Exit Interview: ABN Chats With Abdi
After three months of creating beautiful works of art and beating out tough competition, a resilient Abdi Farah came through as the uncontested winner of “Work of Art.” Along with the $100,000 cash prize, he also earned a solo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Abdi’s exhibit in the final episode showcased how far he had come as an artist throughout his time on the show. Sharpening his already incredible technical skills, Abdi found the perfect balance of technicality meets ingenuity that persuaded the judges to award him the coveted first prize. Despite his incredible success as such a young artist, Abdi seems to be the same down-to-earth guy from York, Penn., sticking to his work ethic and creating new works of art in his studio space and looking forward to further establishing himself within the art world. (Click here to view a video of China Chow’s thoughts on Abdi’s artwork and personality.)
So how exactly will Abdi and his mother spend the prize money? How did he manage to deal with his last-minute cracked sculpture crisis? Abdi opens up and also gives us the scoop on how one lucky fan can purchase one of his “Work of Art” masterpieces.
ABN: What was going through your mind as the judges gave you their critique? Where you shocked when you won or could you see it coming?
Abdi: “I worked so incredibly hard on the show. If we had three months to work on it, out of the 100 or so days, I probably worked 93 to 97 of them. So when I saw Peregrine and Miles’ shows, I was so completely impressed. Once the gallery opened up and people started trickling in, I got such an amazing response with the people looking at the art. Once I saw people’s responses, I started feeling really good about my chances to win.”
ABN: How will you/your mom spend the $100,000?
Abdi: “I haven’t spent it yet. I’m awful with managing money so when I said I would give it to my mom, it was less altruistic and more to keep me from doing something stupid with it. It’s really going to go into the arts. I’m so glad they say the prize money is for fueling the artist’s career. There is so much I want to do, and money is an amazing tool to bring to fruition some really powerful work. Unfortunately, our world is controlled by currency. Having it allows you to really be able to do what you want.”
Abdi: “We are going to auction off the drawing I did from episode nine, the nature challenge, the one called ‘Baptism.’ We just had it beautifully framed, and if I’m not mistaken, the auction is going to take place some time in November.”
Abdi: “It was me and Simon’s favorite piece that I had done. I still think it’s the best I’ve ever made. If I could choose any piece of mine to be auctioned off, it would be that one.”
ABN: Aside from the Brooklyn Museum of Art, at what other galleries have you shown?
Abdi: “I’ve shown in a few really small things at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Korka Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. I have stuff at the Diane Von Furstenberg Galleries here in New York and I’ve had a piece at the National Museum of Women in Art.”
ABN: Tell me more about the exhibition at Brooklyn Museum of Art. About how big were the paintings and sculptures? How many total pieces were in the exhibit?
Abdi: “They’re pretty big. The two sculptures are larger than life. I would say if the figures could stand up they would be about 8 feet and the painting “Home” is 8 feet wide and 50 inches tall; they’re pretty gigantic. There were 11 pieces total in the exhibit.”
ABN: During the episode, the hand of your sculpture had broken off after you had shipped it. How did you deal with that? I was so nervous for you!
Abdi: “I was nervous for me too! I knew it was all going to fall together. It all worked out really well. I knew that in the end, I wanted a distressed, broken kind of quality to the pieces. All the little knicks and bruises and little
residual markers from the packing process I wanted to be left on the sculpture. I wasn’t expecting the hands to fall off, but luckily I had enough time to kind of patch it up. But I did want a bit of violence to be present in the piece.”
ABN: You said in last night’s episode that no matter what happens, you and Miles would stay good friends. Since the finale, have you and Miles stayed in touch?
Abdi: “Yeah, we do. It’s funny. I talk to him, he’s in my phone and so are Nicole and Peregrine. I went to my high school a few weeks ago before school let out. And I went to a painting class and it was a class of 30 sophomore girls and they were like, ‘We really like you Abdi but we love Miles!’ I called him up on my cell phone and I had this huge crowd of sophomore girls leave a ridiculously loud, cacophonous message on his phone. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t decipher a single word out of that.”
ABN: Artistically, what have you been up to since “Work of Art?” Are you working on your next big thing or just taking time out for yourself?
Abdi: “I’m so forever grateful for my time on “Work of Art,” just because it completely opened my mind and freed me up to thinking about art in completely different and new ways. I’m getting into sculpture more,
continuing with a lot of stuff I was doing in the finale show. The body of work I’m working on now is going to be great and fun. I’m just excited to be working on it.”
ABN: How has being on “Work of Art” influenced you as an artist, both creatively and in terms of opening up the doors in your career?
Abdi: “It’s crazy. From all the e-mails I get on a day-to-day basis. When the show first started, I kind of felt stupid for leaving my e-mail address on my website. But I get so many great e-mails so many people who just love the show, who are so inspired and picking up their brushes again and so many people who are like, ‘I want a piece from you right now.’ It’s really humbling because I’m realizing how limited I am as an artist. I’m learning how interesting it is being in the art world as an artist and you’re not mass producing something, each piece is something delicately crafted and there is just not enough to go around. I feel like I have the luxury right now, especially with the prize money and especially with how much interest there is (in my work) I have the luxury to do what I want as an artist. It’s what every artist dreams about.”
ABN: What’s the greatest thing you have taken away from “Work of Art?” What advice do you have for aspiring artists who may not have had the same opportunities as you or artists who may be struggling creatively?
Abdi: “I feel like I learned so much on the show. If I could give any advice to artists, do the best you can possibly do. You never know how good you can be until you push yourself out of your complete comfort zone. I feel like I’m forever indebted to the judges and the show as a whole for really pushing me to dig deep into myself and the end result is something I’m extremely proud of. I feel that so often in our normal lives there’s such a lack of authenticity. Theres a lack of that ‘do or die’ that comes from competition. I want to go about the rest of my life as if I’m continuing this competition because it spurred me to do something great.
“As far as being seen in the art world, the only advice I can give is just make the most amazing stuff you can possibly make and people will appreciate you. People will recognize the realness in your art. You may not be the most famous person in the world, but you’ll feel good at knowing you added something to this world.”
-Marylyn Simpson, ABN Contributing Writer