Good news: we’re in the final stretch of “Work of Art,” that perplexing practice in game-show-ifying the art world. And it looks like Bravo’s turning up the heat on our dear contestants — we’ve seen our fair share of crying in the past eight episodes, but nothing like the waterworks that came bursting through the pipes last night. It was major milestone, the defining second-to-last installment that decided who would make it to the final three and who would be sent packing so painfully close to the finish line. Also, as a pre-Christmas gift to us and other equally weary viewers, Bravo gave us the miracle of double elimination, which neatly killed two gawky fledgling art birds with one stone.
After being whisked away to the foreign land of Cold Springs, New York, a place Young Sun has never heard of but can only assume has something to do with spa treatments, the contestants were charged with the assignment of finding a resident of this small upstate town who would be willing to have their portrait done by a young artist accompanied by a mysterious entourage of cameramen. It involved a lot of knocking on doors and feigning interest in the wares being sold by unsuspecting shop owners. Let’s see what worked and what didn’t.
Kymia's “Bob and Barbara First Date, 1980” is so visually off-putting at first that actual-artist guest judge Richard Phillips described his initial reaction as “throwing up inside.” But totally in a good way. After meeting Bob and Barbara, a spunky little pair of bauble-shop owners, Kymia paints a garish portrait of their first date, a trip to the ice skating rink so wildly colorful it’s bouncing off its black background. The painted Bob and Barbara have each got an extra arm or two to clutch the little pieces of kitsch they make a living peddling, from stuffed animals to... some things that will go on unidentified. “When I first saw this, I thought 'Oh, she gave us a cartoon,'" TV art maven China Chow mused, “but then I met them, and they were cartoons!” So Kymia goes on to the winner's circle, but will she take home the grand prize? She's certainly got it in her, but a reliable source says she was recently spotted waiting tables in Brooklyn. We can only wait and see.
With tears in her eyes, China Chow dismissed resident heartthrobs Lola and Dusty. “I’m really sad,” Lola managed to utter between sobs. Well, we are too. This double elimination felt like a double heartbreak. The judges actually seemed to like Dusty’s work — "Sweet Mairead," an M&M collage of an equally sweet little girl from Cold Springs, the only person this shy elementary school teacher could immediately connect to, perhaps because he so misses his one-year-old daughter. Phillips said he dug the way the M&Ms were falling off, piece by piece (we can hear them dropping in the episode, and during the gallery show, China doesn't appear to be alarmed by the possibility of the little girl picking them up and eating them off the floor). But then the fierce competitor who lies dormant inside Lola finally awoke with a vengeance, making a last-ditch effort at sabotaging her rival.
Uh, hello... “What you really like about the piece isn't intentional!" she helpfully offered. Throwing salt in Dusty’s game in the efforts to save yourself? Not cool, Lola. Low blow. Dusty got serious points for having a strong visual connection between material and subject, and judge Jerry Saltz even said he saw love in the piece. Ultimately it was too gimmicky for their tastes — the terms “paint-by-number” and “legos” were tossed around — and Dusty packed his things and headed back to Arkansas, a land far removed from the trials and tribulations of reality TV.
THIS EPISODE'S DELIGHTFUL NONSENSICAL TITLE BY LOLA
“Dear Dennis and Tommy, You are the Secret Historians of Cold Spring, New York,” was yet another assortment of disparate pieces thrown up on the wall — some enlarged pieces of currency displayed in a pyramid, and the odd choice of a handwritten letter from Lola to her subjects, two rare coin collectors — Her continued efforts to “touch every base in every way every where” just didn’t “gel” with Bill Powers. Jerry called that repetitive practice “obfuscating” and sent her home. Or straight into the arms of the Sucklord waiting in the wings? We can only imagine.
So, that brings the final three to Kymia, Sarah J (honey, we wanted to let you know — “inflammable” actually means “flammable"), and Young Sun, whose work is starting to become a real bore. Stay tuned, kids. We announce the grand prize
survivor winner next week!