The "Work of Art" Exit Interview: Nicole Nadeau

The "Work of Art" Exit Interview: Nicole Nadeau

As has been the case for some weeks now, ARTINFO caught up this Thursday with the contestant most recently kicked off Bravo's "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist." The difference this week was that two contestants were eliminated: Nicole Nadeau and Jaclyn Santos. Nicole, the nice-girl love interest of the show's Miles Mendenhall plot line, spoke with us about gaining weight in Italy, her secret store of ninja weapons, and her relationship with ol' puffy eyes. Jaclyn would not be interviewed, maybe because she's too busy buffing a Jeff Koons sculpture. [Turns out that wasn't exactly the case. Stay tuned.]

How’s it going?

Great. I’m in Italy.

What are you doing in Italy?

Just like traveling around and living the life, having fun. Vacation.

Did you decide to travel right after the show?

No, I just randomly went like a week ago. My friend’s like, "let’s go to Italy!" And he’s from Italy, so I was like, "OK." Just having an inside scoop on different places that aren’t really tourist spots, I thought was super nice, and then it just happened that I was like, "Oh shit, I have to do exit interviews in Italy!" This is so weird, I’m on the side of a highway right now outside of Florence. It’s like, what is going on?

That’s pretty surreal.

Yeah, I actually ran into Trong [Nguyen] in Florence like two days ago.

Are you taking a break from making art while you’re out there?

I think so, because I don’t really have anything to make art with. Everything’s so beautiful out here, and the food’s awesome. I’m gaining 20 pounds right now. It’s really nice.

How did you decide to go on the show?

I was reading about a casting call in the New York Times, and I wasn’t really working on a serious project or doing freelance work, so I was like, "Oh, this might be a fun experiment while I have this time that’s a little bit open for me." And I love doing things that people haven’t really done before, or having an experience that's very rare. So I thought that it could be interesting. It’s all in good fun. It’s a fun experiment to explore.

Did you think anything negative might come out of being on the show — for you personally or for your career? Or was it a good experience that lived up to your expectations?

I didn’t really think about the repercussions while doing it or, about how it would be perceived. What I did find interesting was the framework and the idea of this reality-show formula. Everybody has seen it before, and everybody knows the archetypes and everything like that, and I thought that was so interesting, almost on a performance level. And then with work, I was thinking I would never set up these restrictions for myself at home. I’m not going to have a producer and the kind of control that was involved with the art-making on the show. I wanted to see how the process — the restraint on materials and time — if that could evoke different levels of creativity.

Do you think there’s any sense in which the promise of the show’s title, to produce "the next great artist," is more than just a marketing ploy? Will whoever wins really deserve a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum more than other young artists working today?

I think it’s pretty obvious. When we were doing the show... well, the title was kind of decided afterward. "The next great artist" is just so loaded, and I don’t think that an art career or an artist magically appears overnight, that’s just not the way that it is. I think that it’s a great place to get exposure and maybe play and also show — not show but share — different levels of your work with a broader audience that might not make it out to the museum, or to the gallery show. I think that for everybody that was doing the show, it was just interesting to be able to communicate to a broader range.

All of the contestants on the show were presented as stereotypes to a certain extent, and it seemed like you were filling the role of the "nice" or "sweet" artist.

I’m actually a bitch in real life.

Were you beating people up behind the scenes?

Yeah. They didn’t show the beatings that happened. I had ninja equipment back in my luggage as part of the materials I got to bring; people were just so afraid of me.

You didn’t really engage in a lot of the petty drama that was going on. Was that intentional? Was it a survival tactic?

That’s funny because when I was there, I was just like, "everybody is so nice and normal." [laughs] I’m just so used to being around crazy characters that nothing really is very shocking to me, in terms of drama or people. I was just kind of having fun. I don’t really like dramatics. Also, when I’m working, I get really focused and it’s like almost scary. I don’t look up — I’m just in a zone and it’s kind of creepy. I’m actually surprised Bravo didn’t show more of my creepy focused look.

One of the plots that was played up in the final edit was a romance between you and Miles. Was it weird having that portrayed as a narrative on TV?

It was literally so dumb because Miles and I both are like, "we’re buddies, we’re friends, this is so weird — how did this happen?" But we share a similar sense of humor, and I think that’s what came out and made it look like something completely different.