Work of Art: Art History 101

Can we talk for a moment about Work of Art: The Next Great Artist? I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical when I first heard about it. Bravo is rapidly running out of creative professions from which they can cull the leading practitioners/crazies/fame-whores to immerse their patented contest system. Having burned through fashion, cooking, interior design and hair styling, they have turned to “art,”  possibly as a place holder until their new show about floral arranging can be put into production. Arriving so far down the line did not bode well, and I would think art is even more subjective than fashion or food. On the plus side, artists are the people who are too crazy to hold down regular jobs like cooking or making clothes so that’s good TV right there.

Yet I have been pleasantly surprised, or at least not as bored as I thought I would be. Let’s review the players and season so far, shall we? By the way, I know little to nothing about art, but since ignorance about fashion or modeling hasn’t stopped me from blathering on about Project Runway or Top Model, it won’t stop me now. Onwards!

The show follows the basic Bravo format: a challenge, a show, someone goes home. In this case, the artists have a “gallery” show every competition, complete with cheap wine and crowds drawn to free cheap wine. Actually, I’m not sure who the various people wandering through the fake shows are. The interns?

To date, the challenges have been to draw a portrait of another contestant, use trash to make sculpture, make a book cover for a Penguin Classic, produce a piece of ‘shocking’ art, and do something to please corporate sponsor Audi. That I had to look up which automaker was the sponsor does not indicate the product placement was all that successful. Then again, considering some of the art, Audi might heave a sigh of relief if no one associates them with the show. Penguin Books, for better or worse, is committed to using John’s book cover for The Time Machine

In the future we will all travel in rocks

I have to admit, I kind of like it. It clearly evokes Wells’ theme of giant time traveling rocks.

And then there are the people of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist

China Chow, Hostess: You may remember China from her spot guest-judging during the slightly-less-tall-than-usual cycle of America’s Next Top Model. As I mentioned in that recap, she’s the offspring of Warhol Factory members. She’s not an artist or a critic or a gallery owner or anything, but she’s been extremely art-adjacent. Plus she’s pretty and that’s 90% of the requirement for a hosting gig on Bravo. Having been babysat by Basquiat more or less covers the other 10%.

China’s a little dull, in keeping with all the other Bravo hostessery, but tries to entertain with with an ever-changing array of hair extensions and strange clothes –she had a jellyfish stuck to her head for much of the first episode.

“Beardy, could you please remove the jellyfish and pee on my forehead? Thanks”

Simon de Pury, Mentor: The Swiss version of Tim Gunn. Imagine a Captain Von Trapp that opted for art collection over yodeling and deflowering nuns. He’s not as affable as Tim Gunn, but then again, who is? I believe there’s a congenital limit to Swiss affability anyway. Sadly, his attempts to loosen up often make things awkward, such as when he confessed to Miles that he got his first erection in response to a Renoir painting. To be fair, it was while discussing a painting that Miles devoted to his own first erection, courtesy of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, so it was squicky all around. Not as squicky as if it were in reaction to Sebastian the Crab, but still.

But I did get a date with one of the security guards.

“And that was how I got banned from the Louvre.”

Despite his stiffness, I’ve warmed to Baron von Gunn as a mentor. Thanks to Bravo, I dream of a world where polite gay men of a certain age clad in impeccably tailored suits check up on me from time to time. Carry on!

Artists Still in the Running

Miles: Miles is an adorable woodland creature that looked up at the stars one day, decided there was something more than romping in the meadow with his friends Huggenfluff the Bunny and Mr. Whiskerslick the Otter, so packed his berry juice paint and cattail brushes and headed for the big city. It’s no surprise that Miles was whacking off to Disney films, he is a character from a Disney film. Miles has also dominated the competition, winning two of the four challenges.

Miles enjoys napping in strange places (including his own artwork), flirting with Nicole, and endangering the lives of his fellow artists. So far, he’s nearly poisoned them with noxious gasses (from his art, not his lunch) and tried to start an electrical fire. At some point Miles will blow up the entire studio, killing all the remaining contestants. Authorities will find him, the sole survivor, wandering through the wreckage, hair adorably ruffled. When asked what happened, he’ll give a little smile and shrug. No one will question this answer. Then Simon will take him home and keep him as pet.

Abdi: Abti’s my current favorite, mostly because he’s a nerd. Observe-

He’s the baby of the group at 22 and still a virgin. OK, you probably already guessed that from the Obi Wan Obama alien fighting painting. He and Miles are the frontrunners.  He’s also … hmmm … I really can’t think of anything else to say. That doesn’t bode well.

Jaclyn: Professional body dysmorphic Jaclyn would like you to know that she is a serious artist despite what she looks like, so stop looking at her. Hey, just because she’s stripped off her clothing, again, photographed herself nude, and blown up the photos to be put on public display doesn’t mean you can ogle said pictures, pervert. And you, there, do you think that it’s OK to stare at a woman who’s in a the front of a store display window staring out at you? What kind of sexual predator are you? And don’t tell me that you were simply walking by the car dealership minding your own business and only glanced over to see what the film crew was doing. We all know you were violating Jaclyn with your male-gaze. You make me sick.

Stop looking, rapists!

Ryan: In an effort to get around those pesky labor laws that may force them to hire uglies, the Robotics Division at American Apparel created a line of synthetic humanoids that would exhibit the right combination of hipster fashion, narcissism, and willingness to sleep with Dov Charney that they value in their employees. Result: Ryan. He was actually surprised when someone pointed out that every painting he’s done save one has been of himself.

Ryan worries that his shirt is not sufficiently ironic.

Nicole: Nicole enjoys flirting with Miles and putting her hair up in increasingly elaborate topknots. I like to think of them as “hair sculpture.” Other than that, she’s nice, I guess. This was the piece she created for the Audi challenge

Sure, you could criticize it as being a crumpled up piece of paper on a sagging board, but that’s only because it’s a crumpled up piece of paper on a sagging board. Yet for some odd reason, I like it. It was my favorite of that challenge, way better than the male-gaze dreck Jaclyn served up for the win. Nicole hasn’t exactly hit it out of the park, but she seems to be putting more original thought into her stuff than some of the others. Which brings us to …

Erik: Oh dear, Erik. How shall I put this politely? What’s a nice word for awful? Ah well, might as well not mince words. He’s awful. Not awful as a person, necessarily, although he hasn’t exactly been a ray of sunshine around the studio. I mean as an artist. I think his first piece explains it all.

This should be put on display in every MFA program across the land as an example of what not to do, ever. Even if zombie Nazi stormtroopers hold you at gunpoint and threaten to splatter your brains across the room unless you paint a clown portrait so terrible it would make John Wayne Gacy shake his head in dismay, you shouldn’t do it. Take the bullet for the good of humanity.

Erik is self-trained, which in and of itself isn’t bad. An autodidact could, in theory, compensate for a lack of training with original thought. Sadly, Erik only has the same hackneyed thoughts that every other over-tattooed Metallica fan, assuming that Metallica fan is a sulking sixteen year old. Here’s his “shocking” artwork

Are you shocked? Or do you feel that you should look in the jewel case for that Danzig CD?

Mark: Now we’re getting down to the folks that have stayed under the radar, more or less. Mark photoshops pictures. He’s he hasn’t done anything that great, and he hasn’t, for the most part, done anything that terrible. The exception was last week, when he barely stayed in the competition after producing a piece that would be considered too boring for a hotel room that catered exclusively to those in persistent vegetative states.

Mark is being kept around because he is one sharp-dressed motherfucker.

Peregrine: For true fashion hijinks, we turn to Peregrine. I have no idea if that’s her real name or a  nickname derived from her predilection for using her sharp talons to kill and feed upon small mammals. At least she keeps the studio free of pests.

The Silver Avenghare’s (Cottontail of Justice) superhero career was brought to an end when her alter ego accidentally wore the costume on camera.

Peregrine’s art doesn’t do much for me, although she’s the youngest artist ever to have a piece purchased by the Whitney Museum. Here’s a part of that series

Artists Back Out on the Street

Jaime: Jaime is a Christian, a fact we only knew because she brought it up at every given opportunity. Her defense of Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ gave me momentary hope that she would provide a unique and interesting perspective, yet she dropped the ball at every chance. For someone who insisted her spirituality was central to her life and work, she managed to make superficial art. She was eliminated for this

And no, the theme was not to mimic a junior high school party decoration.

John: John managed to get eliminated immediately after winning the previous week’s competition. Ouch. He was done in by the “shocking” art competition, one he hated from the outset. Despite being the most boring man on the planet, John felt he was already shocking enough because he’s gay. Look John, just because Johnny Weir is out there (pun unintended), it doesn’t mean you have to wear cardigans and mom jeans to compensate. Gay people can shop at Old Navy and eat at the Olive Garden too, we get it.

“Is my gayness shocking you?”

John waaaay overcompensated in the shock art competition by producing a cartoonish guide to “Auto-Follatio (sic)” (uncensored NSFW version here, perverts).

There are so, so many reasons why not.

The judges vacillated between hating the terrible art, repeatedly wishing that he had shown himself in the act of autofellatio (really, they did this), and debating the importance of proper spelling.

Nao: I was a little sad to see Nao go.  Set up as the big bad, she never quite lived up to her self-proclaimed promise of confrontation. I liked some of Nao’s ideas and that she almost seemed to have ideas, unlike some of the remaining contestants. Nao was sent home for her performance piece of shock art, wherein she built a little hovel, dressed in plastic, strapped fruit to her feet, and smeared herself with an unidentified brown substance originating from unidentified abdominal orifice.


It was disturbing, to be sure. In the end she wasn’t axed for failing to live up to the shocking part of the challenge, but because she had absolutely no insight into her own work. Was it a commentary on the homeless? On outsiderism? On bad colostomies? She had no clue.

Judith: Judith was a hippy who was under the mistaken impression she could maintain artistic purity on a network that’s had brilliant chefs whipping up recipes with Diet Dr. Pepper. She was eliminated after the book cover competition. See if you can guess what book her cover was for.

It’s Edirp and Ecidujerp, Enaj Netsua’s classic tale of young Eizzil Tenneb capturing the heart of her Mr. Ycrad. It so mystifying why Penguin wouldn’t want that as a book cover. At least she spelled Jane Austen’s name correctly on her cover, unlike her habitually nude competitor, Jaclyn. Of course Jaclyn was also under the impression that Pride and Prejudice had “Mr. Darby,” topless women, and fedoras.

Trong and Amanda: Who? Whatever, they’re gone.

The Judges: Yes, there are judges. They judge things and say judgey things to the artists who are being judged by the judges. Sorry, they just haven’t impressed me enough to say anything. While they all seem to have extensive credentials, if the Bravo website is to be believed, to my philistine brain they are still Baldy, Beardy, and the Mullet.

Hopefully that provides all the misinformation you need to watch the show. Any favorites among those of you who have been watching?

brilliantmistake | 07.14.10 | Filed in Recaps,Work of Art

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