One of the things on my to-do list this year was to make some more contacts with galleries. Actually it has been on my to-do list for a very long time, but folks who know me well know that I can move glacially slow sometimes. This is especially true of things that I worry may not be pleasant. And the whole prospect of sending in a portfolio to a gallery seemed pretty high on the unpleasant list.
One of the realities of being an artist is you are always applying for a job so to speak. Occasionally at a show I'll hear someone saying to their friend, "oh, you should do this next year!" Like all we have to do is roll in to the festival, pop up a tent and *poof* you're in business. But the truth is there is an application process to all the outdoor shows I do. The artists apply through different online systems, sending in a short artist statement, and usually 4 images of your work, and one of your display. And of course your non-refundable jury fee of anywhere between $25-$90. The work is juried in categories, with usually jewelry, and mixed media work (that would be my category) getting the lion's share of applications. The jurying is done by a blind jury, meaning the folks doing the decision making don't know the names of those applying.
A show with a good reputation will get somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1000-1500 applications for a show with 250 available spots. A few have much higher odds, with as many as 2400 applications. And notification of acceptance, or rejection, is always in the form a a quick email, usually read with one eye open to minimise the impact. While rejection letters are usually met with a sigh and a grumble, acceptance letters are like crack for artists. The kind of crack that keeps you applying next year. Those happy endorphins just start buzzing as you think about how only 1 in 10 artists got in the show, how you had to score higher than the 1000 or so artists who didn't make it, and all that ego building nonsense that the brain can't help playing with. But truth is much of the jury process comes down to the simple things, like personal taste, how many oily landscapes the jury has already seen this morning, whether the lighting in your photographs is a little weak.
But all this usually happens in a city far far away, by folks you don't know. The artists never get direct feedback for the money they spend on jury fees, and frankly I'm good with that. The application process and the one eyed email opening has become part of the rhythm of my life. I am used to it. But applying to a gallery? That seemed like a totally different animal.
Galleries usually have a much more stand-offish way of dealing with interested artists. If you look at some good gallery websites and find the submissions link. (That is no Freudian slip, the artist is submissive here) Often you'll find what they expect from an artist, number of images and the like and how they want it delivered, mail, email...whatever. Then they say something warm and fuzzy like how they don't have time to reply to all submissions, if we are interested, you'll hear from us, if not, you won't. Don't call. I guess the rosy part is you don't have to pay an application fee this time to be ignored.
And I am sure this all comes for good reason, I expect galleries get pecked to death by folks who think they can paint. I actually witnessed an artist meltdown as he was turned down by a gallery owner when he walked in with ordinary paintings tucked under both arms. So I do understand the need for distance.
So this all takes me back to the idea of applying to a gallery. I found one I really liked. I thought about applying for a year or two, I went in a few times without saying anything. Then one day I actually opened my mouth, introduced myself and got a card. And still I fiddled.
The push came from an unlikely source, Scott and I were invited to stay at a friend's house on the way back from a show. And an artist who has been included in galleries and exhibitions in New York and Washington among other places was there also. I was tired, we had a few drinks, we were unloading about the show, and art in general. And I was explaining about what a big assed chicken I was about applying to a big "white wall" gallery. How the rejection would sting a little more if I was standing there all alone rather than in a group of a thousand. The next morning as we were leaving he asked to see my work, as I had been talking about it the night before, and he really didn't know me from Adam's house cat. So Scott and I pull one big piece out of the van, rest it on the dirty sidewalk on the side of the road and let the cover it is wrapped in slip to the ground.
He got this look on his face like he was surprised that I had sense enough to form words or dress myself and said, "You don't think you could walk into any gallery in this country and get in with this work?"
So I applied to Pryor Fine Art, in Atlanta. And if you go to the Artists link, you'll see my name, second from the top.
Ok, enough celebrating...back to the studio!