Are you ready for Wednesday night? At the appointed hour, the chubbiest, reddest clichébaby in history will emerge from the vagina of the Bravo network, spawned by the union of art and reality television. I am ready. I want screaming fights about sculpture and sensitive-painter egos lashed by turpentine judges' tongues! I want to drink whenever I hear the words "interpretation" and "conceptual"! I also request, as often as possible, footage of paint-spattered clothing and urgent debates that center on the topic of "craft." Bonus points for Shocking Art That Explores Sexuality or "Addresses" "Challenging" "Issues"! My greatest hope is simple: that the editors of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, Bravo's new reality show with 14 "cast member" artists, have a wicked sense of humor.
It turns out one of the competitors is photographer Mark Velasquez. He graduated from Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts in 2000. You may remember him from such works of art as I Made a Giant Penis in the Parking Lot and I Walked from Capitol Hill to Pike Place Market with a 12-Foot Wooden Cross on My Back and All I Got Was Eggs Thrown at Me by the Easter Bunny. (Those were real performances.) In 2002, Velasquez moved back to his hometown of Santa Maria, California—he's "just a simple guy from a small agricultural town," he said in a phone interview occasionally interrupted by the voice of a Bravo spokeswoman reminding us not to discuss much. Since then, Velasquez has turned the performing over to his models. His photographs are flashy, pointed commentaries featuring attractive women showing skin. They seem like what might come out if a social documentarian did a bunch of coke.
On Work of Art, artists have to make something every week in another medium: painting, photography, sculpture, installation, performance, industrial design. Velasquez says he loved getting back to hands-on work; he used to paint.
Other contestants include: glossy-haired Jaime Lynn from Lawton, Oklahoma, who took "Best in Show at the Skin Exhibition in Oklahoma City" and who is, according to Bravotv.com, "a devout Christian... inspired by her own struggle to embrace an existence of vapid glitz and fame, juxtaposed by her desire to lead a virtuous and humble life." Trong, born in Saigon, recently "finished writing a 'lost chapter' to The Da Vinci Code based on the secret love life of Marcel Duchamp" and is creating "a 'metaphysical GPS' application for the iPhone and his artist-as-company project, Humanitarians Not Heroes."
Trailer snippets: "If you guys are that weak and susceptible to somebody else's energy, then fuck you!" (You insult like an artist.) "I actually don't think you are an artist"—delivered by judge Jerry Saltz, New York critic (a critic on TV! The box may implode). And: "I'm not responsible for your experience of my work." Touché! Hooray!