Archive for May 8th, 2023


GC Myers- The Sky Doesn’t Pity, 1995

Competitions are for horses, not artists.

–Bela Bartok

The quote above from Hungarian composer Bela Bartok pretty much sums up my feelings about entering my work in competitions. Don’t get me wrong– I have been a highly competitive person in most things through most of my life. But I never liked the idea of judging one painting against another as though there was some objective scale on which to judge them. Art is always subjective, in the eye of the beholder. Plus, the idea of a judge or group of judges trying to get a grasp of your work with 10 seconds exposure to it seemed kind of unfair in some way.

That being said, I did enter my work in competitions early in my career and have also served as a judge in several others. I had a pretty decent level of success competing, taking a third place in a national competition and a couple of Best in Shows along with a couple of other awards in regional events. But it never felt good to me and when I felt like it no longer served my needs I stopped entering them. 

It was pretty much the same with judging. As much as I tried to be objective, my selections in these competitions always ended up subject to my own likes and dislikes, on whether they moved me in some way. They were honest choices but it always bothered me that these artists were judged on a scale that most likely was unknown to them.

As it was with entering my work in competitions, I no longer judge competitions.

But I do have to add that those competitions did wonders for me early on in my development and I may not be writing this today if not for them. Here’s what I wrote ten years back about the painting above which was the first painting I ever entered in a competition:

I was looking around my studio, taking in some of the work hanging on the walls throughout the house. There are pieces from other artists, including some talented artist friends and young fans along with some notables such as David Levine and Ogden Pleissner. But most of it is older work of my own. There are a few orphans, paintings that showed extensively but never found a home. I see flaws in some of these that probably kept potential collectors from taking it home but most just didn’t find that right person with which to connect. Most of the other hanging work is work that I won’t part with, work that somehow has deeper meaning for me. Work that I just keep close.

One of these paintings is the one shown here, The Sky Doesn’t Pity, a smallish watercolor that’s a little over 4″ square. It was painted in 1995 after I had started publicly showing my work for the first time at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY, not too far from my home.  The gallery has been what I consider my home gallery for 18 years [28 years now], hosting an annual solo show of my work for the last eleven [ 21 now] years.

But when this piece was painted, I was still new there, still trying to find a voice and a style that I could call my own. I had sold a few paintings and had received a lot of encouragement from showing the work at the gallery but was still not sure that this would lead anywhere.  I entered this painting in a regional competition at the Gmeiner Art Center in Wellsboro, a lovely rural village in northern Pennsylvania with beautiful Victorian homes and gas lamps running down its Main Street.

It was the first competition I had ever entered and, having no expectations, was amazed when I was notified that this piece had taken one of the top prizes. I believe it was a third but that didn’t matter to me. Just the fact that the judges had seen something in it, had recognized the life in it, meant so much to me. It gave me a tremendous sense of validation and confidence in moving ahead.

Just a fantastic boost that opened new avenues of possibility in my mind.

I still get that same sense even when I look at this little piece today, a feeling that keeps me from even contemplating getting rid of this little guy. I can’t tell you how many times I have glimpsed over at this painting and smiled a bit, knowing what it had given me all those years ago.

And it keeps giving, encouraging me even now.

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