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!)