Nao responds to the critiques of her “shocking” work, and explains her competition strategy.
Art isn’t always where you think it’ll be. Sure, you have your artwork, or art piece, but that is often just a snapshot of where an artist is in their process. So the “art” is in the process and it’s evidence is elusive. “Good” art is hard to trap. For me the process is like absorbing my surroundings, mingled with my perception, then reorganizing that into a form. That form may be readable as intended or shifting, and unconscious. Once you take your work out of your head or heart or guts and put it into a form, it is subject to interpretation. At that point the artist loses control, but gains a dialog and an understanding of the interpretation by the viewer. Work of Art contestants made what we could with X number of hours. If we had 12 hours the work would be different than if we had 12 days or 12 years. That’s why I think of the work as a snapshot of the process or time available.
When I watched Episode 4 of Work of Art, I thought my work looked strong on TV, but the details of the process, the drip painting and the ripped and painted nest interior, were left out, or at least hard to pick up on. This is TV and the narrative doesn’t always require the details. But when the judges had all the contestants assembled and the camera panned across our heads, it was that moment I saw the art, all of those heads and then… my crazy sculptural mask! IT WAS A RIP IN THE FORMAT OF THIS ART COMPETITION. I really thought it was beautiful. No one made mention in the show that I had used the Utrecht bags from our show sponsor. It was a commentary/frustration of the limitations of the structure. I am primarily a video and performance artist (but I don’t put emphasis on media hierarchy). I rarely go to the art supply store for materials. Don’t get me wrong, I love the art supply store, just as much as the library, the hardware store, my house, the street and so on. Materiality is all around us, as is art. One of my strategies for going on the show was to engage in things I didn’t actually know how to do. So each week I tried to do something that was new for me. I wanted to model a process for people watching the show that you can express yourself creatively in any medium. Even though I said I had no idea what I was making, episode 4 felt like the most familiar art-making process for me. It was a true exploration. Making art can be animal and instinctual, spiritual and beyond words. Heck, I’ve been in critique sessions many times, and I certainly know how to B.S. with the best of them. But really is that what it is all about? I determined that my piece, “Barely Standing,” would be the work that would break though the show format or get me sent home, and well, we all know what happened. I think it is possible to make great art in a reality TV format, but it may not be where we intend it to be. Will the next great artist be a competitor on Work of Art? Watch what happens. Nao will be heading back to relative obscurity now to make her own works of art. But remember people out there in TV land, take off your mask, because there is another one underneath.