In Which I Find My Art Reception Mojo

Liz Crain and Homefire1957 sculpture


I have kvetched about attending art receptions on these pages before. They are a regular occurrence in my world, though, and I have longed for a way to feel more comfortable about them. I have gone early and left early, gone late and left early, gone late and stayed to help with clean-up, volunteered to greet or serve, and even brazenly – or more commonly, guiltily – skipped them. Nothing satisfied.

Every Myers-Briggs personality type indicator questionnaire I have ever completed pegs me as 85-100% Introverted. This does not damn me as a socially-awkward hermit, but I will admit that time alone is my oxygen; that’s how I can happily stay in my studio and make my art. I enjoy my friends and family, especially one-on-one where we can wade past the shallows together. Conversely, attending unstructured schmoozing events like class reunions, open houses and art receptions is my kryptonite.  The madding crowd gets me off-center and cranky, desperate to step away for some air.

The recent opening reception for the Pajaro Valley Arts Gallery HOME Exhibit was a blessed revelation, though, and it may have broken the spell. Just look at how at ease I am in the photo! That’s a decidedly almost-extrovert me sharing my art with ya’ll – a changed woman.

What made the difference? I have some ideas.

Here’s a short list of the spell-breaker charms that were in play. If you’re an arty introvert being asked to meet and mingle, try some or all and see how they work for you.

  • Go midway through. The event is in full swing and you glide right in, hardly rippling the space-time continuum.
  • But be sure to get your nametag. Someone may be looking for you.
  • Wear your “I clean-up pretty good” clothes, but go as you and not in an uncomfortable “artist costume.” (If it’s a masked ball or circus theme, you’re on your own. As a costume-phobe I would probably be a no-show.)
  • Wear something with pockets. I don’t know why this works, but it does. (Thanks, Mom.)
  • If you’re supposed to bring a goodie, choose real food, homemade if you can (and, ahem, not faux sushi made from Rice Krispie treats, fruit rollups, colored Twizzlers and Swedish fish. Sorry.)
  • Drop off your food offering and step away from the goodie table. It’s OK to hold a cup or bottle of something as a talisman/prop, but if your hands are full you cannot gesture well or use your camera. And let’s not even go into the grotesque of trying to chomp on a fully-loaded Triscuit and laugh airily at the same time.
  • Key: Take yourself out to enjoy the exhibit before the reception so you’re not stressed about not seeing the art for all the people in the way. You will be able to check out your own piece in peace – making sure your baby is safe – which frees up all kinds of psychic energy. This is crucial for me in order to feel a sense of place, familiarity and HOME.
  • Another Key: Give yourself a mini assignment. I don’t know what’s a good task for you, but basically the goal is to create a structure within the amorphousness of the event. In my case I plan to write about three works from this exhibit – which I chose in my pre-reception visit – and I wanted to connect with those three artists, chat and take their picture next to their piece.  Two I knew and one I did not, so I was grateful for her nametag when she whizzed by me.
  • Take your biz cards. And a pen. You will need them. (You can carry them in the pockety clothing you’re sporting.)
  • Lose the large bag. You can scootch between bodies and pedestals better.
  • The jury’s out on going with someone. Are they self-sufficient and do they understand your hidden agenda? Good. Might they be a drag on the operation in any way? Not good.
  • As soon as you feel like leaving, just leave. Don’t announce, check-out or dawdle.

And that’s it. A few survival techniques for when you’re away from your preferred habitat. And it’s not lost on me that the first time I have ever felt fully at home at an art reception, even glad I went, its theme was “HOME.”

— Liz Crain, who, if you really must know, has routinely tested as Myers-Briggs type INTJ (Introvert/INtuitive/Thinking/Judging)  – about 0.8% of women. As she gets older it seems to be morphing into INFJ , with Feeling replacing the Thinking. That’s an even rarer type, but feels homier.

Links for All Posts About the HOME Exhibit and My Piece in It

“Homefire 1957” Sculpture 

“HOME” Exhibit 

Exhibit Details: “HOME” Member’s Exhibit 2016, July 6 – August 7, 2016,  Pajaro Valley Arts Gallery, 37 Sudden St., Watsonville, CA





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3 thoughts on “In Which I Find My Art Reception Mojo

  1. good timing for me, Liz. I had wavered about going to my reception tonight, for many of your reasons, then decided to go, to at least meet the artists and get photos. Now I read this, and see I have implemented many of your ideas that have served in the past, like the pockets and the mini-assignment about meeting the other artists. One thing that has helped me a lot is to ask my husband to take photos, then I don’t have to hold the camera. I’m going to sharpen my memory using your name tag idea and try not to hold a food plate. thanks for a great post.

    1. Oh Goodie, Kathleen, glad to hear you got ratification and a bit of empowerment here. Every little thing we can do to help ourselves in these unnatural settings is balm, and I am sure we won’t need to use ALL of them every time! I have asked others to take photos and this one of me was a surprise offer I am glad i said yes to. I wish Mr. Crain had an eye and and interest in taking photos, because he’s the logical choice – not his thing…so another problem to address. Or I will learn how to do it more seamlessly,

  2. Good for you LIz! Congratulations…

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