Jaclyn Santos, "11/17", 2009

With virtually no time to recover from the “Shock” challenge, Simon stops by at the crack of dawn to deliver some news. He informs us that we will be driving Audi’s through New York City, ultimately arriving at the Audi Forum on Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan. At the Audi Forum, China tells us the challenge is to make a work of art about our experience, either driving the car or in the showroom.

I liked this challenge; it reveals a lot about a person’s instincts as well as one’s ability to tell a story with abstraction.  While some of my competitors took a very literal approach — i.e. portraying oneself driving the car – I really tried to tune into my particular experience and find something interesting and thought provoking to communicate with the audience.

We seemed so out of place on Park Ave at the luxury car dealership. Nine artists dressed to work in an art studio surrounded by luxury cars worth more than the money we are competing for and massive glass walls that open up to Park Avenue.  So many people were looking at us, as if we were on display in a giant vitrine. It was quite a contrast to the way I felt in the car, where the tinted windows and locked doors provided a sort of shelter.  The pedestrians were mostly men in business suits.  Some would literally put their faces right up to the glass. This made me feel very uncomfortable. I began taking pictures of them and what followed interested me: once an onlooker realized he was also being watched, he immediately turned away in embarrassment.  This amused me and I began playing a little game with my camera: I would act like I didn’t see them looking at me and then I would try to “catch” them in the act, as if I were hunting.  I did this for about 20 minutes and I ended up with around 30 photos of these voyeurs.  Sometimes I caught them and sometimes I missed.

The idea for the mirrored surfaces came from the distorted reflection you see when you look at cars. I wanted the viewer to see himself in my piece, to interact directly with my subjects.  The mirrors are slightly concave so from a distance you can’t see your own reflection. As you move closer to the piece it sneaks up on you.

Even though this piece is inspired by a personal experience of mine, there are over-arching themes of voyeurism and isolationism, both of which are prevalent in a city like New York. Every person alive, everyone, has to confront this in his life.  My piece offers my particular perspective on these things, and the general feeling I wanted to convey was a sense of discomfort or pressure from being sized-up by many strangers.  However: if you saw this in a gallery you would have no idea what my inspiration was and it would not matter with regard to the effectiveness of the artwork.  My particular perspective is anecdotal. However, what Work of Art does is offer the world a look at the inside; it examines the different things artist’s use as impetus, it details the struggles we deal with, and all of this is also interesting.

I am 100% responsible for conceptualizing this project. I asked Peregrine for her opinion on the color of my paint balls and that’s it! There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for a bit of objective feedback, Erik.  After all, that’s why Simon is there.  I value Peregrine’s opinion but ultimately the color of the paint balls was not the main component of the work.

I really enjoy the way my piece from this week functions with my “shock challenge piece.”  In the shock piece, I become the target, or the victim at the mercy of the viewer. The pen is his weapon. In the newer piece, the man becomes the target and paint becomes my weapon.

Jaclyn Santos, "Triple Self Portrait in Bathroom", 2009