Back in June I came across a letter from the Emeryville Celebration of the Arts looking for a space to host their 29th annual exhibition. While I couldn’t provide that, I did look them up to see if they were still taking submissions. To my luck, they were! But submissions were due in four days and I had never done something like this, so I went all in.
I could submit six pieces for consideration: that meant naming, photographing (and learning what DPI means), writing an artist statement, and sending it all in. I chose my paper mosaic, a mosaic end table, the encaustic painting one of my teachers loved, the encaustic collage series another teacher loved, a collection of marbled ceramics, and the small winebox mosaic I use to hold drinks when I sit on my couch.
When I came to the line for “website” on the application the light really went on for me. The idea for this site had been rolling around in my head for four months, now that I was literally putting my work out there, I needed to do the same digitally.
In August I got my letter from Emery Arts, they had accepted a piece! My paper mosaic, “For A Wood Thrush” would be in the 29th annual exhibition in October. To prepare I had to submit new photos to apply for the exhibit catalog and change the hangers on the piece. In September I received notice that I could submit prints and cards for sale, this was also something I had never tried but I had fun and did as well as I could.
Last Friday night was the opening of the exhibit and I was a potent mix of excited, nervous, honored, and relieved! It was so much fun to get dressed up and wear a nametag that was printed with “Laili Gohartaj, Artist.” I headed into the massive exhibition and found my piece there and immediately teared up. All I could say was “I’m on a wall.. I’m on a wall with all these artists” it was almost more than I (or my eyeliner) could take to just be a part of this room of truly accomplished artists.
I had some lovely supporters come to the opening and met a few wonderful artists and visitors. I saw a piece that inspired me and many others that I admired. More than anything I felt validated in a new way. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on fear. We all have fears and we express them differently. I’m proud of myself for the way I sometimes approach things like this exhibition: I’ve never done this before so what’s there to be scared of? It’s the same attitude I took to rowing, I never feared flipping a boat on the lake until after I had. When I don’t think about the worst case scenario or “what could go wrong?” I just jump in and try without fear and it’s lead me to things I never would have expected. If you’d told me a year ago I would have my own site, make commissions, sell my art, and be seen in an exhibition I would be baffled about all the steps that got me there, but they really just unfold one at a time if you’re not too scared.
The 29th Annual Emeryville Art Exhibition is free to the public and open daily through October 25th, click here for more information.