By Carolyn Edlund
An artist recently expressed her frustration at being turned down over and over again for a solo show of her work. She had submitted proposals to university and public galleries, and arts organizations with gallery space for more than a year.
Her sculptures were a series of vaguely grotesque organic-looking fleshy pods, and other pieces that looked like body parts or aliens. Asked what was unique about them, she cited a technique she had invented to work with foam rubber, which was her material.
She had previously been in a highly successful group show that toured the country. Her sculptures in that show were female nudes which made a provocative statement on sexuality.
What happened here?
The artist failed to realize that her work in the successful show related to a highly charged topic, and one that would appeal to many gallery visitors, while her current work doesn’t connect with people emotionally. Nobody really cares about her foam rubber technique, and the shapeless forms of her work are more perplexing than interesting.
Grotesque or macabre art can definitely command attention and draw fans, from the curious to collectors to horror fans. But our artist in this case didn’t have work that reached that level. She didn’t have any idea of the audience she would appeal to when she sought her solo show, which was rejected by all venues.
Failure and Renewal
Failure can teach you that you must step up to a higher level in your art business and start working smarter.
Jewelry designer Charlotte Leavitt received a stinging critique from a respected mentor that her line was common and not marketable, causing her to doubt herself and even shut her studio down for a while. But she came back to the drawing board with new ideas and started a business that really worked.
Failure can teach you not to take things personally.
Failure can teach you that you can’t take things for granted.
Failure can teach you that you can’t play it safe. You must take risks.
Failure can teach you that “it’s a numbers game.” Most sales attempts don’t make it. Most people don’t want to see or buy your art. But that’s OK, because you can find your niche and your audience and grow your business there.
Failure can teach you that after experiencing it, you can come back anyway.
Billionaire author J.K. Rowling is famous for being a failure before she was a resounding success. She spoke about her experience:
I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
Has failure set you free? What have you learned the hard way that made all the difference?