Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Paned Foursome

I stayed up late last night to submit on-line (at the very last minute - it was due by midnight) my application to the Portland Museum of Art Biennial. This will be the 5th or 6th time that I've applied. I have never gotten in, and honestly thought that I wouldn't bother this time around. A bit of sour grapes, probably. Or, just dreading rejection, again. Then I caved and submitted these four pieces from my ancestor portrait series, Mything Persons. I had to hustle to take these photos and piece them together in photoshop. Just four images are accepted - I wanted to show the drawings unframed, and also behind the windows, and I wanted to submit four portraits. My challenge was how to do this in four images. My sister suggested that I put them side by side in each of the four images - I called the museum and they said that this was OK and not breaking any rules. So here they are. My problem is that I never feel that what I have to offer is of enough significance to warrant being chosen for this *venerated venue.* I think my work is too trivial, not of universal appeal, not conceptual enough, blah blah blah, ad nauseam. I decided to silence that nasty voice and simply submit what is my most recent work. Take it of leave it, I say!! (But I would be thrilled if they take it...) (and I know I'll be sad and disappointed if they don't...) Who am I kidding? This is always an emotional ordeal!!
I dreamt last night that a woman who was in charge of a biennial (it was not the PMA) chose a pale and delicate pencil drawing of mine - a triptych of sorts - to be in the show. She loved it, and I felt so appreciated, understood, and honored. Who is she? Maybe me. Maybe I need to remember that what I think counts!
So here is my artist statement that I banged out at 11:30pm, just under the wire, without looking back. Ah, the rat...(ha ha ha! Freudian typo!!)...I mean, Ah, the ART scene. Wish me luck!!
Mything Persons is a series of portraits taken from a scanned family photo from the late 19th century. Typically I do my portraits from life, but this photo was so compelling, I had to draw these faces that look familiar yet strange. As I stared at the digital image of this old photograph on my computer screen, and zoomed in on each face, I searched the eyes for clues that link them to my life: Were they happy? What did they eat for breakfast that day? Did the women yearn to be more than wives and mothers? Did they enjoy sex? Were the men kind? What dysfunctional behaviors and what loving habits did they pass on to my generation? They look at us through old windows, holding onto their secrets as they merge with our own reflections.


Brad Gailey said...

Quit that! It's great work. It's work to be proud of because it's part of you and it defines part of who you are. It was intellectually conceived with craftsmanship and pride. Is there any work that has universal appeal until we have a chance to universally digest it? It's great work. We all fail, fail, fail until we succeed.


martha miller said...

Thanks, Brad!! xo

Don Gray said...

Martha, we artists must have a masochistic streak. We make ourselves pretty vulnerable when we present our work to the world for judgement, or worse yet: indifference.

What you're doing is an act of courage--I applaud you for it. Your work is exceptional and powerful, whether a juror approves or not. It helps me to remember that often those who end up in power positions over artists (critics, gallerists, museum curators, jurors, etc.) often have far less experience and comprehension of art than the artists do. Many have not been able to muster the ability or courage to be artists themselves.
Haven't we given these people enough power already--why should we let them affect our sense of self-worth as artists?

Anyway, good luck with the jurying--and if you don't get in...what the hell do they know!? :>}

Here's a couple of posts on rejection you might like. Read Annell Livingston's June 13 post:


And Katherine Treffinger's June 9 post:


martha miller said...

Thanks for the links, Don! I guess it's in the air! xo

annell4 said...

Martha, you are getting at just what I want. I am working on a project about rejection and the creative process and how the artist handles it. I would love for you to submit something I could post on my blog and one of your works?

I can relate to what you said, something seems to curl up inside, when we hear the paltry excuse of why our work won't be chosen. Or so often we don't hear the reason, just thanks, but no thanks,-- not kiss my ass, or anything. All is left to the artist to fill in the blank. And of course we are most unkind to ourselves.

Generally speaking, what I look for in a drawing, is a wide range of execution. And especially in a show, I think the judges often like to see a wide range of what you can do. And often I see artists presenting more than one idea in a work.

I personally like a more classic way of presentation. You know I always like to follow the lead of the museum in presentation.

Something else, I've found is that when we do not know who the people are in the photos we can see more "who" they were. I used to collect photos in the public domain, antiques shops, flea markets, etc.etc.

Will you be able to attend the show? In the past, when I entered a show and was not chosen, I attended the show and perhaps there was a piece similar to mine (maybe the order of the way the judges looked at the works? And the other piece was already chosen, when your piece came up?) Or maybe a piece more simple, or more complex. It all a matter of taste and it's not personal.

I hope the judges will see what you were getting at and you will be chosen this year. But you know we never fail, unless we quit. Thank you for what you do, and your willingness to continue!

Angela said...

Oh my! It's amazing how an artist of your caliber and talent still has those sneaky thoughts. The works are very meaningful. Who hasn't looked at old photos of relatives and wondered how it would have been to be around with them or be them. I find it incredibly interesting and beautiful. You have put these thoughts into beautiful and evocative visual 'beings'!
I am trying for my first art show-not even juried-and I am freaking out. I have always squashed my artistic side until a law career and 4 small children later. I thank you for your courage to put yourself out there repeatedly. I agree with Don Gray. Your work is beautiful and you should be proud proud proud! You are an inspiration! Good luck!

Dean Grey said...


Whether your work gets accepted by them or not shouldn't really matter.

Those pieces/concepts are so unique and amazing that they easily stand on their own and don't need to belong to an art organization to be validated.

If they don't "get" your work, it's their loss. Truly.