Saturday, December 6, 2008

Opening doors

I have a theory that showing one’s artwork has a lot in common with finding a romantic partner.

I kissed a lot of frogs before I met my prince of a husband. I dated a lot when I was in my 20s, and it always felt wrong. Conversations dragged, interest flagged. There were no sparks. Something just wasn’t right.

Yet I never stopped wishing that each one I met was The One, and I spent considerable time trying to force each relationship into being. I spent hours primping to get ready for my dates. I pined for days if a boy stopping calling me. I couldn’t concentrate on my daily life, but would go over and over the minute details of each date in my mind, wondering if I had said something wrong or worn the wrong thing. Even if I had no interest in the boy. I just wanted to be wanted so badly, and I didn’t care by whom.

When I met my husband, everything was different. Talking to him just felt comfortable, even about insignificant subjects. When I was with him, I didn’t worry if I looked perfect or if I said witty things; I just felt a little glow inside, no matter where we were and what we were doing. No effort, nothing to force; being with him was as easy and pleasant as lingering over a hot cup of cocoa, or drifting off peacefully to sleep in a warm bed. I didn’t have to impress him; he simply loved me and I loved him back. And we felt this way because of each other’s little quirks and whimsies, and not in spite of them.

I’ve had the same type of experience with showing my artwork. It seems like I have applied to every show, grant, and gallery on the face of the earth. Each time, I tried to show the work I thought they’d want to see, or struggled to say the words I thought they’d want to hear. When the inevitable rejection letters came, I would spend hours thinking about the possible reasons and study the work of people who had been awarded a show or grant, trying to figure out what they had done right and I had done wrong.

But just as with meeting my husband, there have been times when my work just FIT. I didn’t need to justify it or explain it, or worry that maybe I should have used different colors or tried another style. The gallerist or the venue or the collector just loved the work. No words were necessary, no tricks were necessary, the work never needed to be anything but what it was to find the right destination.

This is an important lesson, I believe. Not that an artist shouldn’t be aware of what a gallery or grant-giving institution is looking for, and select where to apply accordingly. But when the situation is right, it is right. Everything clicks. There is no need to force anything; the door just opens to you.

Same thing with the wrong situation. No amount of scheming or reinventing yourself will make something happen if it’s not “meant” to happen.

We don’t need to spend time standing at the wrong door, rattling the handle or trying to pick the lock. We simply need to try another door, and eventually the right one will open to us, gently and easily. And if we remain true to ourselves, this WILL happen, it’s just a matter of time.


Karen Jacobs said...

Yup... pretty good insight to how this art biz works. And when a good relationship goes bad... how to break up? Always second guesses...

Catherine Carter said...

We just have to stay aware, I guess, and be honest when things aren't working. But it helps me to remember that some (most?!) things are out of my hands. Then I can let go and just PAINT.

Thank you for writing, Karen!