick to. As any dedicated artist knows, everyday life has a way of stealing your studio time. It takes real commitment to keep your hand in the game, more so as the years go by.

So as we say farewell to 2007 and turn to greet 2008, let’s raise a glass (of champagne, decaf, soy milk, or whatever your drink of choice) and say, here’s to the next 10 years, may they be as joyful and successful as the last 10 have been!


Anonymous said...

That is a beautiful and insightful post, and a reminder to all inspiring artists out there that it doesn't just suddenly "happen" ... it is a lot of small steps along the way. Congratulations on reaching that point in your career, and have a wonderful New Year.

Catherine Carter said...

Thank you for your kind feedback! You are so right -- it is definitely important for "emerging" artists to remember that a career takes a lot of sweat and hard work. Happy New Year to you, too.

Anonymous said...

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