I just want to thank everyone for the support and the comments yesterday. It was really, truly helpful.
I also think I figured out what was going on internally and why this was bothering me so much. Because as so many people have said, it’s just one person. One. Person. So it didn’t even make sense to me why it was getting to me so badly.
This morning, I had an epiphany.
There’s a story that I often (subconsciously) tell myself
This is how it goes:
I’m not a real artist. I’m a hack. I didn’t go to art school. I didn’t study in Europe, and get an MFA. I don’t paint what’s trendy. I’m not edgy or cool. I’m not really part of the art world. And I’m not actually a “real artist”.
A “real artist” has a stable of galleries, gets lots of press and reviews, and has a whole army of Collectors with a capital C.
And most importantly, this person has been accepted. They have gotten the stamp of approval from the art world that they can sell art because they’re “Good Enough.” Galleries have said that their work is good enough to be sold, that they have what it takes.
So the way this story played out was, I had gotten the stamp of approval from this gallery – it was a badge of honour. I was finally a “Real Artist.”
And then when my work was rejected, the whole plot of the story fell apart. Suddenly, I wasn’t a Real Artist anymore. I was back to being the hack that several older artists had implied. I was back to being dismissed.
I told myself I wanted to stop selling my art because I wanted to focus my entire being on studying and learning. That’s a lie. The real reason I wanted to stop selling was because I didn’t think I had a right to. I didn’t think it was fair to try to sell people low quality art made by a Not Real Artist. I didn’t have the stamp of approval. The “art world” had revoked my license.
It’s a story I’ve been telling myself for a really long time.
Don’t worry, I realize that it’s bullshit. There is no such thing as a Stamp of Approval. The “Art World” is really a construct of my own imagination. And as for being a “Real Artist”? I’m the only person who can define that. No one’s going to accept me until I accept myself.
It’s still hard, mind you. Even knowing that it’s bullshit, I still feel like I don’t have a right to sell my work until I’m “good enough” (another totally bullshit term). I think it’s a pattern that I’ll be unraveling over time.
In a way, it’s not my fault – I was raised in a system where getting stamps of approval were kind of the point. Get those straight As, those gold stars, those first prizes. It’s accepted knowledge that the more letters you have after your name, the more intelligent, the better you must be, right?
Or not. I’m trying to unlearn the point of view that it’s not how you get the knowledge that’s important but that you have the knowledge. That I don’t have to jump through a series of someone else’s hoops just to prove that I’m worthy.
The story is still saying that the gallery owner’s rejection of my work is a sign that I am still not ready, still not worthy, still not good enough. That I still have no right to be an artist, and certainly no right to sell my work.
But what’s life, if not a work in progress?