Rejection. Every artist understands (or at least should understand) rejection is part of the territory that comes with the business of art. Recently I received a rejection e-mail for a contemporary unconventional portrait exhibition I had entered. The painting I submitted “A Fool’s Still Life” is perhaps my best realist work I have yet created. Not simply my opinion, this painting has won numerous awards including the Grumbacher Gold Metal at the 27th Annual South Central Art Competition in Nashville. You might call that validation. Regardless, the entry process required a statement. So I finally put into words what I have felt about this painting for some time. Hope you don’t mind me sharing.
“A Fool’s Still Life”
A self portrait by Christopher Boehm
The approach to most all of my work is simple; each painting is treated as a project, a single area of exploration and discovery. “A Fool’s Still Life,” began no differently. Objects of interest selected for their shape color texture and representation either metaphorically, symbolically or literally and arranged juxtaposed entirely for the viewer’s enjoyment. This painting began purely as an exercise in an attempt to conquer still life realism as an artist.
The beauty of realism for the artist is that careful deliberate examination of chosen subjects is required. You learn all the subtle aspects normally passed over through casual observation. On this particular work, hours were spent intimately getting to know all objects assembled. And during this time of craft a realization occurred to me. Each object chosen for some reason above and beyond had a deep personal meaning and connection to me, the artist. Mostly gifts, mementos or discarded items from close family members, nearly all offered without much ceremony or thought. These items meant more to me because of the personal connection from who, where, when, and how they were collected. The Clown (Fool) however, was acquired on one of my many antique/thrift store hunts. The significance of this item was the timing of the acquisition coincided within days of the birth of my son, seemed almost magical. This collection of items was more than a simple still life painting, in many ways it represented my life.
So what is a portrait, a mere representation of the individual? Well this painting then in many ways represents who I am. A good portion of my being is a collection of memories associated with friends and family through a journey of time together. Reading like a diary, items rendered here are closely tied to those memories. One more thing, I’m an artist and this is one of my paintings, it is what I do and who I am.
Rejection is also part of life and I have had another more painful dose of that lately too. Like I said, with art rejection comes as part of the territory. It makes us better. You create, put your work out there and wait for the world to respond. The efforts of which may not yield the sought after results, but in most cases ultimately have positive affects on the artist. The self portrait example outlined above forced me to put my thoughts to words. I may never have done so without the attempt. So I guess with love sometimes comes rejection too, but does this type of rejection also make us better? I certainly would like to think so.