by Barbara Sherf
Every creative person who ever auditioned for a play or an orchestra or has painted, danced, authored a book, written poems, etc., has felt the sting of rejection, but two local artists are proving that sometimes good things can actually come out of rejection. The duo, Wyncote sculptor Simone Spicer and West Philadelphia artist Virginia Maksymowicz, recently received rejection letters from the juror of the Wooodmere Art Museum’s annual juried show, now on exhibit until Sept. 2.
Spicer and Maksymowicz received their rejection letters around the same time and picked up the phone to chat and brainstorm. Eventually they recycled an idea that has been around for a long time – an exhibit for fellow artists who also didn’t make the cut.
So Maksymowicz developed a flyer with information detailing that as far back as 1863, two-thirds of the paintings submitted for the Paris Salon, the annual exhibit sponsored by the French government and the Academy of Fine Arts, were rejected. In response, the excluded artists lobbied for their own exhibit, and more than a thousand visitors a day visited their “Salon des Refusés.”
“Over and over again, we artists face rejection. But rejection does not equal defeat. Like the Parisians, Philadelphia artists refuse to be refused!” said Spicer.
As a result, the two “rejectees” have organized an exhibit that opens this Saturday, June 29, entitled “Salon Des Refusés” (a term meaning exhibition of the rejected) at Germantown’s iMPeRFeCT Gallery featuring two dozen area artists who also received rejection letters from the juror of Woodmere Art Museum’s 78th Annual Juried show.
“As an artist you are used to rejection, yet we estimated that over 600 artists in a 50-mile radius around Philadelphia applied, and only 94 were accepted. This is no fault of the juror or Woodmere,” said Simone, who is a “Dumpster Diver,” a group that creates art from cast-offs and rejected items. “We have great respect for the Woodmere Museum and feel lucky to have it in the area.”
Woodmere’s annual juried exhibition, “Second Nature: The Poetics of Re-presentation,” highlights contemporary work in a wide variety of media by artists living within 50 miles of the museum. On behalf of Woodmere, the Patricia Van Burgh Alison Director and CEO, William R. Valerio, PhD, believes the secondary exhibition is a win-win situation for all art lovers.
“Woodmere is honored that a ‘Salon des Refusés’ has been organized. More experiences with art can only be good, and I look forward to seeing the exhibition,” Valerio said. “However, I don’t want artists to be discouraged with the Annual, which is a different exhibition every year. Every juror has different interests, selects different artists and expresses a unique point of view.”
On June 1, while sitting on the front porch of Woodmere after the opening reception, Maksymowicz and Spicer worked on their laptops to reach out to area artists to create the spin-off exhibition. The duo thought they might have to make cuts and send out rejection letters themselves. But at the end of the day, they found space to hold all of the pieces.
“Everyone who applied is well-represented, and we were really glad to say ‘yes’ to all the applicants. We will be featuring a great variety of sculpture, paintings, installation, mixed media and photography,” said Spicer, who noted that they approached the iMPeRFeCT Gallery owners, who happened to have no shows scheduled for June and July. “We thought our exhibit would happen many months down the road, but they didn’t have anyone using the space, so our exhibition runs concurrently with the Woodmere show. Our theme is about community and diversity. It’s fabulous that this show will be on Germantown Avenue as well. It’s been a scramble to make it happen, but we had a lot of fun with it and are grateful for the space and show of support.”
Coincidentally, it was the rejection of the idea of “perfection” (or acceptability) in the high art world that led Renny Molenaar and Rocio Cabello to open iMPeRFeCT Gallery in Germantown. The artists came to Philadelphia from New York in 2002 to raise their family and get involved in the art community. They started their community gallery in 2012 on Greene Street and eventually moved on to 5539 Germantown Ave.
The Opening Reception for Salon Des Refusés is Saturday, June 29, 6 to 9 p.m. The exhibit runs through July 27 and will include a “Last Supper” event on that date to celebrate the artwork. There will also be a panel discussion at some point to explore the topic of rejection. Visit iMPeRFeCTGallery.com for more information. Entrance to the gallery is free, although donations are graciously accepted.
Flourtown storyteller and author Barbara Sherf has received many rejections over the years. She can be reached at CommunicationsPro.com or CaptureLifeStories@gmail.com