Q&A: Jazz-Minh Moore Found Her Work of Art Co-Stars Irritatingly Naive


The fourth episode of BRAVO’s Work of Art airs tonight and miraculously, our favorite contestants, Sucklord and Michelle, are still in the competition. Michelle didn’t do so well with her Coke Zero tribute in last week’s pop-art challenge, but the official casualties were artist Leon Lim and Manhattan-based painter Jazz-Minh Moore. (Previous cast-offs were Brooklyn photographer Kathryn Parker Almanas and West Coast artist Ugo Nonis.) Sucklord accidentally spilled paint on Jazz-Minh’s self-portrait diptych, yet she claimed to love the effect–but then got eliminated for the piece. Did she secretly blame him? Is she tired of everybody making fun of her name’s spelling? Was she really bad at translating pop culture because of her hippie upbringing? No, no, no, and you’ll just have to read the rest.

Have you gotten tired of people commenting on your name?

Honestly, there haven’t been a ton of comments. I think maybe at the very beginning? But I think people forgot about it.

Why did you find the pop-art challenge so hard?

On one hand, I have a hard time making work that’s very slick or concise. I tend to go deep into tangles of hair or messiness. Then also, just the format of the show itself, having to kind of go with whatever the first idea is: there’s not a lot of time to really think through a lot of things when you have 12 hours to make something.

Someone else suggested that you failed at the pop-art challenge because you were raised by hippies. Is that fair? Were you lacking the vocabulary?

I’m not a bumbling hippie in the backwoods. I live in Manhattan, I watch The [Desperate] Housewives on the elliptical machine in the gym. I’m definitely immersed in pop-culture. I wouldn’t say that I embrace it–I’m not really that interested.

For somebody who’s never seen your work outside of the show, what would you want them to take away?

I’ve been out of grad school for five years. I approached Work of Art like a grad-school project: I wanted to shake up my process, get some critical feedback, grow from it, and make better work in the future. I really didn’t expect to make great work on the show, necessarily–it’s just not a conducive format. I really do believe that I have grown from the whole experience, especially from my interactions with Jerry Saltz. He’s really the reason I went on the show in the first place. I wouldn’t have gone if it was Bill Powers, China Chow, and some other dude. It was really Jerry Saltz that made it legit for me and made me want to subject myself to potential ridicule and bad work. I didn’t think it would necessarily be good for my career, but I thought I could grow from [the experience] and make better work in the future. I think that is happening.

What else, specifically, would you want about your work to be conveyed?

But I would want people to know that I’m a serious artist and I’m working hard. That I have a legitimate art career, that I’ve had a lot of shows and I’m not a kid playing around with paint. That my work is much more about the tangles of–the chaos of–of experience. It’s not really slick necessarily; it’s more about forces that you can’t control.

I’m actually grateful that I went out on a piece that I did. I felt strongly about it. I don’t think it was a strong piece necessarily. But the intensity that I felt when taking that photograph with the tattoo, and then the paint being splattered across it? Those two things matched for me: The chaos of forces that you can’t control. There’s a beauty to that, and an intensity of experience, that is in my work.

One of the things you were quoted as saying in the season two trailer is “I really don’t like these people.” They didn’t use that in the actual show edit, but was that true?

I didn’t actually dislike them; I think I might’ve disliked them had I stayed on longer. We were still in the honeymoon phase when I got out of there. I was grateful to leave. Honestly, I’m not upset at all. I’m not upset about getting out of the petri dish when I did. I probably would’ve gotten a little cutting and mean. I liked some of them. I thought I liked them more until I left and went to this art opening. The night I got out of there, I went to a girlfriend’s, who was curating a show on the Lower East Side, of another friend’s work. I was surrounded by my people. I was like, “It’s wonderful to be in my world again.” [The show was] such a strange and bright controlled environment, that I was ending up a little bit punchy.

When you say, “my people,” who do you mean?

My people: Curators, artists–just people who are kind of dry and smart and [laughs] not naïve! There’s a naivete that runs through a number of the contestants that is just irritating. I liked the Sucklord because he fucked with people. And he was dry. And kind of, I don’t know, streetwise, in a way.

I was going to ask you about him. He spilled paint on your piece and you played it off like you weren’t angry.

I wasn’t! I actually thought it was beautiful. I thought the way that it compositionally cut across this huge dark area, and it cut across in a way that created more of a circular composition for the whole photograph. I really liked it.

Jazz-Minh Moore’s solo show Is That All There Is? opens January 5, 2012 at the Lyons Wier Gallery, 542 West 24th Street, Manhattan.