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Work of Art Exit Interview: The Winner Speaks!

We caught up with the $100,000 winner to chat about the entire bizarre and wonderful experience.

Sweet, enthusiastic, and immensely talented, it was Abdi Farah who walked away with money and a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum (opening Saturday). We spoke to the ecstatic 23-year-old this morning.

Congrats on the win!
Thanks!

During the last challenge, it seemed like you had a sort of breakthrough — moving away from the comic-book imagery the judges were giving you slack for. Do you credit the show for getting you to where you are now?
Definitely. I was getting to a really bad point in my art, even before I got on the show. I was feeling a little not as confident in what I was doing. And when I was on the show — the confines of the show and the way we were all taken out of our comfort zones — it made me address stuff that I had been avoiding. It’s a credit to the competition. The judges really stayed on me. I think they saw some good in me and weren’t going to let me continue to be less than I could be. And I really appreciate them for calling me out on some stuff and causing me to think about art in a completely different way. By the last challenge, I was feeling so incredibly confident about how I thought about art and what I wanted to do. It was just a fun piece to make.

Do you think your fellow artists on the show helped tease that out at all?
Oh yeah. I’ve been telling people that this has been by far the greatest artistic experience of my life. Much of it will never be seen just because of the format of 45- minute episodes. People aren’t going to see the three-hour critiques; they aren’t going to see all the studio time. It’s weird because people think the aspects of the show that are different from an actual artist’s are bad, but I think they’re so good. The fact that we had these time constraints, the fact that we were working in a communal space … it caused us to make work that we would not normally make in our own studios. The work I made on the show ... some was good, some was bad, but it was all fresh and it felt good to be making it. And I thought, Why have I not thought this way for the last couple years?

Read Jerry Saltz's recap here.

Can you tell us anything about your Brooklyn Museum show?
It’s a continuation of the thoughts from the finale. I’m still really thinking about a lot of the things I started in the finale. It’s the majority of the works from that show and other works that really flesh out that thought.

Was it hard keeping your win a secret for the past few months?
Not really. It’s funny — being a part of this competition is kind of like going to an alien planet or something! When you get back there’s no one who can even comprehend the stuff that you did. You don’t even try to start conversations until the episodes start happening and people start asking questions. So yeah, it was pretty easy.

Any plans for that cash prize?
I think I’m really going to use the money for what they give the money to the winner for, which is to allow them to do something within their craft that they would not be able to do otherwise. And man, it’s expensive. And just from working on the finale show, and stuff I’ve been working on since then the bills are like $2000 for this, $3000 for this … So that money will go to great use on some really, really awesome artwork.

Any offers from galleries? Or plans to relocate to New York?
I absolutely love New York. I’m hoping to get here sometime in the near future. Right now I have a really awesome setup in Dover, Pennsylvania. I have a humongous studio space and I’m really starting to get into more sculpture. If I tried to re-create the studio, the Bat Cave I’ve really constructed for myself, it would probably be, like, a couple million dollars in New York! Hopefully the money starts rolling like that so I can be out here! But right now it’s really a great situation for me. And I’m hoping to make as much work as possible while I’m still there and have a good excuse to come to New York in the super-duper soon future.

Read Jerry Saltz's recap here.