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When I first started writing this I had trouble putting into words what it exactly it was that made me so psyched to be a contestant on Art Show Down. So I wrote an article and was about to send it off to the Big RED editors, but after I spent Saturday morning playing paintball with Colin Rhys of Rhys gallery, I realized I love the Art Show Down because it is being part of a team. A team made up of artists, those who created it would not have show without those who are contestants, and the contestants would still be alone in their studios if they did not have the Art Show Down to go out and participate in.

Many of you have heard of this Art Show Down phenomenon, but may still not quite get what it is all about. It has been described on Big RED and Shiny, an Art Show Down sponsor, as a game show about art, and an art exhibition about game shows. This project, two years in the making, has involved the full transformation of the gallery at Art Interactive into a television studio, with episodes that are filmed in front of a live audience over the course of four weekends. This certainly describes what it IS, but not what it MEANS to the art community. It is an art piece that is just like playing paintball: you get to be part of team, engage in healthy competition, organize as a group, have fun with paint and some people win and some people lose. In the end, no participant of Art Show Down really loses, because it’s all about playing the game. What I have found most fulfilling about being an artist today is getting out there and doing stuff with a community; being a member of that team is the only way to not get shot down.

The Monday after my first episode I went into work and poured myself a cup of coffee as my co-workers had seen me do many times. My boss asked me, “How was your weekend? Do anything fun?” to which I replied, “Yeah, I was on the Art Show Down, this art game show at Art Interactive, and I won!” She looked at me as if I had answered her in Klingon and then said, “I’m sorry, what did you say?” I then proceeded to tell her about guessing what an artwork sold for at auction, stuffing my mouth with cheese while talking to Howard Yezerski, of Howard Yezerski Gallery, climbing a rock wall and hanging a bunch of pictures while throwing rubber snakes, shooting paintball guns and wrestling some girl with a paintbrush on my head. As the rest of my office came over to listen, I realized something: who else gets to say that they did something like this? Only artists, and as far as I know only those here in Boston who came out in support of the Art Show Down.

I found out about Art Show Down from Jeff Warmouth, one of the artist masterminds behind the creation of the art game show a little over a year ago. Before I even knew what it was all about, I wanted to be a part of it simply because I had a great respect for the artists involved in putting it together. As soon as I read the description I immediately knew my destiny:

To be one of final two who would compete in the Ultimate Artist Challenge.

I never thought about being the one winner, I just wanted to be part of it. Just like paintball, I wanted to be part of the team and stay in the game as long as I could. So I set out for my audition last fall with great enthusiasm for things to come. When I arrived at Art Interactive I was ushered into a room with video cameras, a lighting set up and a table with chairs on either side. After a series of tasks involving running across the room and grabbing an apple then making a drawing of it in 20 seconds, they asked me to react as if I had just won the game show, so I made myself cry and I jumped up and down enthusiastically until I heard a voice say, “Thanks, that’s enough we get it”. I thanked Jeff Warmouth, Jim Manning and Matt Nash who were running the auditions and then before I left I said, “If I don’t get picked, one of the other contestants might have an ‘accident’”. They laughed and then looked as if they weren’t quite sure if I was joking.

After hearing that I was chosen as a contestant I was not sure just what I was getting in to, but that’s the fun right? I went on the first day to scope out what was in store for me and I was really surprised. The set was amazing and it was such an incredible collaboration to make things run smoothly. The show started with the Auction Price is Right as the first challenge and contestant Andy Mowbray guessed closest to the actual auction price and moved on to the next round. After watching him during the “Schmooze and Booze” challenge where he had to talk up curator Nick Capasso of the DeCordova Museum while eating pepper jack cheese and drinking Tabasco flavored seltzer, I knew I needed a strategy. I paid close attention when Andy shot paint balls at moving targets, drew his self portrait with a sharpie taped to the end of yardstick, and attacked his opponent with a paintbrush attached to his head.

After competing, and winning, my first episode on September 30th, I was ready for my championship round. I asked who the curator would be, and it turned out to be George Fifield, the Director of the Boston CyberArts Festival and former Curator of New Media at the DeCordova Museum. So in preparation for the Schmooze and Booze challenge, that I might have to compete in, I decided to make a T-shirt with his face on the back that said “George Rocks!” There is no better way to schmooze than to come prepared to be ridiculous but in a way that shows great respect. I have known George for a while so I had to come up with something he wouldn’t expect. As it turned out, however, my fate would be to climb the rock wall for “Hang’em High”, in which required my hanging 10 pieces of art in their frames on a make shift rock wall in one minute and had to save my T-Shirt for later.

As I went into the final challenge of my championship episode I was only 30 points ahead so I needed to be ready to rumble. When I suited up in the white Tyvek jumpsuit and they strapped the paintbrush to my head I felt like I was on Nickelodeons “You Can’t Do That on Television” and I was ready! After 45 seconds of a serious wrestling match with Laurel Kirtz, I was not sure who was going to win. But then, as though it was meant to be, they asked George Fifield to come up on stage to count up the brush marks. When they tallied the score and announced me the winner, I turned around and tore open the Tyvek suit so George Fifield’s face was peering out from my back while yelling out to the audience “George Rules!” What I realized as later on was that I had done some real schmoozing during my episodes, was given a fun opportunity to make a connection with Howard Yezerski, supported many of my friends who have put this all together as part of their artwork and I had the chance to participate in something truly unique and a hell of a lot of fun.

My opponent for the final Ultimate Artist Challenge is local artist Andy Mowbray and the winner of the first episode ever of Art Show Down. Andy and I have been pumped up about the Art Show Down for over a year now, and here we are, the last two. The best part about it is that both Andy and I are really invested in making this a great active artwork and we want it to be a fun experience for the audience while we kick each others ass at crazy competitions involving dumpster diving, curator schmoozing and quick draw with both guns and markers.

When the Big RED editors mentioned that this would be the 50th issue of Big RED and Shiny, I thought that sharing my Art Show Down experiences was the best way to show my respect for the Art Show Down team and maybe help some of you who are still unsure of just what this is all about. My deepest gratitude goes out to all who worked hard to make this happen so that Andy and I can say we were part of it. And for all of you who were hesitant to go out and see Art Show Down, come to the final episode on October 28th at 6pm at Art Interactive, it will certainly be like nothing you have ever experienced before. I hope that it catches on because my next goal is for Andy and me to be the “Returning Champions” like they have on Jeopardy!

This project was co-curated by Roland Smart and Jeff Warmouth, and features a long list of Boston artists: Megan Goltermann, Jeff Smith, James Manning, Big RED's Matthew Nash, Ravi Jain, Nick Rodrigues, Anna Goldsmith, Paul Consemi, Rob Coshow, Mitsu Toda, and many more.

And a special thanks to Boston Paintball for their donation, I had a blast!

Art Interactive
Art Show Down

Video by Steve Aishman of Marston competing in "A Brush With Danger"
A video clip of the first episode of Art Show Down.
A video clip of the second episode of Art Show Down.

"Art Show Down" is on view through October 28, 2006 at Art Interactive.

Top two images are courtesy of the Art Show Down and Art Interactive.
Bottom image by James Manning..


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