It's always depressing when a day that holds so much promise ends up being a day that holds disappointment instead. Today was one of those days for Amanda and I'm left not really being able to tell her anything that's going to make her feel better. I know that eventually she'll get past it but for tonight she's sad and depressed and I can fully understand why.
A couple weeks ago Amanda had received notice that she was going to be getting an award during the Norwich Free Academy's 120th Norwich Art School Student Exhibition and Awards Program which was held earlier tonight in the Slater Auditorium. She was actually pretty psyched about it and who wouldn't be? Getting an award is a pretty cool thing as it validates your efforts in whatever it is you're doing be it writing or painting or drawing or music or dance or what-have-you. A lot of time people say that they don't want recognition but if you're creative, I think that deep down you really do - especially when it comes to something like artwork because you're always a bit worried that others won't find it good. It takes a tough-skinned artist to not care what others think about your craft and Amanda is not tough-skinned at all.
Anyhow, we went over to the school for the 7:00 ceremony and after a little talk by one of NFA's more successful Fine Arts graduates they launched into the awards - of which there were quite a few. Amanda was asked to stand for a round of applause as the winner in the 2D category in the Young at Art Competition that was held in Mystic awhile back along with the other two students who placed in the show and then winners of other shows were also asked to stand for a round of applause also.
Following that when it came time for the actual giving of the awards, Amanda was called up along with six other students to receive a Faculty Choice Award (the Director of the program proceeded to mispronounce her name wrong for the second time that evening) and then for the next half hour or so a bunch more awards were given out in various and assorted categories - none of which Amanda received.
After the program came to a close I met up with her and asked her what she had gotten and that was a sketchbook and pencils. Okkkaaayyyy ... not exactly the award that she was hoping for especially when everyone else seemed to have received a cash award of some sort. I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed for her, too and I probably could have been more enthusiastic about it but what I had noticed during the presentation of the awards was that pretty much every other kid who got an award was of the cookie-cutter teenage variety type whereas Amanda really doesn't fit into that particular mold at all. Her artwork is also glaringly different from that which I saw in the exhibition and of a style all her own which is not a bad thing at all but perhaps not the type that garners accolades from aging art teachers.
I don't know ... all I know is that she got more and more depressed as the evening went on and something that should have been a happy occasion turned into a feeling of "I wish I'd stayed home" from her. She said that being given a sketchbook and pencils felt more like a "thanks for coming" sort of award and not a real award and her confidence in her artwork was totally shot to hell. It didn't matter what I said, she'd been judged against her peers and - in her eyes - came up lacking.
It hurts me to see her doubting her own artistic talents and abilities but I really do understand how she's feeling. There's nothing worse than getting your hopes up and having them dashed on the pavement while others feel validated and happy that their work has received some sort of an accolade. Artists are temperamental at best anyway and walk a finer line than even the rest of us - a very fine line that separates confidence and despair.
Tonight Amanda is on the wrong side of that line and I can only hope that tomorrow she'll be able to shake it off and determine that it doesn't matter whether she received a cash award in recognition of her skills and talent as an artist - that her art comes from her heart and if it's not the type that a mainstream group can appreciate then too bloody bad. However, until then, I'm going to shed a tear or two for her as even though I'm a lot older than she is, I can still remember the sting of disappointment when an award I was hoping for never came through either and the feeling of inadequacy that comes along with that.
Today really could have ended better.