Art on demand

Thursday on Q, Jian Ghomeshi spoke with one of the judges, writer Jerry Saltz, of a new TV show, The Next Great Artist.  The CBC website posed the question: “The Next Great Artist” Reality TV Show: Sign of the Apocalypse? … or is it exactly what we need to make visual art more accessible?

As strange as the idea seems to me, of a reality TV show based on fourteen artists competing to be the BEST by doing various assignments in a specified time, I am intrigued and almost (I said almost) wish I had access (i.e. cable) to see it unfold.  Even more, I’d like to be one of those fourteen artists being given a task I didn’t think up.  Alone in my studio every day, every step of the way is my process and, ultimately, only me to judge.

The artists on the TV show paint, sculpt, collage and I think one is even an architect, all with various degrees of education.  It would be a fascinating experience, watching other people make things.  The process is the important part, to me.  Only my children have spent much time in my studio, watching me paint.  It is a very private experience.  I don’t know if I could be that public.  But this is a game show, not reality TV.  The participants are challenged, the judges are on stage performing, witty, snarky; the participants produce as if in undergrad art school.

What makes a great artist: originality, obsession, willingness to fail and surrendering.  Surrendering is the big one to me:  allowing the art to tell you what it wants to be.  In actuality we don’t have control over the art, that is, if we want it to be honest.  The artwork has a life of its own.  It tells us what it wants; we have to listen.

Great art arises from an obsession:  it has to be.  Saturday evening I went to a Chinese resaurant for dinner with my tai chi class and teacher.  He and his wife, being Chinese, from Taiwan, ordered.  We had an exquisite meal (and I’ve been checking out turnip cake recipes in my cookbooks).  Being a bit of a romantic, I always enjoy the fortune cookies.  But I didn’t like my fortune so I traded with my neighbor.  His said When love and skill work toegether, expect a masterpiece. Yes.

The show is coming to Canadian TV this weekend.