Thursday, June 17, 2010

Work of Art Reality TV Show - Episode 1, Portraits

We've seen the neurotic lives of plenty of celebrities, the immaturity of The Jersey Shore crew, the horror of tiny girls in pageants -- so why not have a reality show about artists! I'm game.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the new reality show, "Work of Art," but I liked it more than I thought I would. I figured, anything had to be better than those insane, self-centered housewives; but hated the thought they might portray artists as a group of bitchy, self-obsessed, nitwits. Fortunately, that wasn't the case.

It airs on Bravo, Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. or you can watch the first episode here on It's produced by Sarah Jessica Parker. She made a brief appearance on the first episode.

Work of Art, Producer, Sarah Jessica Parker

Each week, 14 artists are given a specific challenge to be completed in a certain time frame. They're judged by a group of critics, (never heard of any of them), with the winner landing a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum and $100,000 cash.

 The Cast of "Work of Art"

In the first episode, which aired last week, the artists were grouped in pairs and told to create a portrait of each other. Please click here to see the finished pieces. You can also add your opinion by rating each piece.

I found it fascinating to watch and learn about the thought process some of the artists went through as they made each portrait. I loved a few of the portraits, including the winning entry, done by Miles. He's a college graduate from the University of Minnesota, who also  suffers from OCD.

 Winning Portrait of Nao, by Miles

Winner of Week 1, Miles

Most artists know about "happy accidents," but Miles was really upset when his plans went awry. He said his OCD makes him plan every step, from start to finish. But he wouldn't have been able to finish in time, if he had stuck with his plan. So he made the best of the situation and created a beautiful portrait of fellow artist, Nao. 

 Contestant, Nao

So far, editing on this show is making Nao appear to be the villian. She was the only artist on week one who made disparaging remarks about some of the work done by her fellow contestants. I wasn't impressed with her portrait at all, although I loved her comment, "I'm not responsible for your experience of my work." The judges thought she sounded defensive. But no one would've known her finished piece was a portrait if she'd hadn't told them. I'm a big fan of abstract, it didn't work for this challenge.

While I loved the winning piece Miles did, I thought the prize should have gone to Adbi. His gorgeous, bright colors strongly appealed to me.

Adbi, with his Portrait

Hearing him explain, how his subject, Ryan, smoked a lot, was hot and sweating and had a very intense personality; helped explain the outcome. As you can see, it also looked like him.

Contestant, Ryan

I was not happy about the woman who was eliminated. It's true, her portrait lacked a focal point and looked like a background, but she worked in mixed media, my personal favorite medium. I was looking forward to seeing what else she had to offer.

Amanda's Portrait

Amanda, first contestant eliminated

What I loathed was the "pussy" painting theme from Judith. They showed images of her previous work with simple photo's of kittens, using the work pussy in the title. Zero creativity. She painted a large, ugly purple thing, which should have been insulting to anyone sitting for that portrait. She wasn't even among the bottom three contenders.

 Judith's Portrait

 Contestant, Judith

That just shows you how subjective art is. It's definitely in the eye of the beholder. I think Judith should have been eliminated.

I've learned a lot from painting with other artists and getting to learn about how they think by picking their brains about what went into their paintings. So, the opportunity to see it on the show was very encouraging. I'm not sure if anyone who isn't an artist will find this interesting, but I know other artists appreciate it.

Click here to read what judge, Jerry Saltz wrote about what really happened on the show. Gotta love behind the scenes action.

Judge, Jerry Saltz

Read my review of Episode 2, Appliance Graveyard, here.
Read my review of Episode 3, Book Covers, here.


  1. Hi Ruthie/Nina! Thanks for this post about Work of Art, I keep forgetting to watch it! Your post and critique of the portraits was spot on and I agreed with your opinions of the works. If I could get my ADD head together I'll try to DVR it! Have a great day!

  2. Gonna have to check this out! love your blog.

  3. Nice review, Nina...I'll add it into the DVR.
    Fingers crossed your band is back together soon...

  4. i had read about this show and intended to watch- so glad you wrote this post, b/c i didn't realize it had already started. sounds like a great reality tv show idea...

  5. Yeah, I don't get the love they have for Judith. The first week I thought the covering was there because the portrait couldn't be shown on television and that is why it escaped elimination. The second week, it because obvious that she is kind of a nutbag.

    I also preferred the intensity of Adbi's painting over Miles' photography. It's 2 episodes in and I already find his OCD exhausting. I hope they focus on someone else on tonight's show.

  6. The hardest thing about this show so far is figuring out who should be eliminated. There are like 4-5 'worthy' pieces each week.