Week Fifty Two

Work of Art: The Next Great Artist episode six

Posted in Art news by sarahbakerhansen on 14 July 2010

I got home late tonight, so I don’t have a full recap of episode six. But a moment near the end of this week’s episode, focused on a public art challenge, rung true, and would have had I seen the whole show or not. The guest judge, Yvonne Force Villareal, president and co-founder of the Art Production Fund, commented on the bickering between one of the two teams by saying “This is the reason there isn’t more public art. People can’t agree.”

That, I thought, was probably the most authentic moment of this series so far.

Public art is one of the most controversial topics in the art world – what makes it good, what makes it bad, what people are interested in are constant questions that don’t have comfortable answers.

The two teams – four contestants each – worked together to create a public art piece that was to make a bold statement. One was a monolithic, geometric orb. The other created a seat for the viewer to peruse the sky above the New York City skyline. The team who made the geometric piece – consisting of Abdi, Mark, Nicole and Ryan – won. No one got immunity, but the team chose Nicole as the winner – the piece was her idea.

The other team – Jacklyn, Peregrine, Miles and Erik – got panned for their piece. The scale was off, it seemed unsafe, and they argued constantly. Jcakyln had immunity and Erik – the most negative contestant on the show, who also wasn’t on board with the sculpture and acted really passive-aggressive about it – got the boot.

Next week: the artists head to Soho and land at a mystery destination; the challenge forces them to give up control.

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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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I took my blog to Facebook

Posted in Art news by sarahbakerhansen on 6 July 2010

I created a Facebook page for Week Fifty Two. It’s handy for those who don’t use RSS feeds but still want to stay up to date on posts. (I have to admit, I feel pretty self-aggrandizing with this post.) I’ll post links and articles on the Facebook page, just to keep things interesting over there.

Anyhow, follow me on Facebook if you wish. If not, that’s ok too. I still like you.


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Independence Day

Posted in Art news by sarahbakerhansen on 2 July 2010

Happy Independence Day. Enjoy the long weekend!

Image courtesy Guggenheim Bilbao. Jasper Johns “Flag,” 1967.

Work of Art: The Next Great Artist episode four

Posted in Art news by sarahbakerhansen on 30 June 2010

I’ve been away from television for the past few weeks, so I’m just now tuning in to Bravo’s latest reality show, “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.” I meant to write about each episode of the show from episode one, but sadly, I’m just now tuning in for episode four. Better late than never. Thankfully, Bravo replays its programs all the time, so I’m sure I’ll be able to catch up on the first three episodes before next week.


I’m watching the show as I type and I’m pretty shocked within the first few minutes that one of the artists, Abdi, hasn’t ever heard of or seen “Piss Christ.”

Andres Serrano comes out after the artists take in his work and gives them some advice, then they get their challenge: create a Shocking Work of Art.They get $100 and about 12 hours to make a piece.

A lot of the artists seem to interpret “shocking” as “sexual” and before the first commercial break, one dude is already talking about how his work is going to incorporate oral sex.

During the break, I go to Bravo’s Web site to check out what the first three challenges were: the first was to create a portrait of a competitor, the second to make art out of garbage (yawn. We’ve seen this on Project Runway) and the third to design a book cover for a classic novel.

The show comes back on but not without a parental warning that the content might be offensive to young viewers. We’re going to see private parts!

Erik decides to make work about child abuse and the Catholic Church. Jacklyn decides to “push herself,” so she takes off all her clothes and poses with a thong and sunglasses — sort of like early MySpace photos — in the studio bathroom. A second artist decides to tackle child abuse. A fourth guy decides to “shock himself” and takes some photos of himself as a “post cum-shot tranny with really bad makeup.” (That’s a quote.)

Another girl tackles her phobia of losing a limb and decides to create a fake finger  – a decapitated thumb. She makes a bunch of these to use as vessels and fills them with things like blood, spit, fingernail clippings and hair.

Another artists does a line drawing in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head full of distorted naked parts.

It’s interesting to watch artists “perform” in this way, under pressure and under a time limit, forcing themselves to be creative. It does, actually, feel pretty forced. Some of the artists head straight for cliches.


The critiques are my favorite part of the show. Art Auctioneer Simon de Pury takes to his Tim Gunn role beautifully. The first thing he does is tell Jacklyn – the MySpace photo girl – that the photos she took of herself aren’t really that provocative. They’re sort of commonplace. She decides to add text.

Jaime creates a comic-book rendition of the Last Supper that includes some weapons and some debauchery – Simon doesn’t think it’s shocking, but Jaime, who is a Christian, thinks it’s really shocking. Simon advises her to find a message.

The winner of last week’s challenge, John, is making a the painting of oral sex – of a man giving *himself* oral sex. Simon doesn’t say much on this one.

Here’s what I love about Simon – as he continues through these critiques, he admits that he doesn’t get some of the pieces. That he doesn’t know what some of the artsts are getting at. That type of honesty is refreshing. So far, Simon is my favorite guy on the show.

Before he leaves the studio, Simon tells the artists that not one artist but two will be eliminated after this challenge. He also says the winner gets immunity.

Before the commercial break, the artist who drew the Mickey Mouse head ejaculates on his piece. Sigh.


The Judges are introduced – Serrano is the guest judge and the usual team of judges is here too: art enthusiast China Chow, New York Gallery Owner Bill Powers, New York Magazine Art Critic Jerry Saltz and Curator and Salon94 Gallery Owner Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn.

They all roam trough the gallery along with a bunch of other gallery-goers. We have paintings, a few sculpture pieces and one performance piece from Nao that includes lots of smooshy brown stuff. The judges say they think it might be shit, and Serrano says “I don’t smell anything.” Classic.

Peregrine’s piece is one of my favorites – Large-scale, fashion model-esque portraits of marred models underlined by lines like “Herpes for Chanel,” etc etc. Chow recognizes her own outfit from the previous week in one of the pieces. Clever.

Jaclyn, John, Erik, Abdi, Nao and Jaime get “critiqued.” The rest of the artists are safe.

Jaime is the one who did the cartoon piece that Simon said wasn’t controversial. She didn’t change a thing. Judges alternately describe it as “A New Yorker Cover” and “A White Trash Wedding.” Serrano says she doesn’t have it.

Sex Education is Erik’s piece about child abuse. The judges say it’s too much like a Motley Crüe album cover. They say the text which reads “Sex Education” in  huge letters is too obvious (duh.)

John’s piece – the auto-fellatio – comes up. One judge says the guy’s penis is too big. Another artist says fellatio is spelled wrong. Oops! A third says its shocking to a 10-year-old.

Jacklyn let the other artists take markers to her MySpace photos and they wrote some pretty harsh comments. The judges give her props for her bravery. What she reveals about the viewer becomes part of the piece. She actually took Simon’s advice and made her non-shocking images a bit more shocking. Then Erik says the writing on the photos was actually *his* idea. Snap!

Nao – the performance artist – gets called out for being adolescent, and the judges say she doesn’t actually know what she’s doing. Serrano, though, said he liked it and that it made him uncomfortable.

Abdi’s three bomb-heads go over well. They have a magnetic power, the judges say. The shock is quiet, they say, and agree the threat of the piece works well.

In the back room, Erik lashes out at Jacklyn for taking his idea to graffiti her photographs. Then they get in a fight. This from the guy who totally stole his idea from a Metallica album cover he referenced earlier in the show.

We cut back to the judges: two artists are going home. The judges are surprised that sex was the default mode. They liked Abdi’s piece: the ritualistic qualities, the implied threat. Jacklyn’s piece was a hit, even if it was someone else’s idea, because she put herself out there.

They were disappointed by Erik’s Sex Education piece. They didn’t get it without too much explanation. They also thought Nao’s performance art was “weird.” Seriously? But moreover, they didn’t like it because she couldn’t explain it.

Jaime’s theme was too cluttered. She didn’t push herself.

John’s auto-fellatio, they say, should have been a photograph of himself. (ew.) They found it too jokey.


Abdi ends up winning the episode with his three bombs. He made a bit of a comeback after not recognizing Serrano’s work at the beginning of the show. Jacklyn is also safe.

Now to the elimination. John, Jaime, Nao and Erik are up for elimination. The two that go home: Nao and John.

It looks like we have some romance on tap for next week. See you then.

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New York update + W52 news

Posted in Art news by sarahbakerhansen on 24 May 2010

I just spent five days in New York and am looking forward to writing a number of blog posts about what I saw. As soon as I find my pesky camera cord, which always pulls a disappearing act at the worst time, I’ll start working on those updates. I checked out a number of galleries, bought some great books I want to tell you about and saw Marina Abranovic’s The Artist is Present at the Museum of Modern Art, which was truly amazing. Come back in the next week or so for those posts (and hope I find that cord!)

Meantime, I’ve got some exciting news I wanted to share with W52 readers. Next week,  I’m starting a new job as the Public Relations and Marketing manager at Lincoln’s Sheldon Museum of Art. I’m so lucky to have this opportunity and so excited to spend my days in such an inspiring workplace. I’ll still be blogging here and I’ll also still be writing for the Omaha Reader, so nothing is changing drastically where my writing is concerned; though I’m excited to pursue some new opportunities with writing and so very excited to be a part of the Sheldon team. Look for more news to come.

 Image: Sheldon Great Hall by R. Neibel/DED

Push Gallery’s Cli•mac•ter•ic extended through this weekend

Posted in Art news, Art openings, Interview by sarahbakerhansen on 7 May 2010

If you didn’t catch PUSH Gallery’s first show – an installation by Omaha artists Tim Guthrie and Jamie Burmeister – you still have a chance. The artists are opening the show this Saturday (that’s tomorrow) from 3-5 p.m. for a second round of viewing, then it’ll come down.

The two artists created the installation as part of World Environment Arts Week. Four video projections surround a central area, and a bicycle sits in the middle of the room. As viewers ride the bike, a set of video loops changes in response to the movement. If the viewer stops pedaling, the environment floods. When things get really bad, the buildings catch on fire. Horn honking and turning the handlebars affect what happens in the space.

I checked out the show last weekend – trust me, its memorable – and asked Guthrie and Burmeister if they’d answer a few questions about the piece. They both generously agreed.

Week Fifty Two: Tell us how the idea for this project came about.

Tim: The original idea we came up with was abandoned after we got a good look at Joey’s Gallery (we thought of an outdoor piece which we still might do this summer).Jamie had the idea of using a bicycle as the controlling element and he knew I wanted to do videos.  I think Jamie first thought about having a video where we moved through space (as if riding a bike) and I asked what he thought about having the bike do something different from what a bike would normally do.  I think I had already decided I would recreate the intersection at 18th and Vinton at that point, and I thought we could simply flood the intersection, but the peddling would lower the level of the flood.

W52: How does the piece work?

Tim: Jamie figured out how to have the pedals, brakes and horn trigger interactions.  Jamie is the master…

Jamie: The controls for the piece is done through Isadora, a graphical programming program originally designed for controlling media in performance.  Triggers go through a micro controller that changes the signal to midi data.  The program responds to the midi data.

W52: When viewers honk the bike’s horn, a crazy clown pops up in the horizon. Whose idea was that?

Tim: The first thing I did was set the buildings on fire, then I started creating other videos (storms, snow, warfare) that could be overlaid on the first videos (I put masks and audio in those video files).  The intersection and the water were all created from scratch as a 3D virtual environment, and until I added things like the clown (originally a silly idea I pitched to Jamie because of the sound of the horn) and Godzilla (another silly idea when I started thinking about 18th and Vinton fighting back), most of the other videos were created from scratch using Motion dynamics.

Jamie: I will say that the ideas developed naturally through our correspondence working on the piece individually and in the space.

Tim: Yes. It was a very organic collaboration where we just bounced ideas back and forth. Very balanced progression. Jamie is a fantastic guy to collaborate with. But also, I think it all started with the bike idea. He does the coolest shit, man.

Tugboat Presents: PUSH Gallery is located at 1803 Vinton Street in Omaha.

Omaha, I’m Yours.

Posted in Uncategorized by sarahbakerhansen on 5 April 2010

By my friend and Boston-based artist Mike Hammecker. He made the image during his first visit to our fair town last year.

W52 Style: McQueen Memorialized

Posted in Art news, Fashion by sarahbakerhansen on 3 April 2010
Above: Alexander McQueen, spring 2008; right, artist Ana Juan’s tribute for the cover of The New Yorker.

My husband is a devoted reader of The New Yorker: he spends many a late night delving into lengthy, complex stories about the issues of the day, and I admire his persistence. I subscribe to no less than 20 magazines, and while I’ll put the New Yorker on the tall magazine pile every once and again, it often makes it into the recycle bag before I have the chance to read it.

The magazine’s annual style issue is a different matter: I love it. I–along with many other fashion lovers–was particularly moved by this year’s spring style cover, a haunting tribute to the late Alexander McQueen. I know most of the readers of W52 probably aren’t fashion lovers, but even for an art lover, McQueen’s stunning body of work is nothing short of genius. The butterfly headpiece is part of McQueen’s spring 2008 collection, a tribute to his mentor and friend, the late Isabella Blow, known for her dramatic style and inimitable hat collection.

Many bloggers, magazine editors and newspaper writers have written tributes to McQueen, but this simple artistic rendering of one of the designer’s most iconic moments is by far my favorite. Elle magazine interviewed Juan about the work–she’s a regular contributor to The New Yorker— and she said the butterfly piece, of all McQueen’s work, was the one that touched her most when she was working.

“I think it was the most poetic as a metaphor of death,” Juan told Elle about the cover, created with mixed acrylic and coal on paper. “The idea was to express a certain melancholic beauty without forgetting the Spring flair.”

For more on artist Ana Juan, visit her Web site.

W52 Interview: Craig Roper’s ProjectRoom celebrates two years

Posted in Art openings, Interview by sarahbakerhansen on 2 April 2010

 Images from the first two seasons of ProjectRoom. Clockwise from top left: “Act or Observe” installation, Anthony Hawley, Bob Hall & Eric Anderson.


Week Fifty Two recently had the opportunity to ask ProjectRoom Director Craig Roper a few questions in anticipation of the second anniversary of his Lincoln art space, based in the successful Parrish Studios space on 14th and O streets. ProjectRoom’s latest offering, “Home Theater,” featuring the provocative photography of Bradley Peters, opens tonight from 7-10 p.m. For more information, visit the ProjectRoom Web site.

Week Fifty Two: Have the first two years at ProjectRoom been what you thought they would be?

Craig Roper: Yes and no.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  I knew I had an opportunity to bring a different approach to promoting art to Lincoln when I saw what The Parrish Studios could be.  I am pretty thrilled how many people from all over the country  have expressed strong support for what I am doing and actually love the small, unpretentious space and collaborative spirit that is ProjectRoom.  Another thing I was not expecting was how personally rewarding it has been and how humbling it is (as an artist myself) to work so closely with so many talented people.  Might I add that it is also a lot more work then I anticipated.  After it’s all said and done I hope I’ve helped introduce the work of some amazing artists to Lincoln and to the region who otherwise may not have gotten the exposure they deserve.

W52: The space has become known as one that’s not afraid to show challenging, unusual work. Was showing Bradley Peters’ photography on the anniversary of year two a specific choice or just one that fits with the gallery’s mission?

Roper: Bradley’s show was purely coincidental. He’s a super talent whose type of photographic work is not seen around here.  An anniversary isn’t important to me as a statement other than to look back and say, ‘Whew! That went fast.’  And yes, I am not the least bit afraid to show challenging, unusual and interesting work. It just has to be good.  I’ve seen a lot of art in my days and I think I have a pretty good eye for quality and thought.

W52: Did you ever expect the Parrish building to become what it has today?

Roper: I saw the potential immediately what with Tugboat gallery relocating here, Roundus, Chocolate Cake, Aorta, etc.  I did not expect the crowds would be so large and intense from the very beginning.  I love them all.  There is a very real, palpable hunger in this community for new, fresh art and the ideas that come along with it. They (the viewers) are very curious, supportive and engaged.  Everybody that works here and comes up here contributes to the creative vibe and quality of experience that helps to put us on an equal footing with much larger art centers in the country.  Believe me, people are watching what’s going on here.

 W52: What’s in store for the next two years?

Roper: I wish I knew!  Actually, I don’t have a master plan and I don’ t like to plan out my program more than 6 or 7 months out so that I can be a little spontaneous when given the chance.  I do have an incredible roster of shows lined up already and I will be working with more artists from out-of-state when I can.  I’d like to get some artists from ProjectRoom seen in other areas of the country and into the hands of more influential support.  I will continue to grow my contacts, seek out artists and their work, and hope that good things will grow from the seeds I’ve planted over the last two years. 

Images at right: Santiago Cal & Colin Smith. All images courtesy of ProjectRoom.