WOA: The Uncritiqued

Posted on November 14, 2011

The pool is getting smaller each week, which makes these secondary Work of Art posts seem a little extraneous, but never let it be said that we don’t have opinions about every single thing that passes in front of our eyes.


Sara J.

We’re not sure if the meaning of her piece comes through all that clearly. We can’t remember what it was and we can’t decipher it from these pictures. That’s not a criticism on our part, but the judges do seem to place an inordinately high importance on “message” in this competition.

It’s a slightly whimsical, dark piece, which is very much in keeping with her Burton-esque aesthetic. We think she’s a very talented illustrator and this piece is as good or better than any of the Top 3.



We were shocked this didn’t make it into the Top Three. What with the importance placed on message and personal story in this competition, we would have thought the judges would fall all over this one. It’s disturbing and strangely serene at the same time; a highly personal rendering of the artist’s literal injuries.



Kind of shocked this one didn’t make it into the Top Three either. Sure, it fell apart a little, but the degraded quality of the piece only added to its interest. Maybe the latex feet sticking out were a bit too literal for the judges. Still, we thought this piece was pretty powerful.

It seems to us that most of the chaff has been separated out of the competition, because even the middle of the road works were pretty great this week. The Sucklord continues to fail to impress the judges, however, so they’re probably going to be gunning for him this week. It remains to be seen if he’ll be kept in the competition because he makes good television or because he can make good art.

[Photo Credit: bravotv.com – Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com]

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  • Anonymous

    The Sucklord’s piece definitely sucked this week, but his lack of pretentious snobbery is very refreshing.  I think the top three were chosen in concert with a NYT PR person.  I seriously doubt that a coffin with rubber limbs hanging out would have represented their newspaper the way they wished.  I knew Young was going to win it as soon as he shifted his idea.  Very trendy and timely.

    • Anonymous

      I still don’t get it when people say that he lacks pretentious snobbery. I feel like his lack of training is masquerading as that trait, but in actuality I think he’s the most pretentious. 

      • Anonymous

        I think it’s refreshing that he isn’t all “The judges don’t understand me and my greatness!”  He’s more “Damn it, I’ve got to do something that doesn’t suck, or I’m going home!”

        Unfortunately, he’s a great character, but his work has been underwhelming.

        • Joshua

          I don’t know that means he lacks pretentious snobbery, just that he knows how to play the game. I’ve always thought The Sucklord was keenly aware of his own particular brand of pretentious snobbery, which is what makes me like him. But unlike some of the artists (I’m thinking Miles from last season in particular, bless), he’s not pretending to be above everyone else because of what he does or knows or how he acts.

  • http://twitter.com/susanpcollier Susan Collier

    I think that employees at the NY Times might get another meaning out of Kymia’s piece had it been displayed in their lobby. It’s kinda depressing to work in print media these days.

    I have to say that while I’m not getting much from Work of Art, the show, I’m truly enjoying the art-based discussion on Work of Art, the TLo blog and comments section. It’s been awesome for a parent who doesn’t get to galleries/museums or have adult conversations much these days. 😛

    • Anonymous

      I agree, the comments on this particular show are so interesting I find myself reading most or all of them, whereas on other posts I may read only half or less. Art can be looked at and interpreted in so many different and fascinating ways, which usually makes for some lively discussions.  :)

  • Anonymous

    I actually feel like the three works in this post should have been the top 3. Young’s piece was a strong idea but there wasn’t that much to it and it looked a little too craft project. Dusty’s was good but again really straightforward. Lola’s was kind of interesting but a complete mess. These three pieces were much more polished looking and explored their ideas in a more thorough, interesting way. I need the Sucklord, Dusty and Lola to leave and then the competition can come down to Young, the Sara(h)s, Michelle and Kymia. 

  • BuffaloBarbara

    I actually think the middle entries were better than the top or the bottom entries this week.  Suck’s was bad, but so was Young’s–and at least Suck knew it.

    I thought Michelle’s was the easy winner.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with you 100%. How in the world the judges thought Lola’s piece was better than these is a mystery to me. Michelle was the clear winner in my mind.

  • Jacqui

    I just don’t see how Lola’s piece was ranked higher than these three. I really liked the coffin idea (although I agree that was not getting placed at the NYT’s office) and Michelle’s piece was very visually arresting to me. I would stop and stare at that one.

    • J Dreesen

      i don’t even remember what Lola did; what’s that tell you?!  

      • J Dreesen

        oh, that’s right…the tracings.

        • Jacqui

          Tracings with little captions written on it that quite frankly looked like someone bored and just doodling.

  • Anonymous

    The middle pieces are all better than the top three, but the middle pieces (arguably) don’t adhere as clearly to the requirement that the newspaper be an obvious part of the work.  Also, nobody wants a coffin full of amputated feet in their lobby.

    • http://twitter.com/susanpcollier Susan Collier

      I kinda love that Kymia goes with her vision without considering the limitations or contingencies associated with the “benefactors”‘ audience: boobs in EW, newspaper coffin in the NY Times’ lobby.

      • Anonymous

        I agree.  I’m a big fan of hers.  She seems totally real.

      • Anonymous

        And she manages to do it without being self-indulgent. “Look, here’s my pain, spilled onto the canvas for you.” 

    • Anonymous

      The newspaper is very obvious in Michelle’s piece.  It is prominent in the painting, which is itself sitting on two bundles of newspapers.

    • Anonymous

      well the newspapers were very obvious and integral in kimya’s and michelles. Sara’s takes a moment to realize that the bones are from the newspaper but once you realize it their inclusion reads as quite thoughtful and not an afterthought. 

  • MilaXX

    I like all 3 of these middle pieces a lot more than the top 3. Perhaps it’s because despite the presence of the Sucklord, this season has stronger artist overall.

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t the time for watching the show, unfortunately–could someone give me a bit more detail into the meaning of Michelle’s?  I like it on first look, but I was interested in hearing more of the story.

    • Anonymous

      I vaguely recall she actually had issues with major surgery and having to justify it  with the insurance companies. It was something along those lines

    • Anonymous

      Michelle was hit by a car and was not able to walk for some time. I think she was on ab bicycle when she was hit and if I remember correctly, her boyfriend/SO was also invovled in the accident. The darkness in her work is channeled from the accident and her recovery. 

      • Anonymous

        Thank you both!  It’s interesting to get the back-story of something you react to positively.

  • http://beautyforrealgirls.blogspot.com/ accidental housewife

    Now that I’ve had a chance to get a better look at it, Kymia’s is freaking me out. It’s haunting and disturbing. And I mean that in a positive way.

    I’m still so annoyed by Sara J.’s behavior in the previous episode that I’m irrationally unable to judge her work here. I also can’t remember what it was about. In fact, I couldn’t remember from one minute to the next while I was watching the episode.

    Michelle’s is genuinely affecting. This is how you address a personal experience without being self-indulgent, Sara J.

    • Anonymous

      I think Sara’s was something about the tsunami in Japan – everything left in huge piles.  It seems like she said the big thing on top of the pile of bones was a conglomeration of farmers and cows.  It has been almost a week so I could have some details wrong.

      • Anonymous

        I think it was around the time of the potential meltdowns, so it’s supposed to a radiation-fused monster thing? I think?

  • Anonymous

    Add me to those who don’t get why these weren’t top three–all of them are more interesting than Young’s and Dusty’s and more intriguing visually than Lola’s.

    I don’t get the judging–Jerry Saltz in his last two blogs has singled out Michelle for praise and also said his favorite piece was Lola’s.  (He also writes about being told to wear Spanx.)  So how did the voting go down among the judges that Michelle’s wasn’t top three and Young’s won?  

    Michelle’s was just gorgeous and strange–she and Kymia are the two whose skills have really impressed me. 

    Sara J., I think, was in the middle because the judges’ haven’t quite forgiven her for last week’s meltdown, which JS said went on and on and on.  I get the piece though–the deserted towns built on the skeletons of the dead and with mutant cows resulting from the radiation. 

    Kymia’s was disturbing, which made it effective as an art piece, but not as PR for the NYTimes. 

    Sorry Young, I know you visited this blog, but I think your piece was overpraised.

  • Anonymous

    Sara’s was about a story regarding ghost towns. Towns built upon former towns, I believe. It’s not completely clear that it’s a news story, although I do like the style she used. Odd and whimsical. Maybe too odd and whimsical for the NY Times. Michelle’s was very well done but the limbs and the papers look at odds with each other. A little “forced” together. She’s very talented. No way was Kymia’s coffin full of papers and limbs going in the Times lobby. She’s doing her thang–go Kymia! Thanks for the close-ups of all the work! It’s so hard to see in detail on my TV and with their edits.

    • Anonymous

      Sara’s headline was actually from a story about the aftermath of the tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster in Japan. You can read the online version of the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/world/asia/22japan.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Revisiting%20Ghost%20Towns%20While%20They%20Still%20Can%20&st=cse

      • http://captivewildwoman.blogspot.com Miss Lisa

        Thank you for clarifying–now her artwork makes more sense to me. My kid’s bedtime is during this show and I often miss one line of dialogue that explains what’s going on. Demonstrates how tight the editing is on this series.

  • Anonymous

    I was also very surprised that Michelle and Kymia didn’t make the top 3 this week.  I thought their pieces were the best of the whole competition so far, not just this challenge.

    I suspect there was a political angle to the judging.  They picked the stories the NY Times would most like to have highlighted in their lobby.  That left Kymia out because ewww, a coffin and body parts – how distasteful.  Michelle’s work centered on the dehumanizing process that insurance agencies put people through to “prove” their illness or injury – therefore it was too anti-corporate.

    That left Lola’s piece about the scrappy Rebels in Libya, Dusty’s relatively safe work about bummer economic news, and Young’s dull, crafty piece about a missing artist in China as the stories the Times would be most comfortable publicizing in their lobby.  Of the three, I thought Dusty’s was the best, but it couldn’t beat a chance to take a shot at China so Young won, not for his art, but for his message.  Just like the last time Young won, not because his work on Prop 8 was the best but because Entertainment Weekly wasn’t going to print a picture with naked boobies in their family friendly magazine.

  • Anonymous

    “Tlo said: We think she’s a very talented illustrator and this piece is as good or better than any of the Top 3.”

    And right there is the reason why she didn’t make the top 3: Highbrow contemporary/gallery types tend to look down their noses at illustration. So if that’s what they’ve decided it is, they won’t consider it.


    • Anonymous

      To be fair though, the elements that she brings into her work causes it to expand past the realm of illustration. Both contemporary watercolour drawing/painting as well as papercutting (two techniques in this piece) really are recognized as legitimate techniques/ways of working in the contemporary art world. It’s not like she just painted the cow and the farm, there was some innovation/imagination/vitality to what she did (and in what she does in general). 

      • Anonymous

        What I said was “if that’s what they’ve decided it is”.

        These judges aren’t the brightest bulbs in the marquee.–GothamTomato

      • Anonymous

        I’m so glad you said this.  I’m certainly no expert in defining what art is and is not, but to me, an illustration is something that relies on a given scene or idea or concept–as opposed to being based on an idea of your own. So the works of N.C. Wyeth that were done to accompany books like “Treasure Island” are illustrations.  But he also made paintings on his own, based on his own concepts, are considered art. It’s tricky, I admit. If it’s just technique, it’s illustration; if it’s technique with the artist’s own concepts, it’s art.

        Sara’s watercolor/torn paper piece was based on her own feelings about nuclear power and the results of that awful radiation leak.  It’s not an illustration of a Japanese village following the tsunami.  In my book, that makes it art.

        Her piece was my choice for the win.  I think it’s beautiful and evocative and completely realized.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5KDTLDJA7ZBCPDP6HV4FZMJDII Indigo

       Which is sad to me, illustration is easily my favorite art form and something I want to go in to myself. I could look at illustrations be they gallery pieces, concept art, doodles, sketches, comics, etc… ALL DAY LONG.

      and if any of those snooty types don’t think illustration can belong in a gallery, need only look at the wonderful work of Blaine Fontaine, one of my biggest sources of artistic admiration.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Claire-Ramsey/1198578894 Claire Ramsey

    I’m almost positive that Sara J’s work was about the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. The human and cow are mutated together because of the radiation. I actually liked hers quite a bit and probably would have put her and Michelle in the top 3.

  • Anonymous

    I missed this episode so I don’t know what the artists said about their pieces, but was Sara J. going for something about fast food companies or industrial farms with their genetically modified animals? I think I like her painting.

    • Anonymous

      No, it’s about the radioactive ghost towns left behind as a result of the Japanese tsunami–thus the mutant cow.

      • Anonymous


        I take it back.

        • Anonymous

          This is curiosity speaking, NOT animosity!  Why would you decide not to like Sara’s painting when you found out it was about the Japanese nuclear disaster, rather than geneticlly modified animals?  It’s so interesting to me that the inspiration for the piece has such a major effect on the viewer.  

          • Anonymous

            I think it’s a little too gory (I can’t think of another word but I’m sure there’s a better one to use) or something. Seems a little tasteless to me. I’m not sure.

          • Anonymous

            Initially my view of it was going in the direction of finding it tasteless and grotesque; but then I sort of thought of it as visceral, like her sincere gut reaction to hearing about this reality and I really really like it. It has become my favourite from this challenge. I also really like the way in which she uses watercolor. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m with the other folk who think these 3 were the best. There is a power and depth both technically and aestethically about all 3. They all draw me in. I didn’t hate Dusty’s or Young’s. But they didn’t engage as much

  • Joshua

    Ooh, I agree. With the possible exception of Dusty, who got the scale better than any of them, all of these three works had more interest than the rest. I was a bit on the couch about coffin thing, but it grew on me, and without the constraints of the competition, it really would have nailed it.

  • Anonymous

    The bright peach color of the feet makes them look too much like dolls’ feet to me, too plastic/rubbery. I would have grayed them out some.

    Michelle’s piece was the clear winner to me, but these are all pretty strong.

  • Anonymous

    over thirty years ago al ruppersberg announced to my friend’s first class at ucla that he would automatically fail anyone who, once again, used a burnt baby doll in an art project. is there really any need to continue using them?

    perhaps the judges who didnt like the poorly made painting thing on top of newspaper stacks have seen the far far far far far [i could continue] superior work of liz young.

    the little houses on the top are more interesting than the rest of this, you are right. you are also correct that they are illustration. & i will be further correct when i add that illustration is not art.

    i will be most of mostest correct when i add that something considered to be a serious art contest taking place on a version of beat the clock is yet another wonderful example of almost fantastical devolution. but then everything pretty much is that, w/ the exception of technology. soon we will have the technology to do anything we want & all we will do is nothing special, which could be heartbreaking but is, instead & like everything else, just spit ordinary.

    out & over.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IHAVNFCLRUU742PA3QYG4RBQOY Eddie

      It’s this type of insular snobbery that really makes the art world look bad.

      • Anonymous

        it’s the fact that nobody does any good work that really makes the art world look bad.

        • Anonymous

          It’s true, we don’t know you, but it’s also true that your critique doesn’t go much past “It’s bad because I say so.”

          But if we’re going to be declaring people correct unilaterally, I declare that I’m more correct than you, because I am capable of proper capitalization.

          • http://jmjamison.wordpress.com/ jamie

            Even if you don’t care for her punctuation she makes good points. If someone looks at a lot of different art over a period of time it becomes screamingly obvious what’s derivative and over-distilled and 4th generation.

            Re. Illustration.  Having done illustration – for money not for fun – I have some views on the subject. Illustration is done on assignment, subject assigned not chosen, subject to outside decisions.  That is why illustration is not considered art.  Put one of each side-by-side and see if you have a differnt gut reaction. Certainly are illustrators who’s work gets a chance to transcend the definition (and artists who are illustrators) but I need more sleep to come up with a proper reference.

            Maybe it’s my age (I’m almost 60 and well into my decrepitude) but I think art needs time to percolate in order to be good.  Much of the WOA work produced seems rushed and not much substance.

          • Anonymous

            I’m not sure  I can comment on her points, because they are presented in such a manner that all I get out of her comments is “I know more than you.” Which was what I was poking fun at with my comment.

            I would counter your point about illustration with the idea that something can be art, without being “fine art.” It really goes back to an earlier conversation about the difference between craft and art and the very fuzzy line between the two.

            Ultimately, I don’t think this show is meant to be about “serious” art (whatever that means to an individual). It’s reality TV, after all.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Z2M6A5DPY27STQ3JRZS4W47HAI Jonathan M

            I believe the difference between a deliberate lack of capitalization and ignorance of the concept is self-evident. If this is the only thing you can find to criticize about holdme’s post, you’re on shaky ground.  

          • Anonymous

            I amazed that so many who missed the joke felt strongly enough about it to comment. It was a satirical comment about the declaration of standards without supporting evidence. (I work in the legal field, where, if you don’t back a statement up with proof, you might as well have made it up).

          • Anonymous

            i dont think any of us were interested enough in what you had to say to catch any jokes. or perhaps, since so many of us missed it, you didnt say it well enough to be understood.

            i do not make pronouncements on the legal feed. i’m not a paralegal. you are making pronouncements about what i know in my own field. back it up w/ what you know of my field. i gave examples. yr turn. i wont be here to listen, but you need to talk so the field, as they say, is yrs.

          • Anonymous

            as much as i enjoy discussing art game shows about which i have no respect w/ a bunch of people i dont know, will never know, & will never want to know & for whom i have no respect, i really do have a lot of work to do.

            & besides, besides taking up worktime it makes it difficult to focus my background thoughts on dr. franklin p ruehl, phd & his & his cohost’s theories about Satan’s life on the moon. his tail encompasses much of the galaxy. the show is  hypergalactic enigmas.
            the link is http://www.blogtalkradio.com/defconzero
            & it’s certainly got quite a bit more value in all sorts of way than this, the “art” [quotes intentional] version of beat the clock.

            not even the gong show this! cos, of course, the gong show was, in its way, suffused w/ sardonic self-awareness. & the producers & the artists [lack of quotes intentional] both had a good idea of what was & was not worth taking seriously. not here, not now.

            apologies for not being impressed w/ what you learned in second grade. as i skipped most of elementary school–art snob is more correct than stupid art snob, sorry–i dont really pay much attention to what people learned in second grade. i didnt attend it. it was very important to you, i’m sure & i can tell you are very proud of yrself & all you learned. & you havent changed much or, in fact, learned much since then, bless yr everlovin heart.

            cos if you did & you wanted so very much to defend the abovenoted pieces o’ genius that i, in my self-importance & clear lack of understanding, was so incapable of interpreting in any meaningful way– why, you couldve critiqued it yrself. of course you could have. & w/ much much more flair & insight that i could ever manage. even though i was capable of coming up w/ an actual critique in five or so minutes– that was just my opinion. so why dont you tell us yrs. & then why dont you tell us why thats what you think? if you think. if you can. surely better than i can. w/ capital letters.

            cos i am done here. i’m not gonna watch this stuff. theres nothing i can get from it. it’s of absolutely no interest to me. it’s a waste of my time. it’s a waste of space at where? the brooklyn museum of art? who wouldnt want a show there. it was the greatest dream of leonardo da vinci. et al.

            i hope everyone’s pal sucklord wins. that i can say w/ a full heart. cos he’s the only one who gets it. & i hope everyone here visits a dentist w/ just as much dental talent as the art talent on view on this miracle of a reality tv show. even better: one who has as much talent as those of us who can w/ such  inflated expertise, recognize the difference between a C & a c. in type. bye.

          • Anonymous

            Please see my reply to Jonathan above, where I explain the joke that you missed.

  • Anonymous

    Sara’s concept seemed clear, the execution of that concept was really muddled.  Michelle’s was personal but the style of it seemed very “art school” and I agree with the poster who said the inclusion of the NYT seemed a bit forced.  Kymia’s was an interesting idea but the execution was off, and the physical inclusion of the newspaper was obvious but the reason why it’s part of the artwork wasn’t clear.  It might have been more interesting if she’d had stacks of folded newspapers in the shape of a coffin, the headline she wanted in the middle of the coffin, and then the body parts sticking out.  Probably not a winner because the NYT wouldn’t want that in their lobby, but the judges would probably have like it better.  

  • Anonymous

    Kymia’s pile of plaster didn’t work for me.  At all.  If there was room in the bottom three for a fourth, she would have received my vote.  

  • Anonymous

    To me, Michelle should have been in the top 3.  It was relevant and her point of view, given her personal story, was clear without being  superfluous. While I really liked Dusty’s and was glad he did well, I thought Michelle’s piece warranted more praise than it received.

  • http://twitter.com/Alloyjane Alloy Jane

    I really wish I could watch this show.  LOVE the newspaper coffin, I don’t care what the story actually is, it can go so many places.  And the one with the white lilies (?), it’s beautiful.  Guess it says a lot about me that I don’t find it disturbing.  It is definitely peaceful though, and familiar, in a way.  Shame Bravo doesn’t stream their shows.

  • Now I am The Bee

    ITA that these three artworks should have been the top three.  All are much more interesting and personal than those that made it.  I’d love to see them in person. 
    And–I”m gonna ask a dumb question:  Why is illustration not art?  And why is Sarah J’s considered illustration, and not Michelle’s? 

    I ask this because there exists the same debate about quilting:  Is it, or is it not, art.  Yes–it is often useful and utilitarian, but it does become art when the intention of the quilter is to make a statement rather than just making a blanket.  
    Just would like to hear some opinions. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506473106 Mori Clark

      As an illustration major, I’d say that fundamentally there isn’t a difference between illustration and art! The difference between fine arts and illustration would probably be what the objective is- while finearts tend to be looser and encourage the viewer to have many interpretations, illustrations tend to be about communicating messages and ideas, in (sometimes) a more literal way. The line between the two is constantly being crossed and whatnot, though- a lot of professional illustrators show in galleries, for example. 

      Non-conceptually, the main difference between illustration and fineart is that illustration is usually for an assignment. Someone comes to you needing a piece of art for something, you create that piece, they pay you. 

      The funny thing is to me, all the assignments they’ve been given in this show both last season and this are pretty much your standard illustration assignments. I did ‘create a piece to illustrate a headline’ a few weeks ago in my Editorial class, ahaha. 

    • Anonymous

      In my art education I took an “Illustration in Contemporary Drawing” course as well as a “Sculputre and the Language of Craft” course (in which one of our assignments was to make an art-quilt and we looked at a ton of examples of contemporary artists who are inspired by quilts, as well as traditional quilters who don’t identify as artists). I think both have traditional, utilitarian purposes (illustration to convey a specific idea in a book or on a poster and quilts had the social aspect as well as the aspect of keeping people warm) but both have been used as inspiration/starting point/way of working for a lot of contemporary artists. Personally, I don’t see either Sara’s or Michelle’s as “illustration” but I would say that they’re both representational and they both have illustrative qualities. 

  • Anonymous

    All feet.  Needed some fingers or a collarbone sticking out of the coffin.