Sunday, August 15, 2010

Work of Art

I have to admit I’m hooked on reality shows like Project Runway and So You Think You Can Dance because the people competing against each other are usually skilled at what they do. So when I read about Bravo’s Work of Art on Lennie’s blog, I knew I had to start watching it. After all: how could I resist a show about artists?
But it’s harder to make judgments about art. Somehow knowing what constitutes a good meal, a great dress or a fine singing voice seems much easier. What does make a work of art though? You could list all sorts of requirements like harmony, rhythm, balance, use of color, development of ideas, and so on, but in the end, it’s usually how you spontaneously react to a piece that convinces you whether or not it’s art—for you.
China Chow, the host of the show, says it best: “Art is one of the most authentic ways for a person to express themselves. Clothing has to be functional, food has to taste good – but art is the purest form of expression, existing without set boundaries.”
That lack of boundaries is what makes Work of Art so interesting. At first I was baffled by how the artists on the show struggle with the process of implimenting their creative ideas. Then I realized that what I was watching was normal. Most artists find art-making a challenge at times, and focus is often a problem. The advantage to being on this show is that you are pushed to produce art in a short period of time, so you can’t help but benefit from the creative stretch even if the work you produce isn’t that good. And a lot of it isn’t. As a viewer, I personally don’t think this matters because it’s fascinating to watch how artists really work.
On the other hand, a couple of the judges seem to have their own boundaries (read “prejudices”) firmly in place. Listening to them critique the artists makes me uncomfortable. They have a tendency to promote the slick, the sophisticated and the manipulative. In other words, if you’re cool, anything you do is basically cool. But if you happen to be odd in an unfunky way, well, you might as well just forget it.
To me, this cult of personality has created an emptiness at the heart of the mainstream fine art world, and I’m just happy we have blogs and the Internet to expose us to all sorts of amazing and inspiring artists—artists we would be denied acess to if those pretentious, professional windbags had their way. (Moral to this story? Go forth and create anyway!)


me again said...

I have been thoroughly enjoying watching Work of Art (we were out last night so I still haven't watched that episode yet but I did pvr it). I too am uncomfortable with the judges at times AND with some of the contestants. And yet at other times they say out loud what I've been thinking myself. The show has done nothing to dispel my belief that much of the art world can be very pretentious and I agree with you completely, Susan, about how fortunate we all are to have artists' blogs etc to visit. The internet has made the art world very, very different. In a good way!

azirca said...

Well said Susan. I also thought that some of the judges seemed to hold a personal grudge against some of the artists and that their critics tended to be somewhat harsh and preconceived. I thought that it would have been more fair and interesting if the judges weren't aware of who the artist was of the piece while they were judging. Of course this may have been difficult due to the amount of self-portrait type pieces that were created during the show by the artists.
That said, I really enjoyed Work of Art and I personally thought that the person who won was deserving. (I wont say who it was here just in case you or your readers haven't watched the final show yet, I wouldn't want to spoil it for them).
I hope that there is another series in the pipeline.

Leslie Jane Moran said...

The Professor and I are totally hooked on this show. Somehow I have screwed up the taping of last week, but hope to find it somewhere. In my opinion, art is totally subjective. Some things just don't "say" anything to me, or "evoke" even an emotion, and to be honest I just don't "get" them. The worst part of the show IS the pretentious judging panel. They seem to be able to spout off inanities that I don't even understand and this is what counts!?? I have a fondness for Miles and his quirky ways. Despite his outrageous approach, I usually like his pieces.

~I have come across artists on blogs that take my breath away...not so much on this show based on the constraints within which they have to work.

spindelmaker said...

This is such an interesting topic you are writing about! I clicked on the link and then moved on to bravo tv to find a video to get a glimpse of the show, but couldn´get through. Shame. I was so curious. So you think you can dance and project runway are my favorite shows as well, and for the same reason. It would be so very interesting to see a similar show where the focus was on art.
I am trained as an arts n crafts teacher, and we had this discussion several times at college. If it´s all a matter of taste, or if there is a difference between good and bad art. Having worked as a arts-teacher, having to give grades, I was a bit nervous at first, but it turned out not to be a problem. In real life there is a difference between good and bad art. And most of the time it comes down to the time the student invests in his work. The more time he spends on it, the better the idea, the better the techniques, the better the expression. It was such an interesting process to follow my students how they developed during a year. You could see in in their work, as the different ideas dawned on them, or when they cracked the code of a technique.
Of course all the contestants of a show like Work of Art would be way past this level, but I do think that defining good art comes down to two criteria:
1. You have a really good idea
2. You have a really good technique.
If you can combine both 1 and 2, them you have a great piece of art!
Well, that´s how it is in my little world. I realize I might be naiv about this.
In any case, thanks for a very interesting post!

A bird in the hand said...

Brilliant review, Susan. I agree with you, especially about the judges -- they make me queasy sometimes. But it's a fascinating show to watch.

jc said...

What a great review Susan! Perhaps the judging panel could have a major shake-up sometime - like American Idol's. I love your painted rubber glove by the way.

Supria Karmakar said...

Love this topic and review...thanks for sharing...Yes, it is true...going forth and creating anyway is most important...if we do what we love, creating from your heart and soul...that is beauty...and it is matter what anyone else has to say about it....
Looking forward to meeting you Susan at the Whole Ball of Wax show in Sept. in TO..I am excited about meeting another artist and Bramptonian..even though I do not live there anymore, my family still do and it will always hold a special place in my heart as I laid my roots there in Brampton when I came from England....: ) see you very soon I hope.

La Dolce Vita said...

oh I got hooked on that show too! and you are right about the judges! I hope they will change it up the next time they do the show, because art is so very subjective! and they need to have a broader range of interest among the judges.
I think that the winner was well deserved and had so much to say! x's

Debrina said...

Here here Susan - especially your last couple of sentences. Art without a heart is not art in my opinion: just a cold way of making money. We don't have the show you talk about here, but it sounds like it has stirred people up. Just look at the variety of opinions here alone!

Ganga Fondan said...

Art is not a sport, it is a romance.