Last weekend, Bravo TV held their LA auditions for The Untitled Art Project. It's a reality show backed by Sarah Jessica Parker with a format similar to Project Runway and Top Chef.
It took a lot of convincing before I decided to go to the audition. I don't take a 6 hour drive (each way), and the cost of gas and a hotel room lightly. I went, not because my hopes were pinned on winning a spot on the latest reality show (quite possibly a career-killer). I was curious, and felt it important to stick my neck out once again, even if it's only to add another rejection to the pile. I'm very proud of all those rejections. It means I'm out there, trying to do whatever it takes for my art. In the very least, I'd meet people, artists willing to take chances, and that is always worthwhile. Plus, I have this interesting blog to write!
Jeff and I arrived at the audition an hour early, and the line already spanned half the block. The morning sun was still low, leaving just a few feet of shade. With temperatures in the 90's, we hoped to get in before that sliver of shade disappeared. In front of me was artist, Patricia Anders, an LA native. Behind me, artist Scott Ward, who flew in that morning from Seattle. As people arrived, I was pleased to recognize a few of the paintings they carried to the audition. Some were artists I'd shown with, others I'd seen on Myspace or some other Internet site.
There was a buzz in the air, as we all speculated about the show.
Finally, the line began to move, as small groups were taken inside the gallery where auditions were held. By noon, just as the shade vanished, our group was ushered to the back of the building. At least a thousand people were left waiting in the sun. At this point, I became a little nervous, wondering what sort of questions they would ask. By now, I'm accustomed to talking about my work, but I'm intensely camera and stage-shy. I tried not to think about it.
We were each given folders, numbers and name tags, and our photo was taken. Then we waited once more for our numbers to be called for a portfolio review. Minutes later, our group was led into the building. We entered a small gray room with a table at one end, where two staff members were quickly checking portfolios. I remember thinking they were awfully young to be doing portfolio reviews. Patricia went before me, and two minutes later, she went onto the next room.
When it was my turn, I sat down, giving the staffer my portfolio. She breezed through the first images, (my figure series) without a pause. Then she stopped at my portraits of Billy Holiday and Quincy Jones, saying, "these are really good". She rushed through the rest, disinterested. The only one she lingered on was Breakfast in Bed. There were no questions, just a "thank you', and I left for the next room.
This is when things became a little odd. The next area was another holding room, where people wait for the next phase. Patricia was gone, but someone I didn't recognize was in front of me, probably from the proceeding group. One of the staff was explaining to him in a soft voice what to expect in the next phase, what they were looking for, and how he should present himself. They seemed chummy, shaking hands and patting each other on the back. I tried, but couldn't catch all he was saying. At that point, the rest of my group filed in behind me. The same staffer approached them and explained something to them under his breath. I was distracted, and didn't pay close attention, assuming it was a shorter version of what I just overheard. I realized my mistake when everyone behind me turned and walked out the door. This is when I had to chase down the staffer to ask what he said, and was given a "thank you, but you aren't what we're looking for."
Baffled, I walked out into the summer heat. It wasn't the rejection. It was the expectation there would be some sort of interview, or a few questions asked. They could have looked at portfolios with a mail-in entry.
From what I can deduct, from casting director interviews I found online, and through my own experience, Bravo is looking for a very particular style of art. From that pool, they will cast some very particular personalities. At the LA audition, several invitations went out to well-known pop-surrealist artists. Perhaps that's who the portfolio staffers were on the look-out for.
In the end, I'm happy I went. It was an experience, and I was able to be in the presence of hundreds a professional artists-a breed of person I'm endlessly fascinated with. Knowing the show's criteria, I won't try again next season, but I look forward to the guilty pleasure of watching the artists fight it out on TV.