1,983 Rejections: 3 Acceptances Opens Today!

1,983 Rejections: 3 Acceptances Opens Today!


A New Installation by Mary Bennett
Now Through June 25

New to Portland, conceptual artist Mary Bennett presents homage to an unknown poet by covering the walls of the gallery with the poet’s publication submission notes. Found in a dumpster, the poet’s typed and annotated index cards document her work in the 1970’s and are filled with coffee stains, cigarette burns, poem titles and handwritten notes as she attempted to publish her poetry.

Bennett’s installation examines the personal qualities of perseverance, deliberation, consistency and faith that were possessed by one woman, an unknown poet and dedicated writer. This woman believed in herself so much that she sent out 1,986 submissions. She received 1,983 rejections and only three acceptances. Her dedication will be displayed as all of these tattered index cards cover the gallery walls.


Meticulously recorded, continually re-submitted and endlessly documented, this poet wrote and wrote and wrote. To continue in the face of such rejection she must have known something that most of us don’t. Perhaps she believed so completely in herself that she knew the next envelope was going to be an acceptance. We imagine her heading for the mailbox just knowing that today would be the day.


Bennett poses these questions in regards to this installation, “How do you know when to give up? How do you know that maybe your talents don’t lie in this particular field? How do you know that it’s OK to do something else? Are you driven by need to do? The absolute belief that recognition is around the corner? That your work is not valid without someone else saying so? Can an artist, writer, actor, doctor, lawyer, be a success without outside recognition?”

Part installation, part exploration, part interactive meditation on how artists define success, the installation also features a re-creation of the poet’s writing studio as imagined by Bennett. Gallery visitors are invited to use the poet’s typewriter to contribute their own definitions of “artistic success,” which will then be added to the gallery walls.

This unique documentation of a poet’s struggle and success were found in a dumpster in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood in the mid 1990’s, and the cards show a record of submissions to literary journals from 1973 to 1978. The installation is an attempt to recognize and honor this poet for her forbearance and patience and is accompanied by Bennett’s own artwork consisting of mixed media collages that incorporate torn dictionary pages, painting and found ephemeral text.