Thank you for your interest in the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts and your submission to the Ploch Art Gallery. It is with regret that we must notify you that your work has not been selected by our jury panel for a solo exhibition at this time.
I am nobody. I am a portrait artist no one has heard of, and I am creating a show featuring the portraits of 15 people you have never heard of. I am shining a spotlight on 15 people who, although you don’t know their names, are really quite remarkable. You should know their names. You should know their stories.
I am doing this because we as a society have become far too enamored with whomever the media dangles in front of us. We know too much about the lives of sports stars, actors, musicians, and a particularly strange group of reality tv people, who for some reason keep showing up on our tv screens, without having actually done anything whatsoever to merit our attention.
You know their faces, and you know their names. If you pay any attention to the daily newsfeed, you know who is dating whom, who is pregnant (or not), and very possibly where they went on their last vacation.
But I want to turn your attention to a different group of people. Who has had an impact on your life? Who do you admire, and why? Who has inspired you because of the work they have chosen or the people they’ve helped? Do they even know that you look up to them?
My project is called “Famous.” Those 15 people are my own personal celebrities. They are mentors, poets, scientists, neighbors, care givers, and more. Each of them is saving some little small corner of the world—but it isn’t so small to the ones in that particular corner.
My 15 chosen portrait subjects, every single one of them, when I explained the project and asked if I could paint them, had the same reaction: “Me? You want to paint me?? Wow, that’s amazing, I don’t know what to say. Really, ME?!”
As I am working on the paintings, I am also approaching galleries to find a venue willing to host the show. Originally, I really only had one in mind—it was a perfect fit. There is an amazing gallery space, a theater where we could host talks by the subjects about their work, and even an area for children’s art, which will also be a component of the show. It was my dream gallery. I put in a submission months ago, and today I got the answer back: “Nope.”
That was a bit of a blow. I had thought I was offering a really great concept, with a lot of components that would bring people in. I have already been working on this show for a year, and will continue for another year before I’m ready to hang art on walls. I spend long days, early mornings and late nights to keep this project on schedule while also working full time.
One of the maddening things about this type of application is that you almost never get any feedback as to why they made their decision. So your mind tries to fill in that gap: Nope—your show isn’t interesting enough. Or flashy enough. Commercially viable enough. Contemporary enough.
And then a voice whispered: You aren’t famous enough.
And I realized that it really is perfect. I’m not famous enough. Which is pretty much the point of this whole thing. So I’ll keep applying to galleries, and when there are more rejections, I’ll just remember that this isn’t about getting into the most beautiful, perfect place. It’s about telling people’s stories, changing perspectives, and reminding all of us that fame should mean something a little bit different. And of course, that we are all famous to the people whose lives we impact.
So bring on the rejections! Let’s really get this thing rolling. I’m not famous. But I’m looking around for my small corner.