Cast Blog: #WORKOFART

Enchanted

Tearing Up

The Drama's Done

An Alternate Universe

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

Art Girls (and Boys) Gone Wild!

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

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.

 

Tiny Coincidences

Simon catches up on Episodes 8 and 9.

Since my day job keeps me slightly busy, I have fallen behind with my comments on the current season.

The last two episodes were the most fun to watch and of course decisive in determining who would make it to the finale.

Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn has a proven track record of a great eye and being able to spot great talent early. She had a very positive and strong influence on the panel of judges during Season 1. Had she been a guest judge for Episode 9 instead of 8, the outcome might have produced a slightly different trio of finalists. 

In Episode 8 Sarah Kabot produced work that sold for the least in the street and impressed the least in the gallery competition. Her elimination therefore did not surprise and did not lead to a lot of discussion. Kymia took a risky path by taking a conceptual and clearly noncommercial approach with her exchange of signatures. From the selling point of view she was second to last and beat Sarah Kabot only by a single dollar. What saved her is that the judges liked it and that she had decided to take Dusty as a team mate. Dusty was the third best street vendor which boosted their team's financial tally. It shows that his surveillance camera on the American flag had a considerably more positive response from the street than from the gallery. Incidentally I would really have loved to go to Arkansas. At least I have meanwhile learned how to pronounce it properly!

Lola did her best work of the whole competition in these last two episodes, and it therefore must have been all the harder for her to have narrowly missed making it to the finale. In Episode 8 her self-portrait with secrets was very striking and worked as well in the street as in the gallery. I regret that it was not possible for the TV viewers to read her secrets. Her portrait of the two coin dealers from Cold Spring in Episode 9 was strong and truly original.

Kymia's portrait of the antique dealers got her the victory in the last challenge and secured her position as one of the finalists. As much as I am in awe of the drawing that she did for the children's challenge, I find this portrait, while technically impeccably executed, a bit creepy and definitely not something I would wish to own. Sara Jimenez like Lola is in top shape towards the end of this competition. She beat out Lola in the street vendors challenge and took considerable risk in her portrait of the Cold Spring fireman. In her case it paid off for her and the reward is a place in the finale.

With most auctions behind me this year I took the time to read the various recaps, and some of the numerous comments this competition causes in cyberspace. First of all Jerry Saltz's recaps are totally brilliant and are the compulsory complement that one impatiently waits for after watching the episodes. Several other regular recaps are very humorous and fun to read. The heated discussions about which artists should have won or been eliminated are exactly the same as discussions I have on a daily basis with friends and colleagues on which artists in the non-TV world we admire or believe in. It demonstrates how highly subjective art's appreciation is and this is precisely the wonderful thing about it. China Chow, Jerry Saltz, Bill Powers, and the guest judges did a great job throughout Season 2 in discussing the relative merits of this season's contestants. The three finalists are all very talented. Lola, Michelle, Dusty all had the talent to also make it to the finale. As in life it is tiny things or coincidences that can make a difference.

Now I am highly impatient to see the finale!