Well, “Work of Art” fans, it's been a long and winding emotional road from the beginning of this reality TV journey. We've witnessed some very intense highs and lows, from the rise and fall of the Sucklord, to Jerry Saltz nearly losing his cool during his shockingly disappointed dismissal of Michelle, to a naked Lola all up on our TV screens.
Last night, the last episode followed that proper reality contest finale format: the home visit where we learn the adorable minutae of the contestants' personal daily lives; the studio visit where the dear mentor totally crushes their hard-earned progress and tells them they need to go in a completely different direction; reunions, also known as “Girl, what you been up to?”s; some final nit-picking; the final show and critique (which we shall call the Bill Powers and Jerry Saltz disagreeathon, in which Bill Powers hated everything and couldn't keep himself from making perplexed faces); and finally, the announcement of the winner. SPOILER ALERT Kymia won. But let's take one last look at what about her show worked and what didn't, shall we?
YOUNG SUN HAN
Our darling mulleted boy wonder invited us (okay, maybe he actually invited Simon de Pury) into his Chicago home to meet his adorable little old Asian mother, who said she always knew her son “wasn’t like the other kids,” and his foxy banker boyfriend. “He calls me a long term investment,” he explained to Simon. Nice catch, Mr. Han. Your man's bangin' and clever.
Back in New York, with barely enough time to get his eyebrows threaded, Young presented "Bool-sa-jo" ("phoenix" in Korean), an exhibition dedicated to his late father. Its centerpiece was a shrine to his father made of found wood and his favorite objects — the candy he liked to carry in his pockets sculpted into towers, a stray stick of chapstick, old photographs, and letters. A clothesline of shirts bearing his photographs like patches was strung across the room, and projected images of family members and loved ones adorned the walls. It’s so moving China Chow, in all her Bjork-like ensembled glory (check out those Swiss Miss braids), couldn't hold back her tears.
The judges lauded the poignancy and love that came across in the work. Hmm, but really, we were hoping for more, because truly those hanging shirts and shoddily patchworked photographs looked to us quite cheaply done. We’ll let Powers take the fall for this total jerkward sentiment: “Sometimes I have problems with a deathbed portrait because it’s so loaded.”
Oh honey. It should’ve been you.
Because Sarah J.’s signature is drawing from deeply buried secrets and emotional disasters from her past, she called upon her Catholic upbringing for the theme of her final show — confession. Dressed as a Klan member/scary bird skeleton hybrid, she started her project by recording herself on the streets of New York as she asked people to come clean about their innermost secrets in writing (and people actually complied to this fearky exercise because New Yorkers just eat up this zany performance art shit). Her all-white show, “Anonymous Contemplations,” comprised pieces that manifested inner demons, but this time from other people, in a novel twist. Lingerie covered in hair, inspired by the outfits of penitent monks, represented promiscuity; a bed of needles represented the confession of an addict; a white cage with doors flung open burst with hundreds of folded white paper cranes suspended upward and out of it, as if they were flying. It was all so eerie and beautifully executed, it took our vote for the “Why the F Didn't You Win?” award. The criticism for her collection was that it was too much a series of short stories rather than a cohesive show. Some more articulate judges went on to say, “I thought Sarah’s show was a little exposition-y. A thread was missing,” (you’re right, it was Bill who said it).
Because death and turmoil dominated this show, Kymia, who revealed she’s still a struggling waitress living in her boyfriend’s parents’ high rise apartment somewhere in Manhattan, devoted “Not For Long, My Forlorn” to her father, whose death she witnessed shortly after his fatal water skiing accident. After taking Simon to her studio and showing him some freaky sculpture of a girl with diamonds in her eyes (which he called, "horrrrrendous," five rs) Mr. de Pury suggested she go a different direction. After scraping almost all of her work, she showed up to the final gallery show with 15 pieces, only three of which she had initially made before his visit, but all showing her exceptional technical skill as an artist. Three tombs covered in stones, dirt, and sticks harbored sentiments of death and loss into the space, as did an elaborate helmet made of bird feathers crafted from metal, a piece of protective headgear one would supposedly wear while ascending into the afterlife.The walls were covered in intricate drawings, our favorite being a vividly colored boat with the shadow of ascending legs cast on its sail. All very delightfully haunting.
And she won. "Your powers of invention resonated with all of us," Bill said. Like the final scene in "Ghost" where specters from the afterlife came to take Patrick Swayze back to heaven with them, all the previous contestants emerged from the shadows to welcome Kymia to the end of her reality TV journey. Congratulations, lady, guest judge KAWS even asked you to come hang out with him in Brooklyn.
“I’m in love with making art and I just want to be the greatest artist ever,” said the dumbstruck winner. Bravo only promised you next great artist, so the achieving “greatest” status is up to you.
The real winner here and obvious star of the show is the tiny hat magically perched just above China’s right temple. How did you get there and what’s holding you up, you tiny little lacquered acorn cap? You are a beautiful, and we just wanted to let you know we applaud you.