First Season of BRAVO Reality TV Show "Work of Art" - 2010

Judges: Jerry Saltz, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Bill Powers

Mentor: Simon de Pury

In 2009 I went to the auditions for "Work of Art", held at White Columns, in NYC, with the aim of being chosen as the one older contestant, which all the reality shows seemed to have. The sprawling line of eager artists was gradually weened as we passed through hoops, portfolios in hand. Finally I found myself in a small group waiting to stand on the "X" in front of a line of judges. Having apparently nailed that screen test I was handed instructions to create a short Bio-Video to send them within 36 hrs. I recruited my daughter to help me, which was great fun, and "My Five Minute Life" video can be viewed in my Video section or on You Tube here. Several hoops later I was finally invited to be a contestant, providing me with a unique experience and endless stories, a slice of which can be read in my "Exit Essay" below, as well as a pic of the T-shirts I made to commemorate. I didn't win, but I was on the show for the following challenges:



Previously unacquainted with my parter (JS) I began by asking about the self-portrait she'd presented on arrival, something we'd all been asked to bring. Hers was a headless female, spread eagle, with a star painted over the crotch area, reminiscent of recent media pics of Britney Spears. In person JS was scantily dressed and I inquired if her work and attire was part of a persona, like Britney's. She explained that she did intend to subvert stereotypes of female artists. 

With this charged information I chose to employ one of my own foils for gender ownership; using the word "pussy" accompanied by images of cats. With some black fabric and hot pink paint from the supply closet I proceeded to stencil Proud Pussy, along with some whiskers, on the cloth. The texture of the studio's brick wall provided an unexpected graffiti effect.

JS took offense at my portrait but I had meant nothing derogative, as I am one proud pussy myself. 



Mayhem ensued in the discombobulated graveyard as our gang grabbed things to work with, mostly old TV sets. I gravitated towards the colorful wiring and whatever other innards I could find. Back in the studio cameras were everywhere watching us go through trial and error as fast as we could. Finally I found myself constructing a miniaturist landscape of circuitry that I titled, "Ain't No Grave", after an old Odetta spiritual.  

The judges called it "a mess with no direction". I may not have known where I was going, but I was enjoying the tiny details along the way.




I wasn't keen on the commercial design aspect of this challenge, which included the winning work being used by Penguin Press. I've read and love all of Jane Austen's writing, but for a show supposedly about fine art, I found the challenge off the mark. 

Still, I applied myself, constructing a 60 x 48 inch panel (fortunately the work did not have to be book-scale) which I split in half, alluding to the myriad dualities Austen illuminates. With stencils, pastels, and fingerprints I worked all day, only to rub it out, in frustration, at midnight. I knew I'd have just one hour the next morning to come up with something, or I'd be going home. 

Back in our room at 2 a.m. my roommates and I debriefed at the kitchen table. In a hilarious flurry I scrawled the letters of Pride and Prejudice on a napkin, cut them up, and began reconfiguring them every which way. Finally deciding (against my roommates warnings) to spell the title backwards. It felt daring and exciting; it felt like art, not illustration. 

In the morning, exhausted but enthused, I managed to rework my piece just seconds before it was taken away for our "opening" that evening, where I was pleased to find people say my piece was mysterious and incisive. But, alas, I was scolded at the critique for not doing a salable book cover and sent packing by the judges.

Once home, Eureka! I read about a current show of Jane Austen's manuscripts at the Morgan Library. There, printed in the New York Times, was a letter Austen had hand-written to her niece...backwards!  I had not known this and I can only chalk it up to the mystery of art making.

Inspired, I printed Edirp and Ecidujerp T-shirts that I gave away for awhile. Now they're collectors items!

Below is an image of Jane Austen's letter with the words spelled backwards. 

EDIRP and ECIDUJERP t-shirts

I gave away hundreds of t-shirts! Over the years, as the numbers diminished, I've sold them as collector's items. There are just a few left! I could get more printed, but it wouldn't be the same.