Sunday, August 15, 2010



By Joe Miller August 13, 2010
An interview with Peregrine Honig after her experience with reality TV

Peregrine Honig (arm in air) cheers during the screening of the finale episode of "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" at the Brooklyn Museum on August 11. Pictured with her are one of the judges, China Chow (at left), and, to Honig's left, fellow contestants Abdi Farah (winner of the show) and Miles Mendenhall, judge Bill Powers, and fellow contestants Cynthia Rowley and Nao Bustamante. Photo: Barbara Nitke, courtesy of Bravo television network

On the morning after the grand finale of Bravo’s Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, Kansas City artist Peregrine Honig took a few minutes to talk with Review about her experience on the reality television show.

JM: What are some of the ways you grew as an artist through the process of being on this show?

PH: My work is about social structures and pop culture, and I wanted to learn about the other side of pop culture. So it’s kind of like learning a language. I thought it would be smart to ensconce myself in the country of pop culture. And so I did it. And I came in second, which is incredible, and I made work under these really postmodern conditions, and I made some incredible friends.

And I completely gave myself to Bravo — my time, my mind, my art, my identity — for this project. And Bravo provided back to me their version of it.

I think they did a really good job. I was really happy to have millions of people considering my work and ideas, it was very worth it for me.

It was really great last night, too — you know, to be sitting next to (the show’s executive producer) Sarah Jessica Parker and these new fast friends that I made through this abstract experience, watching my show that’s been in bars, in living rooms, in different parts of America. The small box is powerful.

JM: Do you feel you used television media as a medium within the work you did for this show?

PH: Yes. It’s one thing if you’re making artwork about popular culture from the standpoint of where you’re looking at popular culture. It’s another thing to make work through the other side of the mirror. It’s like understanding how it happened. It’s like understanding how to market an idea or a story to millions of people through this very specific medium with cameras and lighting and timing and archetypes.

And so to put myself in that place and have that language and that knowledge, it’s like being on the other side of the water. I know why my work is dealing with these different issues differently because I’ve actually experienced it.

JM: How were the critiques given by the show’s panel of judges?

PH: I really respect Jerry Saltz. I think he’s an amazing writer, an amazing speaker. I’ve been reading him like Dear Abby since I was in college. One of the reasons I went on the show is because of him. Anything that he was going to be involved in probably was going to be of high quality.

Bill Powers is really bright, really funny. And Jeanne Greenburg and China Chow, they had more to lose than I did, having a higher-brow perception of their cultural capital.

JM: Do you have that level of critical input here in Kansas City?

PH: Yes. I’m surrounded by amazing, bright, and incredible artists who give me critical feedback whenever I do or do not want it. We have great writers in Kansas City. We have really intelligent doers and makers of things. The Dolphin is a great gallery. In showing with them, John O’Brien has always been sincere and honest with me.

JM: Will you be showing your final project from Work of Art here in Kansas City?

PH: No, Bravo owns all the work. And I already showed that show, so I wouldn’t do that again.

JM: Did you watch the whole show?

PH: Oh, sure.

JM: Did you like it?

PH: I loved it. Wasn’t it amazing? It was so much better than I thought it was going to be. So much better. So much more interesting. It was much higher drama behind the cameras, I’ll tell you that. They definitely edited it down to a more poetic and interesting narrative because we were all sort-of off the deep end, for sure.

Richard Prince wrote a really good article about the show that said, "Here’s the art world. All of the things that are bad and good about the show are true of the art world. The way that some of it’s bullshit, some of it’s high drama and some of it’s super bright and incredible. It’s the full gamut." So if there’s somebody out there that even gets just a little bit more of a taste of it, or just a little bit more confidence in terms of looking at art or buying art, we win.

JM: Did you get a sense of different levels of reality while you were on the show?

PH: You mean because I was like hallucinating from lack of sleep?

JM: Maybe. But more along the lines of what you were saying, how the show could have gone in a different direction, to where it was more dramatic —

PH: It was very close to the storyline. What I watched is what I came close to experiencing. Little things were edited out, big things were edited out, just to make it cohesive. But what I saw was what I went through when I was on it.

JM: One reason I ask that question, I read fellow contestant Jaclyn Santos’s blog, and she wrote about the show in which Erik Johnson was eliminated and talked about how your team felt as though you were being pulled into a certain story. Did you feel you were being pulled into other stories or versions or interpretations of reality?

PH: I do. When we were pulled for interviews and we were put in really high stress situations. It makes for good entertainment. I do think that Erik kind of got the raw end of the stick in terms of just becoming afraid after an interview, and when he came back to us he was turned off.

But the truth of it is, nobody kicked anybody else off. Everybody who left mostly did it to themselves. We all have a tipping point, and it’s definitely not a matter of somebody’s quality of art or how talented they are. It’s the mechanics of how they’re driven. So people who were super-talented sometimes went home early. Because they just couldn’t stomach it. It’s a hard thing to stomach. Everything is taken away from you. There’s no music, there’s no outside material. So you are really pulling from inside yourself.That’s very stressful.

JM: My one criticism of the show is that it latched onto this myth that artists can just snap their fingers and brilliance comes out.

PH: You can, though. And that’s great.

And yeah, it takes time to make art, but it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time to fabricate it. Everybody there had made things over long periods of time, had done things that had taken long periods of time. But the challenge was to pull from those moments, those epiphanies, and make some out of what was in front of you

Picasso’s line drawings, maybe they took him three or four minutes. Pen to paper. You know, it took his whole lifetime to make that simple line.

JM: What’s next?

PH: I'm in a show up at Dolphin through September 4 and in a show with Dwight Hackett Projects in Santa Fe in October. I have such a great relationship with Dolphin. One of my sketchbooks is sort of pinned to their wall. It’s nice to offer smaller pieces of my work to my community.

And I’m making art about souvenirs and classism and why certain souvenirs are for one’s class. Like, you go to Mexico, and you get a shot glass and sombrero that’s made in China — international souvenirs and the aesthetic of that.

JM: Thank you and congratulations.

PH: Hey, silver ain’t bad.

JM: I have to admit, I was fuming afterward.

PH: Me too, in a way. (Laughs)

JM: But the more I thought through it, the more I felt that both your show and winner Abdi Farah’s were very powerful. They just told different stories

PH: And he had the hero’s journey.

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