I’m fairly used to rejection. As an actor, writer and artist, rejection has kind of become part of my daily diet. But I learned early on that getting roles was more the exception than the rule and that even the most successful writers wade through piles of rejection letters before anyone deems them publishable. As sensitive a soul as I am, I can take most rejections in stride. But there is a limit, and I discovered it today.
This weekend I did my first art fair. It’s a funky fair in Cave Creek called “The Big Heap.” This show is different from any other art show I’ve ever been to in town. It’s a lot of repurposed art, architectural salvage and vintage creations. It’s also a lot of junk. There’s not nearly as much finished art as I expected. Patrons are bargain hunting for rusty mixers from 1962 not foraging for quirky objets d’art. Needless to say, my clever collection of whimsical wares was not drawing in crowds. After a day and a half of continuous disregard I was more than a little disheartened.
I took a break to get out of my 10X10 tent for a few minutes and to use the porta-potty (definitely my least favorite part of the gig). On the way back, my eye caught a glimpse of a silver trinket at one of the neighboring booths. Upon closer examination, I saw that it was one of those trendy dog-tag necklaces which are typically engraved with hip, meaningless inspirational phrases like “Be here now,” or “Believe in truth.” I almost walked right past it. But something told me to stop, to “be in the moment,” and “trust my instincts.” I picked it up and read its poignant message; a message clearly and obviously meant for me. “Refuse to sink,” it said. I smiled.
I have to admit, my first association went to that guy in Hillsborough, Florida who got swallowed up by a sinkhole last March as he lay in bed sleeping. But after that, I took a breath and really tried to see the more personal meaning of this heaven-sent communique. “Refuse to sink.” That’s not as easy as it may sound. The undercurrent has a heavy tow. In this case, it’s pulling me powerfully back to my bedroom to crawl under the covers and lick my wounded ego in solitude. But that’s not an option.
I guess I could always pretend that I wasn’t the artist. “Did you make these?” people are constantly asking. “Um…no…I…found them…at a second hand art store for…really quirky people. It’s in…Laguna Beach.” That might provide some momentary comfort. Full disclosure though, the people who do venture into my colorful kiosk seem genuinely delighted by my playful pieces. At least I think they’re being genuine. They say things like, “Wow, these are awesome,” or “They’re so unusual and creative.” I’ve used their enthusiasm to keep me from plummeting into sinkhole despair. But in retrospect, I’m wondering if the plethora of positive praise isn’t in the same category as “It’s out of this world,” or “I’ve never quite seen anything like this.” You know, the standard retorts people give when they feel pressured to provide verbal response but refuse to sully their souls with anything short of brutal honesty.
Bottom line, it’s not easy putting yourself out there day after day. But I’ll remind myself and you of one of Martha Graham’s famous quotes about art: “It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll keep the channel open, and I’ll keep hoping that it doesn’t suck me in, swallow me whole and snuff out every last bit of hope in my being. Oops, did I just write that? Anyway check out my website at www.yes-and.com. I’m up for a bit of gentle (yet honest) artistic feedback.
p.s. I did go home today for a nap and left my husband and son to man the tent for a few hours. They sold multiple pieces. So maybe I’m not a useless bit of wasted energy…er…um…maybe I should keep plodding ahead and believing in myself and my creative vision.