Okay, it’s not as grandiose as sending Project Runway contestants to Paris (remember those glamorous days, darlings?) but it was fun getting the artists out of the city for awhile.
And it made for a somewhat charming backdrop for the challenge, finding a portrait subject and rendering them creatively. You can find all kinds of really odd birds in your average small town, so it was fun watching a bunch of self-consciously oddball reality show characters come face to face with the grand old tradition (far older than reality TV, that’s for sure) of the American Small Town Character.
Congratulations to Kymia. In some ways, her portrait was a little conventional, but she managed to imbue it with just enough oddness to draw you in and keep you looking at it. It’s a cliche to say this, but it really “told a story.”
And it helped that she chose probably the best subjects she could have found.
We didn’t love it like it was awesome or anything. The art style really isn’t to our tastes, nor do we think it’s all that original. But it’s perfectly realized and thoughtfully done. More than anyone else, she fulfilled the dictates of the challenge in an artful manner.
Although we have to admit, Young came pretty close. As much as we’ve railed against the obviousness of his pieces and the overpraise he’s been getting from the judges, he zeroed in on a pretty fantastic idea: getting a local portrait artist to do his portrait in 20 minutes and using that as a basis for a portrait of the artist who painted it. Metacommentary!
And we liked very much his idea of breaking down the photographs of the artist to his component parts. All of this, to our way of thinking, was setting him on the path of one of producing his best, most thoughtful piece. Unfortunately, he screwed it all up in the staging, going for something that obscured what it was he was trying to do. It’s not at all obvious that we’re looking at photographs of the artist producing the painting we’re also looking at. It’s just a meticulously jumbled mess.
As for the judges’ opinion that he should have just hung the painting and let it serve as a portrait of the man who painted it, we don’t believe for one second that they would have done anything but eviscerate him for that.
We thought her use of materials was interesting and that it made for a visually arresting piece, but the tone of it seems completely contrary to what she was claiming to be doing. She saw this as a tribute to the man and to us, it looked like a rather disturbing and unflattering way of portraying him.
Still, good enough to wave her through to the finals and we’re happy to see that.
The thing about Dusty that kind of annoyed us was that he was obsessed with two things about himself: that he’s from Arkansas and not used to the big city (For god’s sake, he got emotional when he saw trees this episode. What is he, a wood-elf? ) and that he has a daughter. We get it; these are powerful things. But is there anything else going on as an artist and a person? It’s literally all he had to say about himself, over and over. “I’m from Arkansas and I have a little girl.”
So when he saw this little girl, we knew it was all over for him.
Because first off, everyone else was scoring portraits of local characters. This girl, while adorable, did not inspire a portrait as interesting as any of the other ones going on in the work room. Second, because he chose a subject so likely to inspire yet another dreary bout of homesickness, he literally could not conceive of a way of executing it that didn’t have him falling back on old tricks. He’s already been defined as an artist who repeats ideas too much, what with the whole “map of America” thing, but he’s also an artist who does this “paint by numbers” mosaic stuff way too much as well.
But what really sold us on the idea that he should be sent home was the fact that he recognized that a disintegrating portrait would be more interesting, but did nothing to make it come about. He just let a few candy pieces fall off and tried to claim it was all part of a larger idea. Sure, Lola was a total bitch to point that out, but she was also quite right. If he thought a disintegrating portrait of childhood had merit, then do something in the art to make that theme apparent. In short: if he’d spent 30 seconds knocking candy off deliberately and strewing it on the floor, he might have saved this piece.
Our joy is boundless. Annoying Girl got sent packing.
We’ll give her some small credit for a few things. She found great subjects, she had the germ of a good idea…
…and she even wrote a long, self-indulgent title that actually fit the piece and was a little touching.
But somehow she got it in her head that the judges loved her handwriting so much that they wanted to see it in every piece. They only ever really praised it once, but she kept going back to it, defining her limitations a little more each time. She had great material with which to work, and she couldn’t think of anything more to do with it than arrange it like a 6th grader’s class presentation. All of the things she could have done with those bills and she just lined them up like that. The possibilities for manipulating them are screaming at her, and she’s too busy writing a letter to give it any thought. Worse yet, the actual picture of her subjects was over-manipulated in the extreme, obscuring them and making them look ridiculous and insignificant, which is exactly the opposite of her stated intentions for the piece.