The "Work of Art" Exit Interview: Amanda Williams

The "Work of Art" Exit Interview: Amanda Williams

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What have you been up to since you stopped filming the show?

I’ve been up to a number of things, one of which is teaching. I teach at the Illinois Institute of Technology here in Chicago, and I’ve actually been working on several projects. I’ve got a few commissions here, and then also a show next May in the Bay Area with a fellow artist in architecture — a colleague of mine, April Banks. We’ve got a two-person show at the Swarm Gallery … It’s going to center around DNA and our ancestry. We’re going to send away for an ancestry kit and use the results as material for generating a sight-specific installation about identity and family and heritage, and also the mapping of genomes.

You were paired in Episode One with Jamie Lynn, for the portrait challenge. Do you want to talk a little bit about that experience?

She was pretty easy to work with. It’s always difficult to try to fill up someone’s … I think they said someone’s “likeness and inner essence,” in ten minutes. But we tried our best. Now, we’re both living back in Chicago, we both enjoy collage, and a lot of elements that overlap. We did talk briefly about those connections, but we didn’t really get a sense of one another in a meaningful way, and that might’ve led to some of my demise. But in general, I love working with her and we’re still in touch. So I think I’ve also developed an “art friend.”

In Episode One, did you notice that things were edited in such a way so that the narrative turned out different than you remembered it?

I actually didn’t watch the first episode last night. I chose to have my family text me and kind of give me minute-to-minute updates. I was curious to see how they would perceive things that I had experienced first-hand. Of course they were disappointed and upset and frustrated when I lost, but it was fun to watch, through their eyes, how the editing process went. I was more intrigued than I was concerned or baffled about the editing in general. It seems like they did a good job of mixing both what happened — obviously, all that stuff was said and done — but also weaving a story together. So I think that they told one of the stories that I felt was there. I think they could’ve told 20 others. I’m intrigued to see how this builds as part of a larger story.

Can you share any of those text messages from your family? I bet some of them were pretty amusing.

[laughs] They said things like “connect the dots” — and I guess they were talking about Nao’s piece. A lot of things were sort of question marks. And somebody wrote, “Who’s the clown face?” So it was almost like they were being sarcastic but also trying to get clarification.

So you said you still are in touch with Jamie Lynn. Did you make any other close friends, or did you get rubbed the wrong way by anyone?

I’m probably the luckiest one on the show in terms of, I wasn’t there long enough to make any enemies or get annoyed by anybody — so I have a pretty good opinion of everybody still. We all are in contact with one another, but I have developed a friendship with Trong as well as some of the other Chicago residents. I’m in touch with Ryan, he just had a show this weekend that I attended — and also Erik, who lives in the area. So we kind of stay in touch. It’s a very odd experience to be part of reality television. We'll kind of share this lifelong strangeness. It’s kind of like summer camp for grown-ups.

Did you agree with most of the judges’ criticism of your work? Is there any of it that you’ll incorporate into your practice?

I respected their opinions and I could understand their line of thinking and how they arrived at their decisions about my work and about all of the works in the first competition. But I think it was actually some of the comments that both Jeanne and Bill made in their blogs after the show that helped the most. So it’s kind of unfortunate that I wasn’t able to hear those things first-hand … namely the idea that my architectural training will somehow factor back into my art.

If you could pick a winner — other than yourself — right now, who would it be and why? Just based on what you know of their work.

I would say that I continue to be most impressed with the careers of both Trong and Peregrine. The way they approach things really resonates with me. I don’t necessarily see their work as something that I would produce myself or something that I would, in abstract, say that that’s the kind of work I like, but their work kind of stays with me the most.

Is there anyone who, based on the first-round, you think should have been kicked off before you?

It’s so subjective — no. It all depends on what the judges are using as criteria to judge things. I definitely feel that there were other works that were equally questionable … I could say we could question the fact that there was a lot of figurative work. Why was that taken wholesale as acceptable? There was a lot of work that to me looked more like portraits of artists or works that the artist had already done. And if that was part of the criteria, that’s fine. But there were a lot of different questions that could’ve been asked to determine what the parameters would be for judging. And I think one of the judges even may have said that was part of what they were looking for: in the way that every portrait is a portrait of the artist. And I don’t share that philosophy necessarily and whether that makes me naive, or not cut out for the New York art scene, I don’t know.