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.