Friday, May 28, 2010

Deliver. Sign name. Await reply.

Today is the date for delivering works to the art gallery for judging tomorrow. I dropped two paintings off this afternoon with something like a breeze of indifference. After almost ten years of entering work and being rejected, with the exception of one year (and the exception of other exhibitions), one begins to see how pathetic it can be. The most pathetic though are the artists who change their work to the likeness of those works that get accepted and prized.

Yet no amount of detachment spares one the hurt of going to the gallery and finding your pieces have been rejected. It's a healthy hurt - if you take it right.

Awhile back, there was this other competition and exhibition held locally, where the rodeo and fair is held every May long weekend (Victoria Day). It was a western themed exhibition, to be held during the fair and rodeo. I entered a landscape; a local landscape. I also volunteered to help receive the entries; to help move them around. There were a lot of entries. The large hall which held them was lined all the way around with paintings and drawings.

Helping to line up the paintings, of course I got to see them all, and felt mine to be like a scrappy little ruffian at a cocktail party. I remember one couple who had entered pieces. They were going along looking at the works, and they made snarky remarks about some of them, and I remember wondering what sort of nasty things they would say once they got to mine.

That was the morning, and the judges were going to come in the afternoon. Of course, no artists can be around when the judging takes place, so I went home. The entrants were to come back late in the afternoon to pick up their work and see if they were accepted or not. I got back down there a little early; the judges were still deciding. I loitered around the outside and smoked a mischievous cigarette. Of course, I was there to help again with getting the works of art back to the artists.

I was standing in the door to the hall and saw the judges sitting around a table, and one of them kept pointing in the direction that my painting was. I didn't think in the least she was pointing at mine. They were coming to a final decision, engaged in discussion; then they all got up and went over in the same direction she was pointing earlier; and I saw in complete bafflement that they were gathered around my painting.

One of the ladies at the table to receive paintings and keep records started talking with the judges, and she came back towards me holding up her index finger to signal: number one.

If I said that I didn't take delight in what just happened, I would be a liar. I was elated; I was shocked; not in the faintest had I thought my painting would even make it into the exhibition, let alone get first place. It was like a grace of God swooped down from on high and did it as if to say, "There are some graceful things in this painting. Keep going."

And I'll never forget the week after, at the end of the May long weekend, when I went to pick up my painting from the exhibition. I went into the hall, now filled with all manner of booths and tables; companies getting their names out there and selling stuff. The place was packed to the teeth, with people and artifacts. When I came to my painting, it was hanging there like a lost thing, completely forsaken. It looked like a dull piece of crap.

I always sort of have that dichotomy in the back of my mind; that dichotomy between Prize Number One and that day picking up the painting. Each day is a new creation and our works will have about them something that - though the work has savour in relation to a whole - is limited in more or less degrees. No one is exempt.

I remember reading Flannery O' Connor stories back-to-back over a stretch, and around the tenth or so story her infiltrating Grace started to look like a cheap parlor trick.

Take a hard look at Michelangelo's figures on the Sistine Chapel or on its altar wall. Lose sight of the whole, and narrow in on the singular anatomy, and you see that no one is exempt from this limitation.

You think you'll be the most conscientious and not fall into the same failings? Alright, the Muse says, wish granted: your work now stands before you, without light, utterly square and hopelessly pedantic.

This is an incentive that should free us, and not be a cause for cynicism. For what is most amazing is this: all that is so fickle in us and in our works is hardwired by a very direct connection to our eternal longing for the Permanent.

The Buddhist likes to meditate on impermanence - a noble thing: let's not be fickle. But what is it in one that is meditating on impermanence?

Keep going.


Enbrethiliel said...


That used to happen with me and my writing as well. On some days, I'm the best writer in the world; on other days, I'm just awful. I used to dread going over stuff I had written just months before, because I knew I'd hate it.

I was pleasantly surprised, some time ago, when I reread old posts I had blogged (not just on Blogger) and found that they actually stood up. (Heck, some of the older stuff was even better than some of the newer writing!) There's still room for much editing, of course. Yet there are moments when I wonder whether my satisfaction with my writing has increased only because my learning curve has plateaued.

One reason I revived Sancta Sanctis again was that I realised that it is the home of some of my best writing, and that I have never had similar standards for Shredded Cheddar. Of course, I could also go in the other direction and make Shredded Cheddar more reflective. Surely I have better things to say about books and the art of reading than what I've been posting. Most of the stuff about books is primarily a reaction against the review-based template of book blogging; but if I can't do more than play punk and react against situations I don't like, one whole year after discovering the book blogosphere, then I'm as bad as the pathetic artists you mention who change their work in the hope of winning prizes.

(Word verification: marry. Even the captchas are rubbing my face in it these days.)

Paul Stilwell said...

I was very glad to see you revive Sancta Sanctis, in part, for that reason you mention (not your only reason, nor mine); because your writing is very good there. (Your latest ones are just excellent.)

I wasn't reading Sancta Sanctis for long before you decided to shut it down, but I could tell from the amount I had read that it was (and is) the blog-home of your real writing - of a kind unlike any to be found on other blogs. (It is nice to read one's own past writing that holds up!)

With that said, your posts at Shredded Cheddar - compilation/fun-loving/quick-take oriented - are still superb for what they are - that is, for what they were intended to be. The Tutor Tales and Punk Cath Thoughts are probably better than many other blogs' best material. For "reactive" writing it is good, *not* a sign that you are one of those pathetic artists. And I'm a little surprised at you saying most of it is in reaction to the usual book-review template, as I've always considered it simply a natural extension of your personality (though not at all in the sense that you are merely reactionary), and I still consider it so! :)

No, I can definitely see you are not writing for prizes. But you already know you aren't.

(Captchas...just when you think all they do is spout jibberish as you pass through...*sigh*)

Enbrethiliel said...


Paul, what you wrote about the "blog-home of my real writing" has stuck with me. It's certainly an apt metaphor. Yes, it's true that writing needs a home--and I certainly abandoned it when I made my impulsive decision to let Sancta Sanctis die.

But now I wonder whether a better solution would be for me to move it cross-country to Shredded Cheddar. I think the small readership I managed to pick up from my frolicking on book blogs and horror blogs really likes the "quick takes" style you mention, but lately I've wanted to do more than just make lists (or just punk out). I'm not sure how a more reflective post on would pan out, though, because all my reflections are so inevitably Christian--and I certainly don't want to attract certain old readers of Sancta Sanctis to my new "home" by putting out the stuff they used to like. But I guess that is inevitable.