artprize afterglow

The votes have been cast, winners announced, and entries are being deinstalled. ArtPrize 2012 is over, save for what appears to be a walking tour of the finalists and related activities. Love this LA Times article about the first prize winner, Adonna Khare.

With the perspective that time and reflection bring, my mixed feelings about the experience have clarified into something much more positive. The brilliance of it all is that I've really had to embrace exactly what my entry preached: living in shades of gray (e.g., finding more subtle rewards from being there). As my friend Mandy would say, the Universe has a sense of humor.

Mandy Gordon in front of "Bridging Humanity" by Edward CasagrandeThe biggest surprise turned out to be how upside-down I got with my priorities, once onsite. Fear of facing the public's reaction to my entry drove a lot of small-mindedness that I didn't realize was lurking inside of me. There's a certain vulnerability to witnessing thousands of people react to one's work. It's one thing to send something off to a gallery for display, or receive a rejection letter by mail. Quite another to interact directly with those responses.

The range of unfiltered, unedited human response was daunting. Ninety-five percent of people appeared to really enjoy my entry, and many were delighted. Sadly, as I focused on those whose cup of tea is not an extremely feminine paper swan ballerina, my generosity of spirit went missing. The irony is how generous people have been to help get me to Grand Rapids, and support the project once we were there. Heck, there are still people there lending a hand to help with deinstallation.

Thomas the awesomely helpful bellman at The Amway Grand Hotel

So, while I'm not proud of some of my response, the experience has been well worth it. Among many things, I've learned an important paradox: artists must have thick skins, while remaining exquisitely sensitive to the impact one's work can have on others. And that people are entitled to their experiences of the art, regardless of the reactions it fosters. Previously, this knowledge was somewhat theoretical. Now it feels very real.

Another big lesson is how important it is to get back to the work. Instinctively, one of the first things I did upon returning to Germany was focus on my next pieces for an exhibition in November here in Frankfurt. Julia Cameron talks about "keeping the drama on the page," shorthand for advising artists to focus on the work instead of fabricating trouble elsewhere because we're avoiding something difficult.

This is not the last of ArtPrize. There are people to properly thank and contributors to gift with handmade goodies. So while the remainder of 2012 is happily packed with projects and deadlines, the afterglow of ArtPrize will remain.