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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On watching the first few episodes of “Work of Art”

Posted in Art news, Art review by sarahbakerhansen on 20 July 2010

My sister Lindsey posted a really insightful comment on my recap post from episode five of Bravo’s “Work of Art.” I liked it so much that I thought it was worth a post of its own, and figured I’d finish this post in advance of tonight’s episode.

Here’s what she wrote:

“This show is so strange to watch. It’s one thing to see someone crank out a dress with limited resources and stylistic constraints in a short period of time, but for me, the idea is not jiving with the creation of a piece of visual art (it actually makes the most sense to me in terms of writing–free writing or timed writing with a theme or set of arbitrary rules isn’t a new idea, but would probably make for boring TV).

Maybe I have a skewed perception of fashion as art, or art as art, or the exploitation of the creative process that goes into both. I do believe fashion is art, of course, and that it can be high art…still, I don’t put Consuelo Castiglioni, say, in the same category as Matthew Barney, even if I could easily see wearing Marni to a Barney opening.

It’s an interesting concept.”

I agree that it’s an interesting concept, though I can’t say I really like it. As the weeks go on, I find myself less interested in watching the show. I’ve always enjoyed the part of my job that lets me get into artist studios, see their work, watch them create and talk about process. More often than not, I leave with some real insight. But “Work of Art” takes that situation – often intimate, always a result of a certain level of trust between viewer and artist – and makes it seem cheap. I don’t think it would be bad for “just anyone” – including the millions of Bravo viewers out there – to see what happens in an artist’s studio; to the contrary, I wish more people could have that experience, which leads to a deeper understanding of art. What “reality” television specializes in, though, is the bastardizing of reality in neat, drama filled, hour-long chunks that aren’t really real at all. I know this. I do. But it’s harder for me to swallow when it concerns art.

The other thing that bothers me about the show is that artists are being constrained to work under a theme – an idea that historically doesn’t lead to very good art. Last week’s episode, which focused on public art, was an exception – they got to go any way they wanted, but had to work in teams, which is another unfortunate reality show construct, because team challenges equate bickering, and usually bad art/food/fashion, depending on the program.

I think Lindsey’s comment is spot-on in terms of what this show does with creativity. Making a piece of visual art with a budget of $25 in two hours is probably going to lead to some poorly executed art. In rare cases, that might be different. But I highly doubt the “next great artist” will be a former Bravo show contestant on the program of the same name.

See you tonight.

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Work of Art: The Next Great Artist episode five

Posted in Art review by sarahbakerhansen on 7 July 2010

This week’s challenge is inspired by the artists’ drive around New York in a fleet of cars. They all end up at the Audi Forum, where they learn the drive wasn’t just relaxing, it’s a source of inspiration. They need to create a piece about their experience.

The teaser about romance this week paid off, and Miles starts to woo Nicole. Marc, ever the optimist, complains that he thinks Miles is more of an actor than an artist .The rest of the group get down to the challenge.

Ryan is making a portrait of himself, like he’s done for the past two challenges. Simon points this out and asks him if he’s “narcissistic.” Before the break we see Jaclyn throwing paint balls and one contestant call another’s work “hotel art.” ouch.


Jaime Lynn is working on another cartoony piece and Simon isn’t feeling it. Again this week she decides not to heed his advice.

Simon tells Mark his piece (the aforementioned “hotel art”) is a real departure from his previous work. Simon compares the piece to Mondrian: is Mark going for the 21st Century Mondrian? He says no. Simon says its brave to go in a new direction.

Miles is working on a piece inspired by the simple quiet moments of the city and Simon likes it. He thinks the police barricade in front of his photograph of an open space will have a great effect.

Simon tells the girls that they will all have to live together now and there’s some tension between Brian and Jaclyn. Marc is still bitching about Jaclyn, though it seems at this point more out of the fact that he actually likes her. At the end of the night, all of the artists seem to be pressed for time.


The next day, Erik continues to bitch about Miles, saying he’s a bad artist. Eric also tells Ryan that he ought to use the “Bob Ross Technique” of creating movement in his self-portrait by using a dry brush.

We see a lot of spliced together footage of artists moving fast, and then Simon is there, saying time is up. Some of the artists are feeling nervous as they prepare to install the work.

At the openings, we see the wide array of drive-inspired pieces. China Chow re-introduces the judges, including  the hyper-realist painter Richard Phillips.

Peregine’s piece “Raudi” that plays with language and the Audi name seem to be a hit with the judges. Nicole’s “piece, Suspension,” is one of the only sculptures. Ryan’s third self-portrait doesn’t seem to be a hit, though the judges like the simplicity of Miles’ drawing and street signs.

Jaclyn delves into more self-portraits and splices in mirrors. The judges surmise that the men in all the photos might be men looking at her.

Miles, Jaclyn, Mark, Ryan and Jaime Lynn get called to the critique. Everyone else is safe.

First up, Mark’s Mondrian piece. He said the piece is a stylized version of a map. The judges ask him if he thought of using photography and he said no, that he wanted a handmade piece. They say it’s too generic, and the hotel room comment comes from one of them, too. Yikes. The painting doesn’t take any risks and doesn’t make a statement.

Ryan’s piece, a self-portrait of himself driving, is supposed to be a fantasy of him enjoying himself. The judges say the piece is too literal. They don’t get the chance to fill in any blanks.

Jaclyn’s piece was in fact about the men staring at her. The mirrors make the viewer self-aware. The judges like the triangle between the viewer, the artist and the people in the images. They are encouraged by the growth in her work. They like the pressure of the gaze and the reflection – like that of the city.

Jaime Lynn said she was struck by the energy of the city. Se said she wanted to car dance, and that’s what her piece is about. The judges think again it’s too literal: dancing, a car tire and images of New York. It gets confusing and it’s all over the place. It has no sex, speed or status, one judge says. There’s an attempt at exuberance but it doesn’t have any rhythm. Jaime says it makes sense to her.

Miles said his piece is all about simplicity. The judges like that it’s not over-stimulating, but they remember what he did in challenge two – where he played with the same ideas – but he says he likes to make work about comfort and they like that. It’s simple, direct and it involves the world, the viewer and the artist.


The judges say the standouts were the artists who looked for magic in small moments. They like Miles’ simple sculpture and photography piece, and they think the work stands on its own. They can see him in the piece.

Jaclyn put herself in the work and pushed herself forward again this week. They find it encouraging. They thought her work was powerful.

Jaime’s piece: not so much. There is no saving grace for the work, they say. They also say it could be the work of a 17-year-old girl.

Mark’s work is too boring. Ryan’s piece is too superficial and boring; it also doesn’t fit his “rebellious” persona. It’s too obvious.


Miles and Jaclyn are the top two artists this week. Jaclyn ends up winning this week and wins immunity next week. She said it felt good to know her work was acknowledged and her ideas are good. She said she will continue to push herself.

Jaime Lynn, Ryan and Mark are the bottom three. Their work was dull, immature, cluttered and one-dimensional. Jaime Lynn – who was in the bottom for the second week – went home.

She said she wished she’d have done something to push the limits and that she was sad to go.

Up next week: the challenge looks like a public art piece, and it looks like everyone is going to be creating sculpture. Erik continues to lash out at every person on the show. He’s clearly defining himself, but it’s not as a great artist.

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Renner in review

Posted in Art news, Art openings, Art review, general interest by sarahbakerhansen on 13 May 2009

renner2Last weekend, I went to one of the two Paul Renner dinners at the Bemis Center. What a night that was. I knew it was going to be a memorable experience when I saw the installation on the opeing night of his show; and even though I thought I was prepared, I really wasnt. I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly two years, so I found the emphasis on meat a bit unsettling, especially as I knew I’d have to sit at the table and participate. After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to forgo my qualms about eating meat for one night, in the name of fine art and having an experience. 

I wrote a guest “Dish” column in the Reader this week about the experience. 

Did you attend a Renner dinner? If so, what did you think?

Sally Deskins: Review of “Rome Re-Imagined”

Posted in Art news, Art openings, Art review, general interest by sarahbakerhansen on 23 March 2009

Sally Deskins is a regular contributor for the Omaha Reader and Week Fifty Two. This week, she reviews Jason Scuilla’s show Rome Re-Imagined at the Metropolitan Community College Gallery of Art and Design.

Last fall, Metropolitan Community College opened the MCC Gallery of Art and Design at the Elkhorn Valley Campus on 204th and Dodge.  MCC boasts a strong visual arts program with notable faculty: sculptor Jamie Burmeister, painter Patricia Hollins and photographer Jim Butkus included, but this is the College’s first official art gallery (though it did previously and continues to exhibit student work in hallways).  Gallery Director and Photography Instructor Sheila Talbitzer-Reynolds’ Gallery Management class students, with guidance, coordinate everything: researching the artists and promoting the exhibitions, hanging the art, coordinating receptions and educating gallery visitors.

After gathering artist recommendations from other faculty, the students select an artist from the list of potentials and make presentations about why their chosen artist is best fit for the gallery to the Dean and a faculty committee who then make the official exhibition selection.  The student of the chosen artist then moves forward with coordinating the exhibition.

There has been a series of faculty exhibits, but the first artist to be given a solo exhibition is Jason Scuilla (student Dana Wickwire presented the artist last quarter), a print-maker from Manhattan, KS with an MFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. His show “Rome Re-Imagined,” opened March 16.  Scuilla’s etchings are said to have the look of artwork from ancient civilizations, as he recently spent a year studying Etruscan, Byzantine and medieval and Renaissance art in Rome.

My face-value impression was of intricately crafted etchings of seemingly every-day subjects, like feet or staircases, which seem mysterious and even eerie or erotic.  The black-and-white renderings definitely have an old-world feel, with a sense of Durer’s emotive quality and Escher’s obscurity.  Definitely worth a check-out.

Scuilla’s artist statement offers clear accounts of his inspirations and ideas behind each of his works. Here is an excerpt regarding his renderings of feet:

The Monumental fragments of Italian sculpture in Rome have inspired several prints in this body of work.  Most recently, the large foot fragment in the courtyard of the Capitoline Museum has fueled my image making.  While in Rome I was able to visit the Domus Aureus, Emperor Nero’s pleasure palace, and learned the interesting story of the Colossus of Nero.  According to legend, a colossal statue of the malicious roman emperor Nero once stood where the coliseum stands today.  It is believed that Nero ordered the burning of peasant housing developments in order to make room for his colossal portrait.  Inspired by this and other chilling stories of Nero’s reign as emperor, I’m in the process of creating a series of intense, gnarly, foot fragments of what I imagine the foot of Nero could have looked like, if it were to be a reflection on his character.  I have taken imaginative liberties on these images, enlarging the foot to an impossibly large scale and disregarding the original idealized roman form for a more grotesque interpretation.”

Jason Scuilla’s exhibit, “Rome Re-Imagined,” runs through April 14. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday from 9AM to 6PM. For more info go to mccneb.eduwww.jasonscuilla.com. or http://www.mccneb.edu.

The gallery’s next exhibit will open May 1, the Juried Visual Arts Student Show which will run through May 17.  There will be an opening night reception on the evening of the first, which is a Friday, time to be announced.

Pulp Gallery is Moving/Review of Spring Break 4-Ever!

Posted in Art news, Art openings, Art review, Uncategorized by sarahbakerhansen on 21 February 2009

I just got back from a meeting with Pulp Gallery’s owner Brigitte McQueen, who talked to me about her Benson gallery’s impending move to Omaha’s Old Market. It’s a bittersweet decision to leave Benson, she said, but she’s got some exciting plans for the new space, which will be opening this spring in the Old Market passageway space across from V. Mertz Restaurant. I’ll have a full story about Brigitte’s move in the Reader on Thursday.

While I was there today, I checked out the final show in the Benson space, Spring Break 4-Ever! featuring the work of Tim McEvoy. Anyone who’s seen his work before knows what to expect walking in. He’s irreverent in the best way. This small show includes what he does best: images of hot dogs, giant hamsters, skeletons and robots in everyday scenes like on a boat, in front of a house or in a wedding photo. Taking these everyday objects and placing them in new contexts gives them a new meaning, and usually makes the viewer laugh, too. The overwhelming sense of humor is really one of the best parts of McEvoy’s work. He never takes it too seriously.

This sentence, from the press release announcing the show, sums it up well: Tim’s work may not tackle the larger issues plaguing society, but his paintings shine a light into the darkened corners of our billboard culture, the rising junk piles and our ever-changing definition of the American Dream.

Bedroom Eyes with Graveyard Demeanor, a photograph of an 80s bride in full regalia next to her painted-on skeleton husband was one of my favorites. (Maybe it’s because I have weddings on the brain.) I also liked Postcard No. 1: Wish You Were Here, showing a suburban couple standing in front of their white split entry house with a giant hamster, a collie and a robot. Spring Break: We’re Going to Live Forever showed a man, in Hawaiian shirt, waving from the dock to a boat filled with robots and a water skiing hot dog. McEvoy also showed five rock show posters he designed and screen printed, and they were a nice addition. The poster for a Black Lips show was my favorite.

The final show at Pulp Gallery’s Benson space runs through March 16.

Art Talks

Posted in Art review, general interest by sarahbakerhansen on 9 February 2009


I’m a little slow on posting this, but I attended the monthly Bemis Center art talk last Thursday with the intent of blogging about it. I used to be an art talk regular, but got out of the habit. After last week – and the thought-provoking post-talk conversations I had with some of the other attendees – I think I’ll do my best to get back into going regularly.

If you’ve never been to a Bemis art talk before, here’s the skinny: two (or sometimes three) of the Center’s resident artists give a slide presentation and short talk about their work, and the talk usually ends with some insight into the project they’re planning to complete while in Omaha. It’s one of the best ways to become familiar with Bemis’ artist residency program, which is at the heart of what the Center does. It’s also really cool to see what these Omaha transplants are bringing to the city; when they leave, their residency requires them to leave one piece, which sometimes pops up later in the Bemis Art Auction.

After I got my free glass of red wine (always a necessity) I settled in for an hours worth of art. The normal crowd of about 30 to 40 people filled one Bemis gallery for the talk, and Pablo Rasgadostarted the night by telling the crowd about his installations that deal with stopping time and space. The work he’s creating at Bemis uses a technique of removing paintings from their original spot – most look like they were once signs or street art – and bringing them into the studio. The labor-intensive technique he uses to remove the art from its original home dates from the Renaissance, he said, but today isn’t so respected, because art thieves have used it throughout time to steal masterwork frescoes and sell them to private collectors on the black market. Once he gets the paintings in his studio, he cuts and folds the paint, creating a new surface out of what was there before. The earlier work he showed plays with the idea of freezing time. He creates sculptures, from molten lead that, with sometimes dangerous scientific means, he “splashes” and captures with a photograph. The sculpture itself only exists for mere seconds; the documentation is what he shows. He also created a large installation of glasses filled with water and ink. Over time, the water evaporated, but the ink left traces of its presence. The piece, which sat on a light box, created an interesting picture of time, as some glasses, on the lamps, evaporated faster than those in the less intense areas of light. The questions and answer session was challenging. One audience member asked him if he thinks of the molten lead pieces as sculpture or photography; he said sculpture – after all, the real work her is the sculpture. The photograph is mere documentation of the moment in time, which is his true interest.

Next up was Susan Lee-Chun, who closed the night with a presentation of her visual/performance piece called “The Suz: They’re Faux Real!” She’s plays three parts: herself, Susan; “Sue,” a sort of goody-goody dressed all in plaid who usually plays the part of the person trying to “fit in” through age-old traits like good manners and meekness; and “Sioux,” a violent, nasty girl aiming to go against the grain. In one piece, “Sue” wears a plaid dress that blends in with the wallpaper behind her. In another longer performance piece, “Sue”, over time, becomes completely obscured by her plaid outfit that covers more and more of her body, and blends in with the hand-sewn plaid wallpaper, curtains and big plaid rocks around her. “Sioux,” the other character, is more of a snarky warrior with a big, plaid horn on her head. In many pieces, she destroys visages of “Sue,” and she is clearly the other half of the artist’s personality, acting out violently versus trying hard to fit in and become invisible. The most intriguing part of Lee-Chun’s presentation was her absolute insistence during her presentation that “Sue” and “Sioux” weren’t her, but instead that she is only herself, and the other two are different people altogether. A few audience members pressed her hard to break out of the mold during the question and answer session, and though she smiled and chuckled – it was clear she was in on the joke – she never broke form. Some found this amusing, others were clearly aggravated.

I’ve seen work like this before – where an artist pretends to be more than one person but won’t talk about why. I’ve seen this type of work done better, and more convincingly, than Lee-Chun; some former Bemis residents, in fact, have done this type of work quite convincingly. The people I spoke with post-performance all concurred: it would have been a much more interesting talk had Lee-Chun broke character, after her formal presentation, and given some insight about why she chooses to create this type of art, versus sticking to the shtick and refusing to answer any of the questions with much substance.

The next Bemis Center art talk is slated for March 5 at 7 p.m. and features residents Kate Tessa Lee, who makes maps from her own scars, blemishes and spots; and Joel Seah, who appropriates historical work to explore gay identity. The talks are always free. I’ll see you there.