Work of Art

Work of Art: The Next Great Artist is a strange reality show on Bravo.  There are the formulaic, requisite challenges and weekly eliminations.  These challenges force would-be artists to create works in only a few hours.  The pieces are exhibited to the judges and other members of the public.  The ultimate winner gets a show in Brooklyn and $100,000.

Who knew speed was a criteria for “greatness”?  The art historian in me shudders, equally repulsed and intrigued with this oddball premise.  Last night the visiting guest artist was Andres Serrano of Piss Christ fame.  How much did it cost to get dealers and curators to buy into this concept? 

Producing under pressure to answer challenges such as “design a book cover” or “create a shocking piece of art” might not be the smartest way to find people who can actually sustain themselves as working artists and create art with integrity and intelligence, but then again, I don’t pitch ideas for reality TV.  I just explain and interpret the art after it’s been made (usually decades after).  I guess now when I address contemporary art I have to mention Work of Art as a cultural moment revealing how art functions as entertainment.

Blog vs. Journal?

It isn’t actually a “battle” between two types of thinking/writing/expressing.   What is my journal for?  Private thoughts, visual experimentation, ranting.  What is my blog for?  More focused topics that might be of interest to other people, a place to put photographs or scans related to those topics. 

Both are a place to write regularly.

Some people don’t understand keeping a journal (whereas they understand blogs and facebook).  I’ve had friends say, my life is too boring; what would my journal say – “ate breakfast” or “watched TV”?  I have to explain that it isn’t necessarily about what you’re doing (although I’m always interested in the books people are reading or the music they’re listening to).  A journal is a place to write about who you are, what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling (as well as, sometimes, what you’re doing, or what is going on in the world).  It’s a place to stick things, draw things, be creative without self-consciousness.  Sometimes I share parts of it.

Another one of the questions I get asked: what are you going to DO with all those journals?  This is a question that doesn’t interest me.  It’s the process, not the product, that is significant.  It’s the living document that I value.  I rarely look back at my journals once they’re finished, which is not to say that I won’t some day.  I’ve been keeping a journal since April of 1985, and I have a dozens of them in a large storage bin.  The one pictured here is the one I just finished.  It has a cruelty-free leather cover and unlined handmade paper.  Choosing journals and giving them titles has always been a relevant part of the whole enterprise for me. 

And what of their contents?  Yes, there are embarrassing and shameful passages in some of them that I could of edited.  No, I have not always been an upstanding or morally impeccable person.  But to deny that I formerly was that parade of various selves would be insincere.  We are all a series of fragments and fissures.  Never whole.  If I had never made mistakes I would never have learned anything.  It also keeps you looking at the world with fresh eyes.  My grandma Eunice taught me the value of remaining curious.  Never lose that childlike sense of wonder and amazement.  If I’ve captured anything within my journal pages, I hope it’s that.