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Exit Interview: ABN Chats with Miles

August 17, 2010


For the final challenge of “Work of Art,” the three remaining contestants were given $5,000 and three months back home to complete individual exhibits revolving around a chosen theme.

For Miles, inspiration struck when he happened upon a White Castle surveillance camera and decided to shoot photographs of the film on his phone. Beginning with a triptych of a homeless man, Miles’ experimentation with digital abstraction and silk-screening carried him to a point of fascination with grey area. In the end, the expected judge favorite was the second runner-up. Here, we catch up with Miles on what he’s been doing since the show ended, what doors have opened up for him since his experimentation on the final challenge, and why he never took the show too seriously.

Editor’s Note: Click here and here to read Q&As with fellow finalists Abdi and Peregrine.

ABN: What have you been working on since the show ended?

Miles: “I just had a show open in Minneapolis to raise money for the BFA scholarship at the university. The support from everyone was unbelievable. I’m going down to New Mexico to study carbon printing and exhibiting that work at a solo show in April at the Franklin Gallery.”

ABN: On the final challenge, you said you took a less-planned out approach on the way you went about doing things. What made you decide to do that?

Miles: “In a competition setting like that it’s a bit misunderstood. In a time-based setting like that, it’s going to be pretty controlled. I didn’t really think there was any room to make any great art on the show so I just wanted to finish the challenges in a way that was satisfying for me. To get $5,000 from Bravo (to complete the last challenge), it felt like pretty guilt-free money. I’d received some money when I was younger and I always thought there are people better than me that should receive that money. But $5,000 of Bravo’s money was free reign to spend even in a way that was not wise. So I experimented in ways with silk-screening.”

ABN: How did that experimentation open doors for you and the things you’ve tried in your art since then?

Miles: “It has opened a bunch of doors in terms of reaching limits in screen printing. The work I’ve been creating has been more and more simple. It’s also why I’m going down to New Mexico to study some large-scale carbon printing so that these images can be opened up to 5-by-6 feet and have this kind of really great simple presence about them.”


ABN: In the final crit, Jerry Saltz said it seemed like you went after your prints almost with an obsession. Did you agree with that comment?

Miles: “I think because I have this OCD-thing that they love to be misunderstood on the show. I think the word ‘obsessed’ came up naturally. But I think in all honesty, the things that I found, this system of abstractions within the computer, I just found really interesting. Obsessed could be a good word. I think it’s a little aggressive, but for me I just really adore the things that I find. And I enjoy curating them. Yeah, I just had this weird attraction to them. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s kind of how you would think of a good friend. I love sitting down to find these things and figure out which one of these things I want to bring forth on paper.”

ABN: How do you think this show has affected the way people view art? Do you think this has helped the art world overall?

Miles: “I never really thought it had a chance to do anything great for the art world. I know that I get e-mails a ton from people saying, ‘I’m so inspired by the show.’ But I think there’s this really interesting dissonance or disconnect between how people in the art world view it and how pop culture views it. I think it’s a broad spectrum.

“For me, I was interested in the fact that being on a reality TV show and being on one that is going to be as controversial as something art-related, I think I was most interested in the fact that you are kind of guaranteed this dual existence – one in pop culture as this character you’re made to be on a reality TV show and then your true self. And for me, if I’m going to do the art pussy douche bag thing, I can say that it’s kind of a site-specific installation thing. In Minneapolis, the people I have the most contact with and know me in real life find it really interesting and kind of comical.”

ABN: You said when you were little, your parents allowed you only 30 minutes of TV a day so that forced you to create your own entertainment and start drawing. So how did you go from that little interaction with television to deciding to be on the show?

Miles: “That’s the whole thing I was interested in. The fact that I never really had TV be a big part of my life, I never really took it that seriously and I was always kind of interested in that kind of weird, and I’m going to use another really dumb art term here, but the weird kind of like post-modernistic things about TV and the fact that it’s capturing this piece of reality and displaying it as many times as you want. I don’t know, it just all seemed really funny to me and I think I was inevitably allowed to do it in my mind because it didn’t seem real. I’m all about joking around and experimenting as much as I could and it was something I really wanted to see if I could take mentally.”

ABN: But did any of the challenges inspire you later on or was there a particular challenge that you think was good?

Miles: “If I’m going to site one challenge, I think the whole show, in all honesty, was the challenge for me. Right now, all I’m really making are these really large, expansive, luminous grey areas. In my printmaking, I’ve induced this really nice daydream, hypnotic state. When you look at them they’re mainly abstractions. I think for me that’s the whole thing the show influenced me on – this distrusting of the absolute, of the black and white and I really like the grey area that the show produces.

“The critiques on the show, I’m bummed they didn’t show more of them; they were pretty intense. There are things those judges said that have remained with me. At 23 interacting with people like Jerry Saltz, I’ve always adored his writing and his way of going about things. It’s a pretty big gift.”



ABN: Did you feel the entire time like you were competing against the contestants or did it feel collaborative?

Miles: “There were kind of two groups on that show. The people who didn’t really take it that seriously and were kind of there for some fun, which I think were myself, Peregrine, Abdi and Nicole, and John Parot too. I’m so mad that he didn’t make it farther.

“I think there were people who took it really, really seriously, which I think were the people that were really cutthroat, which I thought was kind of weird and odd.

“But there wasn’t a day that Peregrine and I didn’t make each other howl with laughter. And I’m so frustrated they didn’t show that more, but I totally understand that watching other people cut each other down is much more entertaining than the joking around that can happen.”

ABN: Would you do the show again?

Miles: “Oh, in a heartbeat. It’s one of the more interesting things that I’ve done. I was pretty interested in it and know that I’ve grown a lot. I’m only 23 and you can only claim stupidity one point in your life, so if it all blew up in my face, there was always that excuse.”

ABN: Has the show helped your art sales?

Miles: “I have a ton of print collectors now, which is really nice, and they always express, ‘Hey, I became aware of you because of the show and then I was able to see your stuff in person and I really want some of it.’

“I work a couple shifts a week at this café just to give myself a break. The sales from this have funded probably the next year of art-making for me and definitely the next couple of shows that I’ll have.”

ABN: Watching the show, the whole time you seemed like the favorite or the judges’ pet. Did you feel that yourself or was that just the way they made you seem to the viewer? I mean, in all honesty, were you shocked at the end when you didn’t win?

Miles: “I always question how honest I should be about that question. I made black and white work for that show. I think that the thing that people should realize that they tell you not to wear black and white on TV and I made pretty much all black-and-white work on the show. Just because the thing surrounding a person winning something like that I don’t know if I could really want or could handle. It was kind of expected I think, and I was glad Abdi won because he’s a great person and deserves that break. But in all honesty, I just didn’t want to deal with that kind of pressure. I think I’d make the wrong kind of art.”

ABN: If there were to be a second season of “Work of Art” what suggestions would you have for future challenges?

Miles: “That’s another grey area. I was always concerned that it seemed inherently problematic that it could not work so I kind of liked the weirdness of the challenges; I kind of thought that was better than them being really serious or intellectually stimulating.

“A good food challenge would be really funny. Food or, I don’t know, something more sexy. I don’t know, whatever is entertaining.”

-Valeria Turturro, ABN Contributing Writer

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