It’s the classic conflict – creativity confronts commercialism! The remaining six participants on the second season of Work of Art pair up in teams of two, and take to the Tribeca streets to sell their stuff.
But create “fine artwork” that also sells?
This is no small challenge for artists in general, and certainly puts the dilemma front and center for the remaining hopefuls.
Sara J chooses Young; Kymia grabs Dusty; Sarah K is left with Lola who, incidentally, reminds us that she needs to put more of herself out there to show the judges who she is. And so – she does!
Sell, sell, sell!
And what do the artists hawk on the streets of New York?
Lola photographs herself in the buff. Kymia goes for a postcard concept which she subsequently scraps in favor of an autograph exchange. Dusty observes surveillance cameras and opts for signage and t-shirts on the theme of being watched. Sarah K concocts construction paper headdresses (tossing in tees as well), and Young playfully decorates underwear and offers a few small paintings.
Sara J winds up with a long line and engaged customers, as she finds herself drawing and painting 5-minute portraits to the delight of the crowd.
Lola Makes Out!
While Lola may have intended to use sexuality to make the biggest bucks, her nude with secret statements is visually striking and conceptually unexpected as she sells something more compelling than sexuality. She’s offering us her nakedness, which is altogether different. Nudity may draw us in, but the vulnerability of her expression and position, the youth and natural state of her body, the genuine openness of her so-called secrets – all combine to present a portrait of authentic exposure.
Even the handling of text is well rendered: blocked letter font in all caps is both conservative and attention-grabbing, while confectionery colors add contrast to her soft-toned skin and sober stance.
The statements themselves – her personal revelations – are not ingenuous. Among them are: I am moody and sometimes mean, I cry at the drop of a hat, I am envious of the success of others.
Lola needn’t be envious of anyone on this undertaking. Whatever her intention to manipulate or “sell out,” she makes out by creating an artwork that is cohesive in concept and execution.
The Other Five
As for the other artists and how they manage to commercialize their creativity?
Sara J churns out whimsical watercolors (and fast!), Kymia’s idea is risky but clever, Young’s undies sell, but he makes childish painted versions for the gallery, and Dusty’s t-shirts are mediocre.
And Sarah K?
Her feathery construction paper headgear is dreadful, and best we can tell, likewise her t-shirts.
As the artists gather their goods for the gallery show, Kymia’s grid of signatures becomes more intriguing. Titled “Self Worth,” Jerry Saltz is initially unimpressed though he finds value in the exercise – after all, signatures are extremely personal. (I was less impressed.)
Dusty’s end product – the t-shirt version or his signage titled “Being Seen” – points us to nowhere. The judges are shaking their heads; his image of what looks like a toner cartridge in the middle of an outlined American map is both unoriginal and uninspiring, or as Jerry rightly calls it: simplistic and unexamined.
Sarah K paints on the wall and hangs a few paper pieces. “Cowboys and Indians” and whatever – is neither playful nor pleasing.
Sara J’s 5-minute portraits are a hit with the judges as they were with the street patrons. It’s worth noting that she earned the most money, with pictures priced at $10 each. Her images in ink and watercolor possess energy, verve, charm, a bit of edge – overall, they’re very successful.
Lola, Kymia, and Sara J show the work the judges prefer (and I agree). Sara J takes the win (she and Young split $30,000), Dusty hangs in by the skin of his signage, and Sarah K is shown the studio door.
It’s worth noting that Lola was clever in several ways. She sold prints in various sizes; she seems to have negotiated with virtually every potential buyer (sizing them up for what they might spend), and she was also customizing the experience by selling on-the-spot secrets. Are there lessons there in chutzpah that we all should pay attention to?
Sara J nonetheless creates likable artwork, and reminds us that classics properly executed are classic for a reason.