No Cigar

So, last week, it was official. I found out I was not offered a spot in this year’s 2024 class at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, but boy, did I come as close as possible.

I suppose I should be very proud of myself for being at the top of the waiting list, but when you get that close to a dream, it’s almost like you have a longer fall to the ground. However, I was completely surprised that I got an interview in the very first place back in March. The next two and a half months were long and drawn out with both disappointment and hope. A dangling carrot hung from mid-April to June 1st, as I hoped for just one guest to back out of their spot. But who would do that? Well, no one.

Before applying last year, I vowed never to apply to any residency again. At 55 years old, I felt I was getting too old for all that. Not just with age but with my physical disabilities and what I’m capable of. I haven’t felt I’ve been getting any better.

But the new director encouraged me to apply again next year, so I will. Maybe I’ll get it, but I don’t think getting this close will increase my chances; it’s still so competitive. It’s still a steeper acceptance rate than Harvard. Perhaps I should be grateful I made it this far and leave it at “close but no cigar.” But that isn’t success.

What is success? This kind of thing makes me step back and reevaluate the meaning of success again. I usually equate it to my happiness, although I’m rarely happy when it comes to my career. I’m happy coming up with artistic ideas and seeing them through. Success, to me, is being satisfied with the results of those projects and, ultimately, presenting them. “Happiness” from selling art is so fleeting. It’s helpful at best but not truly rewarding to the heart, and it can mess with my psyche. It probably messes with a lot of artist’s psyches, or can eventually.

I’ve thought I’ve wanted things in my life so bad, with all my being. Then, I got some of it. A taste of it, or even the thing exactly, only to find out it wasn’t all that or what I imagined it to be or feel like. Money and adulation is never “it.” It’s only helpful for practical purposes but not so helpful for enhancing the soul. I don’t even like using that word—the “soul.” But for lack of a better word, like “innards,” you get the gist.

All artists deserve a platform and fair pay. It’s shitty that most get nothing while some get a lot, and a few get a ton. It’s how the world goes ‘round in this society with every fucking thing, and it’s not fair, but it seems especially unfair to artists and the hungry because no one deserves to be poor when there’s so much wealth all around us. It doesn’t even make sense! Does everyone need such an abundance of shit?

Well, now I sound like some kind of socialist, don’t I? But I hate politics. Especially these days; it’s the worst.

One thought on “No Cigar

  1. Hannah Phillips June 14, 2024 / 9:56 am

    So well said.

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