Northern Michigan artists celebrate rejection

Mar 21, 2019

For northern Michigan artists, getting in to the annual Regional Exhibit at Traverse City’s Dennos Museum Center is a big deal. But not everyone is accepted to the juried show.

Artists deal with rejection all the time, but this year the artists who were not admitted got together and created a show of their own.


On a Friday night in early February, most of northern Michigan is thawing out from a recent polar vortex. Just north of Traverse City, a former school gymnasium has been converted into a gallery space for a one-night exhibit.

The evening’s show at Leelanau Studios is titled ‘Salon des Refuses,’ which translates to ‘exhibition of rejects.’ The studio is filled with work that wasn't selected for the 2019 Northwest Michigan Regional Juried Exhibition.   

Event Organizer Royce Deans’ artwork was rejected this year, so was the work of his friend and colleague Angela Saxon.

She says they were surprised with how many artists who were not admitted in to the show.

“Because there were so many artists that didn’t get invited to participate this year, Royce and I started talking about it and it was like, ‘maybe we need to make a place where we can show all this work,’” says Saxon.

Saxon and Deans reached out to the other rejected artists. In less than two weeks, dozens of artists had committed to participating in the 'Salon des Refuses,' a name that refers to a famous event in art history.

In 1863, artists like Édouard Manet and James McNeill Whistler were rejected from the French Academy of Fine Art. This sparked an outcry, which prompted the French Emperor to grant them their own show.  

The gallery in Leelanau is packed with people. It’s a typical art opening with food, wine and well-dressed onlookers.

Tom Krueger stands in front of a large painting entitled Birth of Venus. Krueger is nationally known for his ceramic art.

This year he entered two pieces to the Dennos, and one got in. Krueger says the work that is rejected is just as important as the work that gets in.

“It’s a subjective process on the part of the juror who’s having to look at all this work," Krueger says. "It’s like a crapshoot, and if he looks at your work and it’s two minutes to noon, he could be really hungry, and that’s another way that things go sideways.”

Near the end of the evening, the crowd thins out.  

Standing side by side, Royce Deans and Angela Saxon admire the work of their colleagues. She pours a glass of wine. Deans helps himself to a snack.

“There’s a really strong sense of community among the artists up here,” says Saxon. “That was a really motivating factor for us to be able to look at each other’s work. We all inspire each other."

An encore showing of the 'Salon des Refuses' will take place at the Old Art Building in Leland in April.


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