I want to tell you about submitting my three paintings to an exhibition/contest last week.
I was pretty nervous. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to show complete strangers my work (posting them on this blog doesn’t count. I can’t see you cringe over the internet).
I drove up to the fourth level of the parking ramp of the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art per the directions given for finding the “intake” room for submitted art. On my way there I didn’t see any other cars going up. I just saw little signs with arrows saying “Festival of Arts Drop-off” leading me higher and higher into the parking ramp. It should probably come to no surprise that my reality is often infected with bouts of fantasy not unlike those of Walter Mitty, though I don’t usually go catatonic when I’m having them. The small fantasy that rode up with me through the UICA parking ramp that day was one where I follow the signs for the art “drop-off” all the way up, up, up, to the very top of the ramp and am guided to drive my car off the edge of the roof to crash in a metallic heap far below, accompanied by a very bright fireball that passers-by would find beautiful, but inconvenient. Of course, my body is never found, but my artwork survives the inferno. The county coroner comes to the scene, sees my paintings, and writes as the cause of death on my death certificate “obvious suicide due to artistic hackery”. A photographer then happens by, shoots a picture of the burning carnage, submits it to the contest, and wins the Grand Prize.
All this went through my head between levels two and three of the parking ramp.
As I brought my car to the fourth level, I saw quite of few cars parked there and people holding artwork waiting in line through a door that led into the UICA building. The sign next to the door confirmed that was where I wanted to be.
I parked the car and carefully removed the three paintings from the backseat, dreading the sound of cracking glass as one of them banged against the other. Fantasy #2 lasted 3.4 seconds and is the one where all three paintings shatter into piles of dust at my feet, blow away, and leave me standing there with a bunch of artists staring at me. After the 3.4 seconds were over, I walked my paintings to the back of the line.
I noticed everyone looked like an artist. I can’t explain what that means, other than saying that from the man with the long beard and dreadlocks, to the old guy with the corduroys and tattered golf hat, to the teenage girl with that gleam in her eye only the reincarnation of Picasso could have; every single person waiting in line looked like they knew what they were doing. They held their bodies a certain way and carried art that looked like it should be in a museum. I looked down at my paintings and fought the urge to shrug and loudly declare that I was submitting them on behalf of my pet monkey.
The line slowly moved forward. I could see volunteers inside typing feverishly on a bank of laptops, entering artist info and putting numbered stickers on the back of each submitted piece. Oil abstracts, wooden sculptures, photographs of things I’d never seen before — all passed in front of me like a surreal artistic conveyor belt.
My next fantasy contains an infusion from the old 80s movie, Flashdance. I am a middle-aged, grey-bearded nightclub dancer, trying to apply to the prestigious ballet company with a bunch of well-trained and dainty ballerinas standing on their toes around me. They look at me with pretentious judgment in their eyes. They know I’m not a “real” dancer. I want to run out of there just like Jennifer Beals did in that movie.
I felt these people staring at me knew I wasn’t a “real” artist.
But as soon as I realized the only person actually staring at me that day was the lady behind one of the laptops asking for the next submitter to step up, I settled into the true fantasy of my surroundings. And that fantasy is the one where I am submitting artwork that I painted to a real, live art exhibition and contest. Yikes! This shit was getting real!
“Thank you. You should be finding out if your work was selected in the next day or two,” the volunteer said after taking my information and letting another volunteer spirit my paintings away somewhere. I walked back to my car in a daze and drove home.
Two days later I received three emails from the Festival of Arts, each with a different number in the subject line.
I opened the first one. Not selected. Damn.
I opened the second one. Not selected. Damn.
I opened the third one. Selected. Damn.
It appears the Festival of Arts 2014 Regional Art Exhibition has decided to approve Jennifer Beals’ application to the dance school for at least one of his paintings anyway.
The piece below will be displayed with other selected pieces from other artists for the next two months at the gallery of the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art.
Whether I win any of the awards or not doesn’t matter to me. One of my paintings is in an exhibition.
I gotta a feeling…I’m becoming an artist.
Here’s another one I painted not too long ago. Just for something new to look at. Yeah, I’m a maniac.