Week Fifty Two

Work of Art: The Next Great Artist episode seven

Posted in Art news, Art review by sarahbakerhansen on 21 July 2010

So after last week’s rather dramatic cuss-word laden public art challenge, and the also rather dramatic exit of Erik, we join the artists for a fresh challenge. The preview clues us in that this week, the good-looking Miles is the target of ire.

In the first few minutes of the show, the contestants talk about Erik’s dramatic exit and how they’re alternatively sad and relieved. They all go up to the roof and enjoy breakfast together as a tension reliever. It’s a gorgeous roof deck, to be sure, and the seven remaining contestants spend some time getting to know each other, and topics like Ryan’s religion (He was raised a Jehovah’s Witness) come up.

Simon comes in and tells the artists they’re going on a trip to a surprise art destination, which turns out to be Soho’s Children’s Museum of the Arts. It’s not what they expected, but it’s clearly going to reflect their challenge. The challenge asks the artists to dig deep and create a piece inspired by what made them become an artist. They have to use the materials in the museum: things like pipe cleaners, crayons and paint. Simon urges them to be bold.

The artists begin to work with kid materials at kid-sized tables. Nicole talks about how her twin sister does art therapy, and decides she wants to pull specific childhood memories for her piece. She’s making frames and exploring her quest for perfection. Abdi begins to create a comic book scene about his mother, who raised him as a single parent. Art, he says, kept him on the right track.

Miles decides to re-work a piece that he’s done in the past; it’s not reminiscent of his childhood, but he’s pleased with it.

Jaclyn is stumped on what to make. She doesn’t want to explore her childhood, which she describes as lonely, when she ate lunch alone at school in the bathroom stall. It seems like she’s already exploring a lot of these themes of isolation in her other work, so it’s unclear why things have become so hard now.


The materials are both challenging and inspiring to the artists. Some are finding creative freedom in the material while others are hindered. Peregrine talks about how she was raised in an artist commune in San Francisco and she thinks of herself as a child at an adult’s party. Her sculptural piece is inspired by those experiences. So far, her piece is a lot different from anyone else’s. It’s much bolder.

All of the artists begin to deal with memories – times when they were left out, experiences they had with family members, difficult moments. The hardest part seems for many to be realizing that much of their inspiration – even in real life – comes from their past.

Meanwhile, Miles and Nicole continue their flirtation in a box of giant balls. Simon arrives a few minutes later with snacks.

Simon starts his reviews with Ryan, who is making a drawing akin to one a child would make, using his left hand. Simon says again: too literal. Abdi’s comic book painting looks “like an 11-year-old” did it, and the artist is concerned. Jaclyn’s abstract paintings don’t look like much – Simon said he liked the idea of using pipe cleaners more, but she’s divided.

Simon is more impressed with the conceptual, adult works that deal with memory: Nicole’s set of mixed media pieces that represent layers of memory, Peregrine’s candy-like sculptural pieces that evoke her awakening as an artist.

Miles’ piece has nothing to do with his childhood, and Simon thinks this is a big problem. Miles says he doesn’t think he’s a fully developed artist yet, and this makes the other artists mad: they think he’s cheating by referring back to another piece he made in the past.

Overall, Simon says he’s concerned and unimpressed with most of what he saw. He also tells the artists that the days of immunity are over.


After Simon leaves, Abdi scraps his piece. He starts interviewing the other artists and asking them what people asked them to draw. Ryan decides to add another level of complexity to his piece, and Jaclyn starts playing with pipe cleaners. Miles starts making rubber band balls and decides to add them to his piece. Ryan calls Ryan a douche bag, and it’s clear that Miles is pretty much ignoring the challenge and just making whatever he feels like.

The next day the artists get ready to install the show, and Nicole says she thinks it’s going to be one of the most personal gallery shows so far, and it’s going to be hard to hear what the judges have to say.

Ryan and Jaclyn both change their pieces a lot, and Jaclyn does end up using the pipe cleaners and pom-poms, as Simon suggested. She’s done well in the past listening to what he said, and it will be interesting to see if this is any exception.

Mark finishes his piece – a children’s book – and Ryan urges him not to talk about it too literally. I guess he’s learning from experience.


The guest judge for the challenge this week is painter Will Cotton. The judges like Abdi’s images that describe the role of the artist. Mark’s book – while very literal – shows a new side of his artwork. Peregrine’s piece, “Rainbow,” is described by Cotton as “ballsy.” Ryan’s piece tries hard to get into his childhood mind, and the judges seem into it. Miles’ piece ends up looking like a grid, and Cotton says it reminds him of space invaders. I can see that, too, but knowing his attitude during the challenge turns me off the piece.

Abdi, Nicole, Peregrine, Ryan and Jaclyn get pulled up for the critique, while Miles and Mark are safe.

Ryan said when he was trying to draw a like a child,it brought up memories, and the judges see that his experience was intense. The work he didn’t like is torn up on the floor, and the judges find that more interesting than the finished piece, which just looks like a child’s work.

Peregrine describes her chalk cigarettes and party remnants as her childhood experience, and how later in life many of those people she knew as a child died of AIDS. The piece is a mix of candy and drugs, and the judges can see both experience and innocence in the piece. The details, they say, tell the story.

Jaclyn describes her final piece – a black and white tree painting  mixed with strings – as her own secret world. But the judges don’t see that in the work. They say there’s no risk in the stark piece and that she tried to hard to make it relatable to others.

Nicole’s sculptural mobile is meant to convey memories from her childhood. The judges like that it created a mystery, and she’d done that before. They like the level of obscurity, and that it’s deeply personal.

Finally, Abdi’s piece. His collection of drawings aren’t personal. They ask him which drawings connect to him and he points out the superhero drawings. The judges say that’s his theme, but he removed himself from the piece when he asked other people for their ideas.


The judges think the work either works or comes off as amateurish. THey like Peregrine because she created a risky work that’s deeply personal. Nicole brought mystery into the work and they liked how she made the materials her own. Ryan’s piece didn’t let the judges know him and the drawings were too generic. The substance wasn’t there. They wonder if he’s learning anything from week to week. Jaclyn couldn’t make herself vulnerable this week as she has in past weeks and the judges are disappointed. Abdi’s piece was dull, safe and random. It’s commercial and cliché.

Nicole and Peregrine are the top two, and Peregrine takes home the prize this week for her risky choice.

The bottom three are Abdi, Jaclyn and Ryan. Their work, the judges say didn’t make them feel anything: the ideas were under-developed, guarded, amateurish and bland. Abdi is safe and the elimination comes down to Jaclyn and Ryan.

Ryan, who didn’t take the judge’s past criticisms to heart, gets the boot.

He said he stands by his piece and wishes he could stay, but is also glad to go home and make what he loves: realistic oil paintings that he doesn’t have to explain to anyone.

Next week: another team challenge. Looks like some portraits are in our future.

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One Response

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  1. Scott Blake said, on 23 July 2010 at 8:41 am

    Check out Ryan and Mark trash talking Miles in the scene you DIDN’T see on air!

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