Sunday, April 23, 2017

Thank Me for Coming

Let me say this right up front: none of this is a big deal. I know that. And I also know that what I’m about to tell you has happened to many people before me and will happen to many after. But it’s been a few months and I still can’t shake the hurt, so I decided to write about it anyway.

On December 10, 2016, midway between the national body blows of Hillary Clinton’s electoral loss and Donald Trump’s inauguration, I had a small, personal one of my own. That evening, a reception was held for my first solo gallery show in more than 10 years, and nobody came. Not one single person.

None of my hundreds of facebook friends. None of my thousands of twitter followers. Most painfully, though, not a single one of the hundreds of people whose openings I have attended in my 15 plus years of making art in DC. Not one.

I know there were some good reasons. It was a busy weekend. Several other art spaces were having events. Holiday festivities were no doubt underway. But all the same, not one single person decided that mine was the event that they would put first. And that hurts like kneeling on gravel.

I immediately decided never to go to anyone’s opening again. And then I decided to go to everyone’s, so it would never happen to any of my friends. But even with all of the time and the alcohol and the yoga that have passed since that night, I still feel a little bitter every time I show up to a bustling opening and am greeted by all the usual people. The people who didn’t show up for me.

Now I find myself seriously considering whether I should ever try again. I had already applied for a show out in the suburbs in Virginia, but hey! I got rejected, so I no longer had to worry whether anyone would come or not. A show at AU? Chances are a little better that some people might come to a show in DC, but hey! I got rejected, so I’ll never have to find out.

For every exhibition opportunity I have considered since that day, I’m adding an extra layer of dread on top of the usual likelihood of getting rejected. What if I am selected, and I work on a show for months, and once again nobody comes? There is so much effort and expense involved in putting together a solo exhibition, I just don’t know whether I can, or should, even bother.

For now, I’m sticking to festivals, where it’s someone else’s job to draw the crowd, and to the internet, where people seem to like the cartoon version of me. Who knows, maybe in three weeks, or three months, or another ten years, an amazing opportunity for a show will come up, and I’ll do it and it will be great. Or maybe it won’t.

In the meantime, if you should see me at your opening, thank me for coming. 


  1. Damn, that sucks. You deserve much better than that. Hope it will get better for you

  2. Omg. I love you and I know it probably doesn't help but I think you are extremely talented and brilliant and please don't ever give up. I once owned an art gallery, it failed miserably. I lost everything and went bankrupt. It was heartbreaking, I thought I'd never paint again, but things get better if you simply refuse to stop. I've never had an art show since but we have each other and we have the internet and we have the future to make something amazing with it. Maybe someday we can do a group show. Much love to you. Hang in there, it's these moments that make our tomorrows stronger and our art more meaningful. Xoxo - Surly Amy

  3. Michelle! I would have come to your opening except I knew nothing about it! It would have been a great way to spend the evening of December 10. I'm sorry you had a crappy opening. As a fellow artist in torment, I can sympathize. You. Are. Talented. You. Are. Brilliant. Keep doing what you are doing, but maybe I need to get on some sort of email list?

  4. Oh man, I hear you. I don't know many people, and I barely know you, and no one shows up to my openings either. Wait, one person did, and I just saw her at the grocery store tonight and I thanked her for coming and I don't think she really knew how important it is. I haven't had a solo yet so that would be super harsh, I know, what you experienced. At least other people's friends show up to group shows! (Leda Black)

  5. Michelle, I've put my money where my mouth is about your art: it's wonderful, which is why it's hanging proudly in my living/dining room. I wish I could have attended the December 10 event, and I hope to be able to attend your next one. (Ted Bilich)

  6. Oh Michelle, I am so sorry this happened to you. No one gets through life without dissapointment and pain, and pain caused by our friends and colleagues often seems to sting just a little bit more than other types.

    Thank you for writing this piece. It's a great reminder to us all that often times it is isn't the deliberate actions that we do that has an impact, it is often what we fail to do that makes the larger impression.

    I'm so sorry you experienced this pain, but thank you for sharing it with us so that we have an opportunity for self examination. Small kindnesses have the greatest impact, are the easiest to enact, and yet the first to be sacrificed.

    By the way, the piece I bought from you is hanging right in front of my desk. I adore it.

  7. I am so sorry I couldn't come that night. I hope you know it does not mean that I don't think your work is insanely cool or creative or that I value you as an awesome person who makes DC brighter and funnier because of your presence. I am sorry that we all collectively failed to show you that on a day that was important to you. ♡

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  9. I don't know what to say except you are one of the most tireless artists I have ever met, one of a handful I whose work I admire as being both aesthetically interesting and intellectually challenging.

    That totally sucks. I wish I had been there.