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First Place, Second Place

Artists are quite familiar with rejection. We submit images of our work for review by unknown expert jurors and steel ourselves for rejection. Sometimes we submit an actual, physical piece of work for judgment (and rejection) by a stranger. One needs a pretty thick skin to do this again and again. Recently, I remarked to my son as I was preparing to enter a piece for jurying, “I’m paying fifteen dollars for the opportunity to feel the sting of rejection.” Wondering why I do it. (As luck–and I–would have it, that time I was accepted.)


DesertWhy do we do it? Well, it’s very nice to have a piece accepted into an exhibit, to go to the reception, have a glass of wine, nice hors d’oeuvres, to have the piece viewed by others, to be in the running for an award or even sell the piece. We do need to eat, pay the gas bill, etc. There is the possibility of a monetary reward. And it’s quite validating to get into a good show, to have a whole booth full of work, pin one’s hopes on a particular weekend to have the heady feeling of having one’s creative attempts admired, loved, gushed over (and to pay that gas bill). In 2008 I got into the St. Louis Art Fair, a show that is notoriously difficult to get into. Fifteen hundred applicants for something like 120 spots. That was definitely the high point of my artistic career. At the time I said to myself, “Enjoy this weekend!  It may never happen again!” And I did so enjoy it.


Recently I’ve begun playing pickleball. People ask, “What is pickleball?” and I always say, “It’s the fastest growing sport in North America!” It’s a wonderful sport that takes place on a court that’s smaller than a tennis court, with a similar net to tennis, played with oversize paddles and often played as a doubles game. Pickleball players are notoriously good-natured. When I say, “Sorry!” to whatever partner I’m playing with, I’m usually told, “There is no ‘Sorry’ in pickleball.” And quite importantly, we do not say Winners and Losers. We say First Place and Second Place. How nice! How lovely! I’d like to think that every time my work is not chosen for a show or exhibit, it merely came in second. Not rejected. Not horrible. I am not a complete failure as an artist (and a person), not deemed inferior in every possible way by a total stranger who knows nothing about me and cannot possibly know what this means to me, my loved ones, my friends and my dogs.


So let’s follow the lead of pickleball players. Let’s do away with Acceptance/Rejection in the art world, especially this little tiny corner of the art world that so many of us inhabit. And if we can’t make this change outside of ourselves, we could at least attempt it within ourselves. I could imagine that sometimes I’m in first place and other times I’m in second place. That’s all. Never last place. Never awful. Never utterly rejected and therefore dejected.

1 thought on “First Place, Second Place

  1. Pickleball rocks!

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