Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

America's Next Great Artist -- Brought to You by Bravo

Ok, despite my protestations to the contrary, I did watch America’s Next Great Artist or whatever it’s called, on Bravo. I was surprised to see an artist that I knew of from my studies at NYU on the show, Nao Bustamante. I have to admit that as an artist I moderately dislike her work, so obviously I was hooked, just to see how she did. Sometimes I find her work moderately interesting, but mostly I just find it annoying. Case in point was the performance art piece that they showed when they introduced her, in which she put bags full of water over her head, there’s a moment of worrying whether she’s going to drown or not, and then she cuts the bag off her head. When I saw this piece at NYU, I’ll be honest, I had PMS. So to me, someone walking around with bags of water strapped to her body wasn’t all that revelatory. I was already experiencing that. And it was happening around all these electrical wires, so I wasn’t sure if accidental electrocution was an intended or unintended potential outcome.

Anyway, a lot of the art on the show was really good, especially the piece that won this week, and I’m not just saying that because he’s from Minnesota. I was very pleasantly surprised, because frankly, I was very skeptical. And it wasn’t only the most “commercial” pieces that won, although they did talk about the potential value of some of the pieces.

I was most gratified in my opinion of Bustamante’s work. For one thing, when she was one of the three in the bottom of the judging, she got defensive and said that she was not responsible for how the judges reacted emotionally to the piece. She was not the only artist to be defensive, and I thought, yes, this will be an interesting series, all those great artistes and their egos. Yes. I’m getting more hooked by the moment.

Moreover, the judges said that her work had a lot of concept behind it, but not so much in the execution, which is exactly what I have always thought of her work, too. There are sometimes interesting ideas behind her work, but not every good idea has to be followed up on or will make an interesting performance.

Which is the beauty of Conceptual Art, where it can be enough just to have the idea and to write about it, but the artist doesn’t have to actually execute it. You can make a diagram of a sculpture and make it or not, send it out to a forge to have someone else make it, etc. It’s the idea that’s important, not the execution.

Now, that said, I also do think that art is as well as a provocation, also experimentation. And you don’t know if the piece is going to be interesting until you actually do it. And in that regard, I applaud Nao. I always say that sometimes “bad” art or theatre is more instructive than pieces that you like or find effective, and can be great opportunities for discussion. I have told a number of people about Nao’s piece over the years (usually to deliver the punchline about having PMS). And I have been inspired by pieces that she did to incorporate some of her work into my own performance pieces.

So now I’m hooked on another reality show on Bravo, to see how Nao and all the other contestants do.

(And You’re Cut Off on VH1. I’m hooked on that too. But that’s a guilty pleasure, so don’t tell anyone.)

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