Cast Blog: #WORKOFART

Art Girls (and Boys) Gone Wild!

Tearing Up

The Drama's Done

An Alternate Universe

Enchanted

Tiny Coincidences

Portrait of an Artist

The Town

Main Street Meets Mean Street

The Secret

On Getting Naked and Hitting the Streets

Selling Out or Buying In?

A Difficult Choice

Do You Believe in Magic?

Elimination Heartbreak

Figure Eights and Fast Lanes

Eye of the Tiger Penis

The Temptation of Simon

Art (and Defeat) in the Streets

Night Owl

All the Art That's Fit to Paint

Riddle of the Spanx

The Gray Lady isn't Just for Men

Bangs, Toggle Sweaters, and Kids

The Fame

Child's Play

Kids' Stuff

How Could You?

Sex is in the Air

The Essence of the Competition

Pop Touched Me, Too

One Enchanted Evening

What's Poop Got to Do with It?

For Your Entertainment

Scat-Art-Logical Humor

When Simon Met Sucklord

It's Baaaa-aaaack!

Back to School

Isn't It Ironic?

Art History

The Final Crit

Art Girls (and Boys) Gone Wild!

Jerry talks tiger penises and the Suckpenis.

Something more than competition has entered the Work of Art fray -- not greed so much as need. And not just the typical artist-need to be loved by everyone everywhere for the rest of time. (Artists!) Money. Last week saw the introduction of a $20,000 reward for the winner of the challenge. This week, the demon minds at Bravo up the ante to $30,000. At exactly 17 minutes, 58 seconds, into last night’s episode comes Work of Art’s first ever catfight! I get glimpses of why girls’ playgrounds are supposedly so rough. Lola snips at Kymia, who grouses about Lola to Sarah K., who says “Lola is one of those people I stay away from,” as Lola and Michelle side against Kymia who starts crying as Sara J. complains about Michelle and Lola who call Sara J. “a worrywart.” Wow! I would be dead in that sandbox. Lola adds that she’s competitive with Kymia, who muses, “I could use the money because I live with my boyfriend’s parents.” Dusty goes her one better, offering that his wife and he could afford to have another child if he won. Sara J. can’t go to grad school without the dough. Reality TV turns more real. The new show opens with Young massaging Sarah K’s back. Sara J. longingly quips, “Young, will you massage my vagina?” Wow -- Sara J. has game! Or she’s randy! Or just high. In a fleeting shot, I think I spy her on the roof getting stoned.

Anyway: For this week’s challenge, four randomly selected two-person teams have to make an outdoor painting on a 44-foot long brick wall on the side of a building under the Manhattan Bridge. The setting is stirring. The teams pair off.

Dusty and Young develop a tender partnership: Dusty just became a father and Young lost his. Dusty notes that Young’s black short shorts make him look like “a gay construction worker” and claims that all the ladder-climbing in this challenge is resulting in multiple scrotum-sightings. Sarah K. happily confirms this. The Sucklord, having shown a more human side last week, is making me like him more -- and he promptly screws that pooch. The minute he’s paired with Sarah K. he crows, “Cutie with a booty … It’s pretty obvious she wants my body.” Sarah K’s body language says otherwise, her arms crossed in front of her breasts. After Sara J. coyly observes that Sucklord “could impregnate Sarah K. by the end of this challenge,” Lola coos, “I’m not jealous … There’s enough of the Sucklord to go around.” OMG! If Lola is talking about the Suckpenis, I’m off the show. Even though this vernacular-art challenge plays to Sucklord’s one strength, he is distracted both by Sarah’s breasts and by his fear of losing. Worrying about what will be allowed by the judges, exhibiting total lack of confidence, he puts Sarah K. in charge. Bad idea. Her wall grid is only outdone in lameness by Sucklord’s idea of attaching little wooden L-shaped things to it. Too scared to really take responsibility, he sends Sarah to Brooklyn alone, ostensibly so he can pack up their gear and construct more meaningless L-shapes.

Sara J. and Kymia create a fine painting of an alien creature pulling a tree. Though it conveys no message or meaning, it has crazy graphic power. The artists insist it’s about migration or exile or one of those p.c. war-horsies that makes the art world automatically like things. My fave painting this week, though, is by Lola and Michelle. Having a ball together, letting their freak flags fly and randy imaginations run wild, they fashion “hyper-active tigers and sexual predators with striped penises.” Michelle says, “Penises are so much fun.” I love their piece for basically being a demented dominatrix comix strip blown up to 40 feet long. I’d have voted it the winner, but it has one flaw: Though it’s a big public artwork, it looks like nothing till you get within five inches of it.

Instead, Dusty and Young won, for totally engaging the public. It was amazing to watch viewers and strangers stop, look, and talk about the piece, hang out, write personal memories of lost parents and newborn children. It was way more than a feel-good public service announcement. This painting produced its own emotional and psychic gravity field. It won, and should have won. Also, Dusty says if they win he’ll wedge his “junk” into Young’s short-shorts.Which is way more than can be wedged into anything made by this week’s losers, Sarah and Sucklord. After learning last week that he’s more than a cartoon character, I’m sorry to see the Sucklord go. I see in him a lot of my own guy-who-tries-too-hard qualities. Watching on TV, I see he could carry the whole show himself. But alas, the artistic force was not with him. His quest for the ring had to end. May the action-figure force be with him. As I said before, pretentiously channeling the mighty spirit of art, “Sucklord, you shall not pass.” Back to the shire, my little proto-Frodo-type.

Enchanted

Simon was blown away by the brilliance of Kymia's drawings.

While the finale was the episode that I enjoyed watching most, it was also by far the one that was most fun shooting.

First of all it was such a pleasure to visit Young, Kymia, and Sara in their respective homes and to get to meet their loved ones. Driving around Chicago on a sunny day in a convertible Fiat 500 with very loud music was not too bad either.

The finale is the only episode where the contestants have plenty of time to prepare their exhibitions and have no thematic constraints of any kind. They can do their work in their own studios, are not being filmed 24/7, and are not sleep deprived.

The lack of all that pressure is not necessarily an advantage. So often in life we achieve so much more with stringent deadlines than when we think we have all the time in the world on our side. 

I wanted the finalists to do their best work ever for the finale. My visits to their homes and studios took place after already about two thirds of the time at their disposal had elapsed. I had high expectations since Young, Kymia, and Sara had all already demonstrated their talent during the competition so far. What I initially saw in each of their studios did not measure up with these expectations. This explains why I was possibly the bluntest with the artists that I had been during the whole competition.

Young was always the one who knew right from the start most precisely what he wanted to do and was very good articulating it. While, like everything he does, what he showed me in Chicago was fully thought through and extremely well executed, what he was planning for the finale was not exactly conveying much emotion. It was in total contrast to the shrine he had erected in his studio as homage to his late father. That piece was extremely moving without being sentimental and was very powerful. Seeing it made me encourage Young to fully explore the vein of that particular work. When I saw his exhibition fully installed, I was highly impressed by what he pulled together. He did an even more moving shrine for his father that was my favorite piece in the sophisticated installation he created for the finale. It was evident that it was speaking to the viewers in the gallery, and it was touching to see how China and KAWS reacted to it. Young is not only a gifted and intelligent artist, but he also demonstrated how elegant and gracious he is by the way he reacted when Kymia was declared the winner. 

Sara had built real momentum towards the end of the competition. For the finale she grew beyond herself and put together a remarkable show that, contrary to was observed during the critique, made to me a very coherent impression. At the time of my visit her intentions were still all over the place, and there was little coherence between the very large caricature works on paper and the sculptures. She replaced the works on paper that I had seen in her studio with new, very good ones. On top of that she did some new beautiful and poetic works such as the open birdcage with a flock of origami birds flying out of it, the more disturbing but equally strong lingerie done in human hair, and the imprints of the body glued to the wall. She could have chosen the safe track of doing a show mostly in her signature style that she had used in her self-portrait and in Episode 1. Instead she explored new ways of working which paid off in a very strong show for the finale. Like Young, she was very elegant in her reactions to Kymia's victory.

Kymia at various moments during the earlier parts of this competition had shown us flashes of her immense talent. I liked the way she transformed the sculpture she had chosen in Episode 1 for the so called kitsch art challenge. The work she did for the Pop challenge got her a second place right behind Young. The coffin she did with hands and feet sticking out for the newspaper challenge was good, but it was the drawing that brought her victory in the children's challenge that enchanted me. It is an outstanding drawing by any standard. Ever since seeing that drawing, I was secretly hoping Kymia would do more works of equal brilliance. I was trembling for her, since as opposed to Lola or Sara her momentum seemed to slow down a bit. There was the “key to the universe” in the car challenge that had malfunctioned and the “exchange of signatures” that while it sufficiently impressed the judges clearly had very little commercial appeal in the street vendors challenge. I did not particularly like the portrait she did of the couple of antique dealers in Cold Spring. Luckily for her I seem to be alone in that case, since that work allowed her to snatch victory in the penultimate challenge. 

When I visited Kymia's studio I was struck by the beauty of one large drawing. I was thrilled, because finally I was seeing again the type of quality that made me admire so much the drawing from the children's challenge. Turning round in the studio I saw two smallish sculptures that not only had none of the quality of the large drawing but were so unimpressive (I used stronger language on camera) that it was hard to imagine that it was the same person who had done them. Seeing Kymia's reaction to my blunt comments, I was worried that instead of motivating her by shaking her up, I had actually totally discouraged her. I advised her to try and do several large scale works in the manner of the works that I admired. She questioned whether she still had enough time to do them before the final exhibition. Not only was I very much relieved when I walked into her exhibition at the gallery; I was blown away by the quality of several of the large drawings she had done and in particular with the one of the boat with the shadow of the legs on its sail. That work to me is the very best work produced by any contestant during Season 2 of Work of Art. Kymia pulls off the feat of walking that very thin line of creating an exceptional work when it so easily could have looked corny and overly sentimental. I do hope that many viewers of the show will make the effort of going to the Brooklyn Museum of Art to see Kymia's exhibition. It is difficult to fully appreciate on television her gorgeous technique. While her drawings look impressive from afar, it is a pleasure to examine their texture and strokes close up. Kymia's technique is unique and reminiscent of her Iranian cultural heritage.

Death was the predominant theme of the three strong shows the finalists put together for the finale. Kymia, Young, and Sara each dealt with it in totally different ways. Each can be proud of what they did and how they ended the competition. 

It was great having KAWS as a guest judge for the finale. I was an admirer of his work early on and am thrilled to see how he goes from success to success. Artists themselves always bring a unique perspective to the judging of the works, and the guest judges form the ideal complement to the outstanding roster of permanent judges China Chow, Jerry Saltz, and Bill Powers.

The most gratifying thing for me personally in participating in Work of Art this season was working with the artists, host, judges, guest judges, executive producers, producers, technicians, cameramen, sound engineers, make-up artists, etc. It was fun, inspiring, and invigorating.