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Lessons from my First Solo Art Exhibition

What I wish I did, what I’m glad I did, and how I’ll approach my next exhibition.

Putting on my first solo show felt like a rite of passage in many ways. Growing as an artist, to me, meant there were these steps that I had to check off my list, and creating a cohesive collection of work to be shown en masse was right at the top. So, when Courtney Cotton—curator/manager of Blue Tile Gallery—agreed to host my show, it was on!

What I’m Glad I Did

I spent a full month ruminating on the overall theme of the show. What is important to me? Who am I as an artist? Well, I’m a woman who deeply believes in the power of wishes and all the superstitions surrounding them. I’m a woman who had a bag of wish bones in her cupboard for a decade that she haphazardly added to after each roasted chicken. That bone collection sparked my painting “The Wishmaker” and then that painting kicked off the entire show. It was to be a collection of paintings telling stories of superstitions, mythology, and moments of pure magic. I brain dumped all of my ideas around those parameters and then started sketching my favorites. Once I had my sketches in my place, it was really just a production line of completing paintings, which took a LOT of the pressure off. I wasn’t having to come up with new, amazing ideas every day—I just had to execute what I had already put in place.

What I Wish I Did

Although the process of creating was relatively streamlined, I was still on a major time crunch. The amount of time between when I was offered the gallery space to the day of the show was four months. I had originally created 34 sketches and was only able to execute 17 paintings and 1 sculpture. I was so crunched for time that I was still painting the day before the show and adding finishing touches to my sculpture IN the gallery on the day of the show. In essence, I was creating to fit a timeline and what I wish I had done was take however long I needed to create the show I wanted and then pitch it to a gallery. Although I’m happy with how my show presented, I do wish I had been able to spend more time editing and working through the inevitable bumps in the road as you work on a painting. Though I will say that if it were completely open ended, I don’t know if I would have created as consistently over the last four months—so there is that!

What I’ll Do Next Time

I think the happy medium, then, is to take the time to conceptualize the show I want and begin work so that I have maybe 40-60% of a collection to show the gallery to pitch my next solo exhibition. It shows them what they’re getting into and gives me the time to edit and get my ducks in a row before then lighting a fire under my butt to finish it.

Another thing I did for this first exhibition is to only invite close friends and family. I didn’t advertise it widely because I wanted to practice talking about my work and my pieces around the people who already love and support me. Having a good experience here made me feel prepared for the next show where I’ll be confident in how I talk about my work. I’ll also hire or appoint a friend to take photos for me, because there are very few that exist from that wonderful opening party because we were all caught up in enjoying each other in the moment.



Left: “Stayin’ Alive” Sculpture as part of the Myths and Old Magick Exhibition; Right: Friends and family enjoying the show on opening day.

What I Couldn’t Have Done Without

I could NOT have made any of this happen without the most amazing friends, mentors, and support system. I am very much a, “No, it’s ok– I got it!” type of person, but I asked for and accepted help when it was offered. My mentor Angel Ramos was on Zoom with me in my studio at 9pm helping me solve a painting problem. My dear friend Lisa was framing, hanging, and driving for hours to help me move my sculpture and paintings (and she did it TWICE! Once to hang and once to tear down!) My other bestie Kate is the one who hung the vinyl show info and was varnishing and painting edges the day before the show. Not to mention the number of times she checked in on me in my studio to cheer me on and hype me up. I even got a text from her during our first snow saying, “I know it’s snowing, but get your ass to the studio!” And she was right. I was in my PJs turning on Love is Blind.

Lisa and Barbara brought food for the opening party so I didn’t have to worry about it. My moms took the time to fly in from the other side of the country and then prepared an entire cheeseboard and floral arrangement in their hotel room to bring to the show. My friend and mentor Tracey drove to my studio from Boulder to teach me some of her tricks and help me troubleshoot a painting. And this doesn’t even cover the people who took the time to show up for the opening party to support me. My show was a success because of the amazing support of my friends. When I say I couldn’t have done it without them, I do not mean it figuratively; I mean I literally could not have done it without them.

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