When I was first beginning my career, I entered many juried competitions. It seemed the thing to do. It was always a roller-coaster ride of emotions. I either felt vindicated and on my way to superstardom, or I felt I had been found out and recognized as the no-talent pretender I really was. It all depended upon the likes or dislikes of a particular juror. The more prestigious the juror, the more extreme the hills and valleys. I can't help but feel that the direction of my early work was, to some extent, steered one way or another by encounters with people whom I considered experts. Was this a bad thing? I must admit, looking back, it forced me to examine my directions and motivations in a new and sometimes harsh light, removed from the isolation and safety of my studio. Whether I was acccepted or not, I always did my best to attend the openings, see the art, meet the juror and hear the gallery talk. This process, I believe, contributed immensely to my growth as an artist. Eventually, as I matured, it helped me to develop confidence and the thick skin essential to a working artist. The fact that a piece of work could be rejected, or more politely "declined", by one juror and then awarded "Best of Show" by another, served to underscore the fact that good art is a matter of opinion. When I attended shows where I had been "declined" I would see art that I considered as good or better than mine but I would also see works that I felt were derivative or just plain boring. How could an expert value these over mine? Don't go there! It is all subjective. I have also gotten into shows only to find myself embarrassed to hang next to work far superior to mine. If you put it all in perspective, even the best of shows are eventually reduced to a line on a resume, filling space during a particular year, usually skimmed over or ignored.
So my advice, take them with a grain of salt. Exhibitions can be great learning experiences and help hone your skills. They can be good exposure and lend toward name recognition, but "to thine own self be true." Follow your own path, continue to look within. Your own honest opinion matters more than anything else. It is better to be bad and original than good and derivative.
That being said, I just got into the "2011 Texas National". Yea!!! I'm sorry, it still feels good! There were over 1250 entries from 39 states and mine was one of the 114 selected by juror and well known artist, James Drake, Texas Medal of Honor winner. Reception 6 pm to 8 pm April 9th at the Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House, 329 East Main Street, Nacogdoches, Texas. I am happy that the chosen piece is small and the crating and shipping won't be much of a hassle. Nacogdoches is only a 4 hour drive from my home, so I am looking forward to being at the reception.
I only enter two or three shows a year nowadays and their acceptance does not carry the weight that it used to. I know that a different juror would pick a different show, one that may or may not include me. But for now, I willingly accept the fact that a peer appreciates my struggle and honest search for relevance.