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Sharon L. Butler Headshot

Real Artists Paint Portraits?

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 Pablo Picasso, "Weeping Woman," 1937, 23 ⅝ х 19 ¼", Courtesy Tate Gallery

The first challenge for the 14 artist-contestants on Work of Art, Bravo's new reality TV show that airs tonight at 11, is to paint a portrait of one of the other contestants...in 13 hours. I'll definitely tune in -- sorry Chelsea Lately -- to see what they come up with. In the Boston Globe, Sebastian Smee reports that the show poses questions that most people are afraid  to ask:

It starts with the obvious ones: How do we judge art? Are artists like you and me, or are they different? Is success in the art world about vision and skill, is it about knowing how to sell yourself, or is it just a lottery? Even within the first episode, the questions get more nuanced. For instance: How on earth do you go about capturing someone's 'essence' (as opposed to their appearance) visually, in a portrait? Is it enough to be told that an artwork is underpinned by various ideas, or does the work itself need to express those ideas? And can the process of creating a work of art be as important as the finished product?

If the show helps inform and educate the general public about contemporary art issues and ongoing dialogues, that would be terrific. Let's just hope kids aren't encouraged to think being an artist is a practical career path. Aren't there already enough bitter, unemployed, middle-aged MFAs out there?

Contestants include:
Amanda Williams
Abdi Farrah
Peregrine Honig 
Erik Johnson
Miles Mendenhall
Judith Ann Braun
Ryan Schultz
John Parot 
Jaclyn Santos
Nao Bustamante
Mark Velasquez
Jaime Lynn Henderson
Trong Nguyen
Nicole Nadeau

Links courtesy of The Art Fag City "Work of Art" Supplementary Program Guide.

Related posts:
Art Reality: An Art21 post I wrote last year during the audition phase about the reality of being an artist.