Unfortunately, your piece was not selected…
If I had a yard of fabric for every time I got one of those emails I’d have a LOT more fabric in my studio! I’ve curated several juried exhibits now and one of the parts I hate about curating is having to send rejection letters. As an artist who has received a lot of them myself, I know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you open that email and read that your piece was not accepted. First you feel disappointment and then maybe a little annoyed or angry and then once the shock wears off you might decide to write the curator of the exhibit and ask why your piece wasn’t chosen.
I’ve gotten a lot of those “can you tell me why my piece wasn’t selected so I can learn from it” emails. And honestly, they break my heart because I know where the artist is coming from. I’ve wanted to write them to shows I been rejected from too. In the case of the shows that I’ve curated and juried (and I believe this is the case with most juried exhibits), there are no notes kept on individual pieces so there is no information to share with the artist. When an exhibit has hundreds of entries, it’s just too much data to track, coordinate and then disseminate to the individual artists. Just notifying the artist regarding whether or not their piece was accepted can be a logistical nightmare!
So here’s the thing: I can’t tell you exactly why your piece was rejected for whatever exhibit you submitted to but I can share with you some reasons why it might not have been and some things to consider before you submit your work to another exhibit.
Photography: I can’t stress how important it is to submit a good in focus photograph of your work. In a lot of cases, if the photo is bad the jurors will immediately reject the work. Harsh? maybe, but consider that your photo may be among hundreds submitted. If the juror can’t get a good view of your piece during their first pass through then chances are it will get rejected. That means you should make sure you understand the photo requirements and if you can’t take a good photo then find someone who can take it for you. You should always photograph against a flat, plain neutral wrinkle free (I know you have an iron!) background. Wrinkled sheets, placemats, blankets, curtains, and quilt batting along with picket fences, brick walls, aluminum siding are not suitable backgrounds. And when I say neutral I mean white, cream, gray and in some instances black where it’s required. A tone on tone print (yes even if it’s white on white) is not a plain neutral background. There should be no pins or hanging implements (and that includes hands and feet!) visible in the photo. Your photograph is the only representation of the quilt that the juror will see – take your time and make it the best you can. I did a series of posts on photographing artwork on the SAQA MA/RI blog here. Lyric Kinard has a great post on the subject here , Sarah Ann Smith has one here and Susan Brubaker Knapp talks about photographing her artwork here.
Copyright: Did you use recognizable photography, images, quotes, song lyrics etc in your artwork? Do you have permission to do so and did you state that in your artist statement so that the organizers know? At the bottom of this post I wrote on this subject you’ll find some great resources for copyright info.
Theme: Does the piece you submitted fit with the theme of the exhibit or did you submit a piece of work that while beautiful, isn’t really appropriate for the call? In other words are you trying to force a square peg into a round hole because you wanted to submit something and that’s what you had?
Technical: The quality of the execution of the techniques used, overall design etc. I think this category is the one that most want feedback on from a juror. But remember, this category is very subjective and any of these reasons that one juror might reject your work for another may not see. Everyone brings their own point of view when they evaluate a piece of artwork. That said, if you feel you would benefit from a critique session, consider seeking out a mentor to work with. I have several online artistic development coaching workshops that you may be interested in. Here are some other resources:
If you’re a member of SAQA, consider applying to the mentorship program included with membership.
Hard choices: There’s never enough room to include all the pieces submitted to a call and so after the jurors whittle down their choices there are always hard choices to make. They may want to include 70 pieces of work but there’s only room for 65 so they have to eliminate 5. The reasons those 5 get pulled out don’t really matter because it has little or nothing to do with the quality of the work, there just wasn’t enough room for everyone. It’s those moments in the process when I’m glad I’m the curator and not a juror because those are hard, heart wrenching choices to make.
Until next time…wishing you much success in all your creative endeavors!