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Exit Interview: ABN Chats with Mark

July 30, 2010

(c)Bravo

In an episode that gave viewers plenty to discuss, the judges eliminated fan favorite Mark Velasquez from the cast that is suddenly down to five contestants in the show’s final weeks.

The episode, titled “Opposites Attract,” featured three pairs of artists who created works about opposing forces: Heaven vs. Hell (Peregrine and Mark), Male vs. Female (Jaclyn and Miles) and Order vs. Chaos (Nicole and Abdi).

From the onset, it was obvious to viewers that Mark and Peregrine struggled to combine their visions into their “Heaven and Hell” project. It was a particularly revealing project as Mark reluctantly agreed to photograph himself, thus exposing a long abdominal scar from a serious stomach surgery many years ago.

In the end, the judges deemed “Heaven and Hell” as too obvious, under-developed and lacking imagination.

When asked about his graceful exit from the show, Mark responded matter-of-factly: “I’ve gotten a lot of really great, supportive comments from people saying, ‘Wow, you really handled yourself well’ and ‘You are so mature, so professional.’ But to me, ‘Why would I not be professional and mature? Isn’t this the real world? Aren’t we all adults? Why wouldn’t you handle yourself with the utmost strength of character?”

It wasn’t all bad for Mark, though. He survived into the show’s final weeks and gained national exposure for his photography. Plus, he spent time talking about his “Heaven and Hell” piece with actress and “Closer” star Kyra Sedgwick.

In this Q&A, Mark shares his thoughts on “Heaven and Hell,” his time on reality television and the new friends he made on the show.

-interview by Gabriel Kiley, ABN Managing Editor


ABN: What have you been doing since your time on “Work of Art?”

Mark: “I’ve been making art. Taking photographs. Working with my models. Watching my nieces. They’re both wild and crazy, like 4 year olds should be.”

ABN: How has the show affected your photography sales?

Mark: “It has definitely created more of a buzz. It’s given me more exposure. I do receive a number of great e-mails from people supporting my work as well as receiving more fun, interesting, entertaining hate e-mail. I’ve sold a few extra prints and people are interested to know more about me. I have hope [that the show] helps out further, but it is still really up to me to make it happen. I don’t think the show is a deal-breaker one way or another for any artist.”

ABN: What do you think of all the attention?

Mark: “I’m of the school of ‘all press is good press.’ Even if people really hate the show or really hate you as a person or as a character, they’re still talking about you. That can’t be a bad thing. Why are tabloid newspapers in business? It’s because people really want to hear about that stuff. Even if something negative about you is out there, someone is going to look you up and become curious about your work. You can meet a fan that way.”

"Heaven and Hell" by Mark and Peregrine (c)Bravo

ABN: In regards to Wednesday’s night episode, you and Peregrine never jelled from the start on the heaven/hell concept. What did you think of your experience with her?

Mark: “The experience was definitely tough, especially at that point in the competition. Everyone was pretty tired and it had been far longer than any of us had realized or had expected. I don’t think she was handling the pressure as well as I was. I really have a hard time dealing with people who can’t handle tough situations. She had to be treated with kid gloves a little bit and I had to dance around her a little bit. It showed on the episode a little bit.

“We just have very different ways of working. She has a very illustrated style and my photos are very editorial, which is kind of a modern version of illustrations. I don’t know why we couldn’t necessarily jell.” (Click here to get Peregrine’s not-so-flattering thoughts on Mark.)

ABN: Judge Bill Powers called your portion of the work “safe and uninspired,” which is interesting because it was your body portrayed on a large scale. Did you agree with his criticism?

Mark: “With critics in general, it’s just one man’s opinion, or in this case, four persons opinions. I take all criticism objectively and just say, ‘Well, can I play this into my work or can I not?” When they say your work is uninspired, then you say, ‘What could I have done?’ They never have an answer. It’s just not that I’m seeking clarification on what I wanted to do because I did what I wanted to do given the parameters of the challenge. It’s interesting because aside from the guest judges, the judges are not artists; it’s all critics or gallery owners. None of those people have experience working in the studio, let alone working with a timeline and working in a manner we are not used to working in. How many artists work without any reference materials and images, just making it up as you go along?

“I posted on my Facebook page the image I would have liked to have made, and I’ve received a lot of really nice responses from it. That’s what I exactly wanted to do. The judges wouldn’t have liked it because it is too literal, apparently.

“But what I do is very straightforward; it’s art for the masses, not for Jerry Saltz. If Jerry Saltz or Bill Powers don’t think my work is inspired, perhaps I should go punch a wall or something.”

ABN: In reflection, would you have tackled the final project differently?

Mark: “I think I would have. The critiques are long and crazy and very exhausting. The judges always said my work is commercial and they repeated that over and over again. That’s what I do, making slick work with an artistic meaning to it. They kept saying that, but that’s

(c)Bravo

exactly what I’m going for. It’s like saying to Miles, ‘You’re work is too much construction and it has too much wood in it.” I would be like, ‘Thank you, that’s what I’m going for.’ That’s a small disconnect between a critic and an artist’s perspective.”

ABN: Would you have used your body again?

Mark: “I have no regrets. I loved every second of this whole experience. I learned a lot, or I was reminded of a lot of things I had forgotten about. I confronted all of my personal fears and demons on national television. My body image, my voice and my personality were recorded, and I had my visual image recorded and displayed and edited all completely out of my control. Now, I’ve been able to sleep better at night way better than before. Who knows, I guess you have to put all of your fears and idiosyncrasies and throw them up on television and all of a sudden, you become a relaxed human being. It’s great.”

ABN: China Chow was visually emotional when she revealed that you were going home. What was your response to that?

China Chow (c)Bravo

Mark: “I’m a sensitive kind of guy, and I was very touched by that. The China they show on TV is very fashionity and cold, and she has lines to deliver and she has a job to do. Behind the scenes, though, my experience with her was warm and funny and goofy and I really respected that. I come from a small town and I have a respect for realness, real reality I guess you can say.

“Her crying touched me and I also thought, ‘Well, that’s got to be cool because if China Chow is crying, that’s got to be an endorsement of some sort.” (Click here to watch a video featuring China and Mark).

ABN: Was it difficult to see cast members depart week after week, particularly your male counterparts like Ryan and Erik?

Mark: “Of course. You’re in this closed-off, sequestered environment. You have no access to anything. You can barely be in touch with your family and friends, and I’m very close to them. Being away from them was difficult. But, again, that’s what I signed up for.

“You latch to the people in the apartment. Luckily, I was grouped in an apartment where I was already connecting with like Erik and Trong on the first morning of the show. Just great guys. And when we got to the apartment, I connected with Ryan. He is a very different person from who I normally hang out with. I know people like him, but I never spent time with them. So, since I was part of this crazy experience and everything was thrown for a loop, I might as well room with the guy I was not close with on the first day. In the end, I bonded with Ryan and learned so much from his lifestyle, which is very different from mine. I saw how smart, funny and interesting he was. It was tough to see everyone go.

“The only person that was left that I could count on to trust was Abdi. I really liked Peregrine all the way through and I really have respect for her and the bad things she’s had to deal with in her life, but she wasn’t handling things well and she was a bit of a joiner with some of the other people who seemed kind of phony. It made me kind of sad. What else can you do but stick to your own guns and miss your friends when they leave?”

ABN: Do you have any additional comments?

Mark: “I was really honored by all of the support by people. My book sales have already jumped. Some people said they bought my book just out of spite toward the art world. I just published my first photo book a few weeks ago and I’ve gotten a decent response toward it. Again, the exposure has been so great. I can’t thank Sarah Jessica Parker enough.

“I’m also working on a new bi-monthly magazine. I’m hoping to do more editorial shots for magazines in the future. It was a once-of-a-lifetime experience. I can’t say enough just how crazy and weird it was. Plus, I met seven or eight great friends from the show.”

Learn more about Mark’s photography at www.markvelasquez.com.

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