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…or the actual title for this week’s episode, “Child’s Play.”
Welcome back, ‘Gasmii! Are you ready to rumble? And by “rumble”, I mean, “Read what one dummy has to say about a reality competition show about commercial art?”
We really felt the tension last week on Work of Art with Erik’s implosion and departure. The art sucked, the drama was high, and I’m movin’ on.
I happened to catch this when I hit “pause” during my recapping. Jaclyn drew boobs on herself. Normally it flashes by so quickly, you don’t see it. NOW YOU DO.
It’s morning at the Beaverhausen. Abdi’s prayin’, Jaclyn’s cuttin’ up an apple, Ryan is nappin’, and Mark is journalin’ or doodlin’ or something. Who knows. “Dear diary. I speak matter of factly about others in a pissy way. Could it be that I’m that confident? Or is my confidence masking my insecurity? Also, I like Nicole, but she likes Miles. I don’t like Miles. He sucks.”
Actually, Mark does talk a little smack about Miles, again with the suggestion that Miles is acting one way with the artists and another way for the cameras. “Whatever,” Mark smirks. Then we cut to Kevin McAllister himself, waking up to a camera in his face. He’s jonesing for some corn flakes (and can’t open the inner bag), and breathing a sigh of relief about Erik’s departure. I bet he’ll breathe even more easily once Mark’s sour puss is out of the way. Don’t worry, I don’t think that’s far off.
Abdi suggests that they all head up to the roof for breakfast, maybe break the tension a little bit and enjoy their surroundings. He also hopes that they’ll get back to the art sometime soon. The gang does seem way less uptight as they head up to the roof. Peregrine’s overdone with another quirky hat AND patterned tights AND vintage heels AND a loud scarf AND a loud coat, but she’s that impish little artist chick who can get away with it. If I tried that, someone’d call the authorities and have me committed to the psych ward. I do my best in bland GAP duds. Seriously, I’m six feet tall with strawberry blonde hair–I already stick out as it is. A little of me goes a long way.
Ryan and Abdi get to chatting up there on the roof, while enjoying the view. Ryan’s in awe of the fact that Abdi’s moved around a lot, all around the East coast. Ryan’s only ever lived in the suburbs of Chicago. In his interview shots, Ryan tells us about growing up a Jehovah’s Witness. He kindly explains it as a super strict version of Christianity. I see his description and raise him one “it’s crazy.” Sorry, but it’s kinda true. No birthdays, no holidays, Harry Potter is Satan, etc. I have a coworker who keeps me informed on what’s up with JW. Family, too. I’m not a fan. If “Jehovah’s Witness” were a group on Facebook, I would not “like” them. Anyway, Ryan’s no longer a JW, and it’s really put a strain on his relationship with his mother. He’s basically an outcast. (I had to try really hard there to not spell it “Outkast”.)
Also a witness.
Nicole comments that “there’s so little of us in this room right now”. The editor in me stiffens at the awful grammar of that sentence. Individual people are quantifiable, so it’s “few”, not “less” or “little”. “There are so few of us in this room right now.” I know, it sounds so stuffy, but it’s CORRECT. Nothing is sexier than correct grammar, I have to say. (And responsibility. And recycling.) (Off my soapbox now.)
Anyway, Simon interrupts my grammar lesson by striding up to the gang with a cheery, “Hello, artists!” He announces that the artists will be following him to a museum to see the work of fresh artists who will inspire generations of artists to come. Or something like that. Again, Nicole reminds me of me when she shouts, “YAY!!!!” I love the exuberance. Later, she explains to us that artists like being around art. DOY. Thanks, Nicole!
Simon leads the troops into the subway, and they emerge in SoHo. He’s giving a guided tour of the art scene, which is pretty cool. I’d love to do a walking tour of NYC with an art nerd, getting a ground-level view and insider scoop.
Where do they end up? The Children’s Museum of the Arts. Nicole and her maroon-tights-under-camoflage shorts let out another “YAY!”. Jaclyn has a tight smile, and Miles looks spooked. China’s inside, and she asks the artists to sit at teeny tables with teeny chairs. Their challenge is to create a piece of art that shows the evolution of their art–what from their childhood inspires their art today. What’s more, they need to use the materials available at the Children’s Museum and must also work at these teeny little tables.
I almost think this is posed, but Ryan’s “duh” face ruins that idea. But aren’t they all so “them” in this photo?
Nicole looks nervous at first, but then seems excited. Abdi seems worried, saying he hasn’t worked with these materials in years. Isn’t he an art teacher?? The smile on Jaclyn’s face is gone, and Ryan seems somber. Miles is biting the skin inside his cheeks as his legs tap wildly. He tells us that he feels like he’s going to throw up and sneeze at the same time. (Isn’t that an orgasm?) He’s really freaked because he can’t rely on his usual carpentry and screenprinting. He doesn’t want to go home for not knowing how to work with popsicle sticks. Oh, c’mon. Part of life and art is versatility. Chin up!
The gang gets to work, attacking the supply wall with fits of nostalgia. There’s macaroni and pompoms and pipe cleaners and colored pencils and tempura paint, and there’re even potatoes there (to make printing blocks, right?). Ryan’s experimenting with drawing with his left hand, to try to connect with how he drew as a child. He jokes that the judges will probably mock their art when the artists are likely to feel really childlike and exposed about it. Mark mocks the judges in a gruff voice, joking that they’ll critique the artists for not referencing art history. You can hear Nicole off-camera saying, “This IS art history.” And Mark says, “This is OUR art history.” And maybe it’s PMS, but I get a little teary at this. It IS their art history. Hokey as that sounds! *wiping tears* *grabbing tampon*
What I like about this show now is that we’re down to seven artists, and that means we get to know each artist a little better. We see more of the actual art-making process, too, which is cool. THIS is what I wanted to see, not random quick-cuts of people I don’t know running around and looking at each other. And surprisingly, we’re not getting as much Miles this week. There’s more of a balance. THANK YOU.
Speaking of, we learn more about Nicole. As we heard before, she’s a twin. Her twin sister, Corrine, is an art therapist for children, so this type of stuff is her daily bread and butter. (And I get a little worried, thinking Nicole’s a ringer for this challenge.) Nicole tells us about her childhood art experiences, where she’d bring stuff to show her dad and he’d tell her it wasn’t great. Way to be an asshole, DAD. Anyway, she tells us her ideas for the challenge, which is to cut up these little styrofoam trays that the kids probably use as pallets and make them into frames that she’ll layer up to share her story.
Abdi’s making faces in the mirror and sketching, while telling us about his home life growing up. His father wasn’t around, and his mom raised him alone. So his project starts off as a comic book page, with Mom as a superhero and her little protoge, Abdi, is standing behind her. That’s really sweet, and I hope it’s also visually interesting and deep enough to make the judges happy. Abdi’s been slipping, though, I think. I like his potential, but something’s off–he’s not connecting to the challenges somehow.
Miles and Nicole discuss her piece. Miles is telling her to go deeper (that’s what she said), that she needs more (also what she said!). Speaking of Miles, he declares that the key to this show is making the challenges work for your art, and not the other way around. I actually think that’s a valid statement!
However, in his next breath, he tells us that he’s going to recreate something from pieces he made about nine months ago. “Even though my piece isn’t reminiscent of my childhood, I feel good about it.” Okay, now I call bullshit. He isn’t even trying to come up with a story to make the challenge work with his piece—he’s totally copping out. I’m shaking my head and sighing as I type this. Obviously, he knows that it’ll take a bigger fuck-up than this for him to be eliminated. He knows the judges are on his side, even when he doesn’t even do what he was supposed to do.
Miles had to nap! Imagine that!
Jaclyn’s really not doing well with this challenge so far. She keeps pacing in front of the supply wall, but nothing’s coming to her. In her interview, she tells us of her childhood isolation, that she ate her lunch in the bathroom and otherwise felt very alone. (Why?) She later tells us her childhood wasn’t the best. Again, why? In the absence of information, we’re all gonna make up the worst story for this, so she might as well tell us, right? No privacy in reality TV, hon!
Ryan’s sitting in the ball pit, still working on his concept. Nicole’s struggling with making good cuts in her Styrofoam boards, since the children’s art supplies don’t include Xacto blades.
Mark shares with us his memories of his childhood. He grew up in a small town without a lot of money, so he made art with what he had—White-out, stolen pens, and masking tape. To honor those memories, he’s making a children’s book to tell his story of how he became the matter-of-fact arse he is today. Thing is, I think his piece is also not quite meeting the challenge. It is literally too literal.
Peregrine tells us of her own childhood, as we’re shown drawings she did as a child. Drawings of people having sex, drawings of people’s sexual anatomy. Hey, a girl after my own heart! (I, too, have a history of an oversexualized childhood. But not in a bad way! I think I just learned about baby-making a little too early and was too curious about it. And still am!) Peregrine was raised in an artists’ commune in San Francisco, so she was exposed to drugs and sex and other adult matters when she was young. She sounds like she appreciates the experience, but she also sounds a little resigned about it.
So her piece is going to honor this hyper-sexualized, drugged out childhood with a My Little Pony sculpture coated in sex ads from a free weekly city paper. (was it, like, by the front door of the children’s museum or something?) She’ll surround the pony with drug and sex paraphernalia and call it a day. It’s kinda sad, and Peregrine seems sad. (But I laugh when she’s poking a finger into her pony’s ass. I think it’s because she’s making space for the tail to anchor in, but it looks like she’s massaging its prostate a bit.)
Speaking of sad, we check in with Ryan. He’s drawing with his non-dominant hand to get a feel for his child-era art talent. He’s really connecting emotionally with this challenge—it’s reminding him of when he was a dutifully religious child and close to his mom, and she said he should keep up with his art so he could do [these] illustrations one day. (These, meaning…bible school story books?) He explains, in a halting, choked-up way, that he knows his mom still loves him to death, but she keeps him at arm’s length because she doesn’t agree with his life choices. I want to give Ryan a big hug. I also want to whisper in his ear that his current project direction isn’t going to work, sob story or not.
It better not be another self-portrait, you narcissist!
Time for a break! The gang heads down to the ball pit for a little release. (That’s what HE said!) Miles is a little hesitant because of the germs that are likely to be coating every square inch of those balls. Nicole shoves him in anyway, and then she kicks at the ball he’s draped across. Flirting! Miles wants to take Nicole on a date, and he’s cute when he says “there would probably be a tree-fort involved…and Christmas lights.” Aww.
Simon comes through for a little mentoring. He starts with Ryan, who explains that he’s trying to draw as though he’s a child. Simon, rightfully, questions Ryan’s interpretation of the challenge and tells him it ain’t too special. Get back to work. Same crit basically goes to Jaclyn and Abdi. Those three are struggling with understanding the challenge AND making their art work with the inspiration. To their credit, all three take Simon’s advice and embark on different projects to try to do better. Nicole thinks those three are idiots to have initially understood the challenge in a way that meant they should create childlike artwork. Meanwhile, take a look at the stuff sitting around that museum/workspace. Those kids are actually pretty awesome! That’s all these contestants need to do—check out what’s around them.
Ew, not that.
Miles and Simon examine Miles’ piece. Simon asks how it references his childhood and the inspiration from the challenge. Miles says his childhood’s not in it at all, that nothing from his childhood worked for the challenge. Simon digs deeper, asking if Miles considers himself to be an artist. Miles hedges, that he doesn’t consider himself NOT an artist, but… We don’t hear the end of the conversation, because Mark starts bitching about Miles not being genuine, recycling old bullshit art and getting away with not doing the challenge.
Jaclyn’s apparently working on a triptych of Mr. Hankie portraits. She explains her concept to Simon, that as a child, she liked painting things and then folding the paper in half to see the abstraction that occurred. Simon thinks it looks awful and says so. He asks about her pipe cleaners she was playing with earlier, thinking they’re at least better to look at. Jaclyn’s obviously directionless, and she tells us that it’s hard for her to open up. Which actually fits with someone who’d so willingly show off her breasts. It’s a lot easier to be physically naked than to be emotionally naked.
Simon’s peacing out, but before he does, he tells the artists that they all suck so far (no, really!), and that from here on out, there’s no more immunity for any of them, in any challenge. Everyone makes an “O” face.
(But not this kind.)
(Is it me, or do you think Jaime Lynn would have done really well in this challenge? And Erik would have probably exploded?)
More bullshit in the art room—Abdi’s now going in a new direction, asking the other artists for ideas of what people used to ask them draw when they were kids. Jaclyn is messing around with the pipe cleaners and pompoms, but it seems just as unfocused as before. Ryan’s tearing up construction paper, trying to add more layers of meaning to his piece. Later, he’ll comment that he is carefully disheveling the crumpled paper like he does to his own hair. Smirk!
Miles thought Simon wasn’t impressed with his piece, so he’s trying to add some color in the form of rubber band balls. As he sits, making balls of red, yellow, and blue rubber bands, Ryan watches and interviews to tell us that he just realized that Miles is sort of a douche. He hates that Miles is taking this challenge so lightly, farting around with rubber band balls. And I’m guessing Ryan’s upset because he’s having such an emotional connection to his own piece but isn’t really getting anywhere with it in a mature and visually interesting way. So…jealous.
It’s midnight, and they all head back to the Beaverhausen. Mark and Ryan are chatting in the kitchen over a piece of pizza. Mark tells Ryan he looks stoned and drunk, and Ryan says, “I look like I’m DEAD.” And he really does! So exhausted and emotionally gutted. Ryan has a smoke and then heads to bed, saying that art is like wine—you make some, and then you go to bed and see what you get in the AM: great wine? Or vinegar.
Jaclyn finally comes up with an idea she connects with: a Rorschact-looking tree spanning two canvasses, with a string of pipe cleaners and pompoms hanging from it for whimsy. She enjoyed climbing trees as a child, felt safe there, and wants to bring that into her work. Miles thinks it looks cold and horribly uninviting. He says it makes him want to put on a warm coat, galoshes, and mittens (way over-pronouncing mittens in a way that makes me feel like he KNOWS he said something sound-byte-y).
In the “We’re back! No, we’re not!” segment this week, Simon arrives at the children’s museum with brown-bagged snacks for the artists. It’s adorable. They each get a tiny juicebox and an apple, and maybe some crackers. Miles jokes, “A porn magazine? Simon…!” He also bounces as he chews, which is cute. I want to like Miles, and stuff like this helps.
Finally, time for the gallery show. We have our friends Jerry Saltz, crab-ass that he is, and Bill Powers, who says “hello!” this week! YAY! Back to normal. Puppet-mouth Jeanne is curating a show “in Europe” (must be a big show to encompass the whole continent!), so she’s not here. The guest judge this week is Will Cotton, who receives extremely tepid applause from the artists. I mean, sure, there are only seven of them there, but can’t they muster up a little clapping energy for the poor guy? They all seem to know of him and speak highly of his work, so I’d think he’d get more of a positive response! I liked the pieces of his that they showed, so I Googled him. There’s nothing really exciting to know about Mr. Cotton, except that he was art director or something on Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” video. Yay. Tepid applause from me.
China–again with the versatile hair!
We visit each artist’s piece with the judges. There’s Abdi’s sketches of childhood touchstones (Mighty Ducks emblem, the Nike swoosh, a baseball hat, etc.). He calls it “Straight Line”, because when he was a kid, other kids would say, “Man, I can’t even draw a straight line.” The judges are kinda “eh” about his piece.
They seem to love Peregrine’s piece, though. Will Cotton and Jerry are checking it out, and Will loves it. He says it was the unicorn he always wanted to make. Jerry’s like, “I thought that was a girl thing, you homo.” (Who knows if Will is gay or not, it was just a totally sexist/homophobic-esque thing to say.) Will’s like, “Back off, bitch, I liked to draw horses when I was a kid.” Jerry saves it for me, though, by saying, “I liked to draw trolls.” LOL
Peregrine says, “So…Tetris,” to Miles about his piece. They both collapse into giggles. Jaclyn tells us that this cold tree painting tells us more about her than we realize. Nicole’s pretty self-satisfied with her piece. The judges think Mark’s book shows a side of him they haven’t seen before. And Ryan tells the gallery visitors that his piece made him cry.
Whose is this obvious, literal work??
Miles’, sans primary colored rubber band balls
All right, get out, gallery peeps. Time for crit.
Nicole and Miles look like brother and sister.
(I hope they get some blood work done to check that out before they go makin’ babies.)
Abdi, Nicole, Peregrine, Ryan, and Jaclyn all got chosen for crit. Miles and Mark are safe and get to scram. Meanwhile, I’m really thinking that if immunity is no longer on the line, and there’re only seven of them anyway, why NOT crit the whole group? It only seems fair. I also speculate that had Miles or Mark been critiqued, both would have been exposed for not completing the assignment in the assigned way.
Ryan’s crit is first. He’s explaining the emotion of the piece, how it got here to the gallery from his original idea. Will Cotton’s making a stinky face, and he says, “Great, yes, it was emotional, but how you communicate that emotion is what makes art.” What’s unspoken is that he doesn’t think Ryan created art here. Ryan blathers some more, and I feel bad for the guy, because he’s about to get slammed about something that was very personal, but…he deserves it. His piece is a bunch of child’s drawings taped to a wall and/or bunched up on the floor. So what?
Peregrine’s piece is next. She explains to us all that her childhood among the artists’ community in San Francisco was great, was druggy, was loose…and that ultimately, she lost a lot of friends to AIDS. She gets choked up as she tells the story of the piece, the My Little Pony amongst the party detritus, and the other contestants and judges are sad-eyed, too. I know it’s the PMS talking, but I get teary-eyed as she speaks. The judges love the piece. Jerry calls it “a song of innocence and a song of experience side by side.”
“Mommy, mommy! *I* want to do drugs, too! Just like My Pretty Pony!”
We hear from Jaclyn next. She explains the safety and comfort of trees for her as a child. Jerry’s like, “That’s great and all, and Imma let you finish, but this piece says none of that.” Bill concurs. He feels that the piece is dead—it doesn’t tell a story, and it doesn’t evoke any emotion at all. There’s no risk in it. Jaclyn huddles into herself and her enormous beret. Will Cotton ends her crit with very sage advice: Don’t make art for others to relate to; make art that YOU relate to.
Nicole’s piece is up next. It’s clever, and the stacking of the trays is kinda visually interesting, but I generally have a problem with a lot of Nicole’s art. She has great concepts and arranges things in unique ways, but it’s usually really boring to look at once you see ALL of it. It’s bland. I’m not saying all art needs to be a huge pop of bold color, but… I don’t know, something about it makes me feel “eh”. Jerry loves it, as does Will. They love that it’s not obvious, that there’s mystery. Bill calls it compelling, because it invites the viewer in to seek the meaning. I guess that’s true. I guess I suck at looking at art.
And Nicole sucks at having a good hair style. Also, didn’t it look to you at first like she was giving the finger to her piece??
The last crit is Abdi. His bazillion sketches on the wall are not successful. Jerry hates it because it doesn’t show them “Abdi” at all (true). Will asks Abdii to point out a few of the sketches that really resonate for HIM, which are the Superman logo, the Mighty Ducks logo, and the crouching Spider-man figure. Will offers to Abdi that his piece suffers from a lack of editing—that it’s much stronger if he were to select only a few poignant doodles to share. Abdi looks terrified.
It’s funny—as the artists head back to wait for their judgment, Peregrine comments on how difficult the challenge was. Ryan and Jaclyn agree, and I’m guessing that all of them are just totally wiped out emotionally. They all really put thought and emotion into their pieces, even if they weren’t necessarily executed that successfully (Jackie and Ryan). Abdi agrees with them, too, but for him, I think he feels it was tough because he couldn’t come up with a successful piece. So, really, there was none of Abdi in the work he created. I really wish he’d stuck with the comic book panel with his mom. Sure, it was trite and had been done, but it was HIM.
The judges discuss it all. Peregrine’s was successful for her skilled use of the materials, her sense of scale and color, and because she took a risk. Nicole’s mystery was praised. On the other hand, we all know what was wrong with Ryan, Abdi, and Jaclyn. P.S. Jerry pronounces it “Obdi.” And that bothers me.
So, who won? Oh, it’s Peregrine! Again, with my tears! Will Cotton tells her “it’s not often that I see a piece of art that I wish I’d made myself.” How cool! I’m so glad she won. I got a weird vibe from her at the start, but in every challenge, she’s shown herself to be interesting without being contrived, and she seems to be a good sport about most things. And this piece really was a winner. I’m so glad for her. Nicole’s a gracious runner-up.
And who’s going home? As Abdi, Ryan, and Jaclyn stand before the judges, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be Ryan. Each judge delivers their stupid scripted line about why the artist’s work of art didn’t work for them, and then China says Abdi’s name. I just about shit my pants, and Abdi seems to, too, but then China says he’s safe. OMFG!! So, now it’s between Jaclyn and Ryan. Well, let’s not prolong this…it’s Ryan. Sigh. He’s sad to leave and thinks Jaclyn should’ve gone home, but he’s also glad to head back to his normal life where he can create his stuff and not have to explain anything about it to anyone.
So, wait, after all these weeks, I have a question about the self-portraits that they take off the wall when they pack their knives and go™. They take them off and put them on an easel, right? And what is that supposed to mean? That they’re not worthy of being hung on a wall, that they’re still a work in progress? And then what? They have the art space cluttered with self-portraits on easels? Here’s the other thing—I noticed that John’s self-portrait is still hung on a wall in the studio. So, do they take the piece off the wall, put it on an easel…and then it gets put back on the wall? DUMB.
Next week brings us another team challenge. It looks like Mark and Peregrine are teamed up, which likely pisses both of them off. Mark asks Peregrine to pose nude, but it looks like she’s got him all lit up in a nude shot, too! With weird cat eyes? Then Simon asks Jaclyn about her piece, and she says, “It’s a private sexual act.” Oh, really? Jaclyn with the sex art? YOU DON’T SAY.
Okay, my mortar friends. What’d you think? Was Ryan’s a worse piece than Jaclyn’s? Was Miles’ piece a cop-out? Did Peregrine deserve the win? What else am I missing?