One may not have realized this while watching previous episodes of Bravos "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist," but art has inspired, like, a whole lot of theoretical and philosophical and intellectual debate, you know, throughout the history of human existence. But if the legacy of this history has been absent from the show, last night’s episode, "Natural Talents," offered a brow-furrowing epistemological dilemma for those avid readers of Krauss, Diderot, Foucault, et alia.
"Do you think Captain Crunch would be a good dad?" Miles Mendenhall poses, throwing down his gauntlet of academic inquiry. "It seems like he’s away from home a lot," Abdi Farah spars with the whip-like foil of his wit. "I mean, he’s got a ship to run." As the fallout from our blown minds begins to settle — and as we marvel at how Captain Crunch could so perfectly and simultaneously stand in as an allegory for Simon de Pury and God — in bursts Bill Powers, and everyone, understandably, screams. Powers tells the gang that they’re headed out of town, and we are terrified that the monster that devoured Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn now has a craving for former M.F.A. students. Just get them into the Audis, we silently pray. Papa Powers does.
The remaining five contestants are shepherded into the woods where China Chow stands in a clearing, in a lovely camel-hair cape. She has bad news. Only three artists will make it to the final challenge. Two will be eliminated. We worry that they will be fed to bears that Chow has hidden behind a tree. (Why are we so worried? This show is taking years off ARTINFO's life.) But no wild beasts are unleashed. The artists are told that they are to seek inspiration from a muse. (We’re thinking Sarah Jessica Parker. Wait, no, how about Philippe de Montebello? Or Lady Gaga? Ok, we’ll stop.) That muse, dear reader, is nature.
They are meant to create a work inspired by nature. Yawn. Using materials from nature. Gag. Nothing "with a heartbeat," though. Ha. Thus the creative process — which ARTINFO will walk you through now — begins.
Like any true and devoted craftsman, Miles hopes to do a "super mega über [actually he says, "ooper"] awesome job." Abdi feels he has "lost all knowledge" of what he wants "to do as an artist" and must spend "some time with God." Jaclyn Santos, being from the city "looks nervous about being in the woods." Peregrine Honig picks up sticks. Nicole Nadeau looks right at home, surrounded by the birds that dress her in the morning and her best friend, Thumper.Miles, at least, who "grew up making bows and arrows" — because he is the main character from "My Side of the Mountain" and used to live in a tree with only a falcon for company — discovers a "supercool fungus growing off this dead log" and is on his way to great-artist status. "Wait till you see this dead fungus that I found," Miles says to Nicole. This is like watching elementary schoolers flirt.
Jaclyn Santos has a cold. We are certain that Jaclyn has a cold because she is wrapped up in a blanket like a taquito, wedged against the back of the sofa. Peregrine giggles at Jaclyn’s plight, stating, "It looks like someone killed you and covered you up." Jaclyn is pretty covered up. For the first time ever, perhaps, she is wearing a sweater. She must have sewn all of her other clothing together to make it. Also, she must be feverish because instead of flirting with Simon de Pury, she is rude to him. And Simon, in his well-mannered way, is rude back.
Rather than spend too much time worrying about the common cold, however, let us turn our attention to mustard gas. Miles wants to make some. "You might have killed off all your competitors in one go," de Pury declares of Miles's plan. "That would be a very effective technique." The conflict has escalated to actual chemical warfare.
Jaclyn wants to use a photograph that she took in the bathroom at the William Beaver House, and all the other contestants freak out. Briefly, we think that this is because they are disgusted at the idea of more bathroom photography, which is gross, but it is because she is breaking the competition’s rules: that work can only be made during the allotted studio time. Jaclyn can’t understand why everyone is mad at her. She has a cold, OK?
Also, we want to scream, "Miles, stop touching that fungus!"
NOT AS MUCH CONFLICT
Nicole says that Peregrine’s wardrobe is "magical." So magical, in fact, that Peregrine time-traveled to the Middle Ages and stole the little skull caps that noblemen reserved for their hunting falcons (Peregrine falcons...). Wow, falcons are coming up a lot.Also, Nicole and Peregrine share a friendly concoction that Peregrine calls a "midnight spritzer" — orange juice and red wine. Nicole may think that they are friends, but Peregrine is trying to kill her. With a cocktail more poisonous than mustard gas.
Miles and Nicole are kind of like friends. She wants to "jello wrestle" in Miles’s piece. He moans with pleasure at the idea. She says "Plan B," for no obvious reason. What just happened? NEVER MIND! Miles flashed his butt at the cameras. His whole butt! Both cheeks! Who cares what Miles and Nicole were talking about?
Jaclyn isnt friendly with anyone. But in case you forgot, she has a cold.
Miles constructs a really, really big table, or something. And then some kind of lever with spikes at the end. He may actually be making weapons. Rusty-nail weapons, since the mustard gas didn’t work out. "I thought that this was just a way to prepare your cheesecake," de Pury says knowingly, making us wonder what kind of Swiss cheesecake is made with spiky clubs. Bill Powers thinks that Miles doesnt have "soul" or "emotion." But watch out, Powers: he does have weapons. Powers then says that Miles’s work seems "too clever to him" — this from a judge wearing a silk jacket that was made for a 12-year-old girl. Cynthia Rowley should really step in.
Peregrine makes plaster legs with some branches poking out of them to represent "a really annoying teenager of Mother Nature — like when you take a teenager into nature and how annoying they can be." Then she asks if anyone has a condom. Then she hangs little drawings of naked people engaging in sexual acts from the branches, explaining that they depict "things that I’ve seen in parks." Dirty, dirty parks.
Abdi makes a self-portrait and says, "there’s so much me in it." Duh. He says that he saw the beach as "somewhere you would have a baptism of some kind." Yup, that also makes sense. He makes a floaty charcoal baptism drawing. It really, really looks like him, which is something, right?
Nicole makes a piece that the judges call "small... organic... beautiful... confusing... not prehistoric enough." It looks like a scale model of Roden Crater made out of a coconut by a kid. It's pretty cool. She says it’s about her Native American heritage. OK.
Jaclyn makes something, but come on, guys, she has a COLD, so just leave her alone.
Abdi wins. Miles and Peregrine will also go to the finale. Jaclyn and Nicole were kicked off. And in case you were concerned, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn is back. The guest judge was Michele Oka Doner, and she said some things we can’t remember.