Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bravo to Bravo TV's "Work of Art"

Bravo TV has continued their skill competition-reality show genre, which started with Fashion Designers (Project Runway, which is now on Lifetime), and Chefs (Top Chef and Top Chef Masters), with a look at Artists. Work of Art (on Wednesday nights, currently on its 8th episode) features artists, competing with limited time and materials (just like the Fashion and Chef shows) and some specific parameters, to create a work of art. They're not just random characters being arbitrarily "voted off" a reality show. They are people with a specific set of skills/talents/abilities/knowledge, so seeing how they think through a challenge is fun to watch.

It's a fascinating look at the creative process. You may not agree with who wins or loses, you might debate whether a "work of art" is actually a "work of art". But to bring that debate about art and creativity to a wide television audience is, I think, a really great thing. Even if you're not a fashion designer/chef/artist, you find yourself thinking, "hmm, what would I do with that assignment?" A few of my friends have discussed doing each assignment ourselves and having our own competition each week, though it's hard to find the time in our busy daily lives, which is a shame.

Creativity (right-brain thinking) is less emphasized in our schools than logic and reason (left-brain thinking). So I think it's important and valuable for the general public to have a look at just how creative people create. How do they do it? What is the thought process? How did they think of that? Sadly, too many people believe "I'm not creative at all. I can't even draw a straight line." I always say, well, that's okay, because a straight line is not creative at all!

It's good for more people to see and learn how new ideas form and change, throughout any creative process. Creativity is an important problem-solving skill. It is, by definition, thinking outside the box (I hate that expression, but I think people understand the concept), and thinking of things that haven't been thought of before, creating something new. A new idea, new product, new process.

On the official website ( you can read more about the show, and read commentary about and by the artists who competed.

And there's a great feature at the New York Magazine website. Jerry Saltz, the NY Magazine Art Critic (I hope that title is right), was one of the Work of Art judges. He is writing recaps of the show after it airs each Wednesday. So, he's watching it with the rest of us, now that it's been edited and aired, but was also part of it when it taped months ago. His perspective is unique and a great discussion goes on in the comments section each week. Mr. Saltz is graciously responding to many of the comments and questions about the show, his experience, the artists, art, etc. It's really fascinating and adds a great deal to the show each week. You can check it out at:

Some commenters debate the artistic value of what's being created, but I think the exposure to the creative process to a larger audience is the most valuable thing going on here. This is essentially a TV show, after all. A TV competition show where someone will win a reward at the end, but a TV show just the same. The producers' first job is to make a good, interesting TV show that lots of people want to watch.

You need good artists, but if they were all too shy and afraid to talk to the camera, then you have a boring TV show. So personalities do enter into it. I think that the key to this type of show is in the casting and editing. The casting of talented people, with a blend of interesting and varied personalities, is combined with editors who can take a gazillion hours of tape (perhaps not an exact figure... just an estimate) and edit it down into an interesting story, told in about 42 minutes each week. That's a challenge that is more difficult than people think. But these Bravo shows typically do it very well, and Work of Art is no exception.

Sarah Jessica Parker is one of the producers who created this show, and I'm glad she did. It's fascinating, fun to watch, and interesting to talk about it afterwards, and read the discussions that follow each show. I hope Bravo picks up this exploration of the creative process for a 2nd season.