Hey, so that BRAVO Work of Art reality show we told you about again and again and again is still on the air. Only two episodes in and you already forgot? Well, the third episode airs tonight at 9pm. Last week’s installment featured the untimely departure of Brooklyn-based artist Kathryn Parker Almanas, the second contestant eliminated after Ugo Nonis, who became ill during filming. We spoke with the Yale grad about her health issues, photographing placenta, and what it was like to see herself sob on national television. (Spoiler alert: It was “intense.”)
In the original trailer, your sobbing was the clip’s finale. What was it like to see that?
As alluded to in the episode, I was really sick. They didn’t even really show how sick I was. I already knew what my experience was, but seeing the actual clip of me crying–it brought me back to that place, how physically unwell I felt, and how emotionally hard that was. It was a really intense moment. When I first saw the trailer, it was, “Whoa! Okay, oh my God!” But then I was immediately, like, “Alright. Whatever. It’s human.”
Your Crohn’s Disease was mentioned briefly. Was that the primary cause your pain?
I have auto-immune issues. With auto-immune issues, everything is exacerbated with stress. I had no idea that with the nature of the conditions of the show–so intense, the long hours–that I was gonna get that sick. But within the first filming of the first episode, I did.
Was watching your elimination episode like reliving Vietnam flashback scenes?
Yeah, you’re totally right–it definitely brought me back! It brought back all that pain, just those feelings of vulnerability. It was good, it was definitely hard. You’re on the edge of your seat, you’re kind of covering your eyes. But [then you figure] “Pull off the Band-Aid, let’s get it done.”
The episode is a cursory take on the competition’s reality. What wasn’t shown about your work?
I studied the history of anatomical dissection. My mother’s a nurse, I’ve always been very freaked out, and extremely curious about the body and what’s underneath the skin and what are these components that sustain our lives. Going through personal experience of pain and issues within my own health, I’m very interested in looking at the body. The materials that I use are very intentional: dough, jellies, and fruit, and referencing this history of classical still-life and Memento Mori. It’s multi-leveled for me–it’s not just, “Here’s a gore show.”
You photographed placenta for New York Magazine. Is that more in line with the kind of work you want to be doing?
Prior the more visceral surrogate reality tableaus that I’ve been working on, I was doing a lot more classical still-life work. That body of work was called Dissector and Dissected and got some attention. People knew that my work was really referencing the body’s anatomy and that I used food as a surrogate for the body. When this placenta story came up, New York Magazine reached out to me. It was a real honor.
It was an amazing experience to go work with this young woman who was preparing this placenta. I got really squeamish. I’m really squeamish when it comes down to being in front of actual organs. That’s why I work with dough and pastry.
After the show, it’ll be easy for people to reduce you to “Guts Girl.” But what do you want the broader takeaway about your work to be?
I make work to transform any kind of negative thing into something that could be beautiful. Why I make this work about our anatomy is really to bring awareness to our bodies, and our existence, and this thing that unites all of us. Plus, the experience of the experience of being on the show and not giving up: Sure, I didn’t win, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop being an artist.
Work of Art airs tonight at 9pm on Bravo.