Mat Gleason to Judge New Body Painting Show

from left: Master body painter Emma Cammack, Mat Gleason, and [photo courtesy Game Show Network]

from left: Master body painter Emma Cammack, Mat Gleason, and “Skin Wars” winner Natalie Fletcher [photo courtesy Game Show Network]

As recently reported on Artnet, critic and gallery owner Mat Gleason will be a judge on the upcoming body painting competition show “Skin Wars: Fresh Paint.” The one-hour television event is a spin-off of the Game Show Network’s most popular program, “Skin Wars,” which pits aspiring body painters against each other for a $100,000 prize. On the new show, hosted by RuPaul, six artists who have no experience in body painting will compete for $10,000, with guidance from previous “Skin Wars” contestants. New cast members include a tattoo artist, a former graffiti tagger, and a performance artist whose talents include circus acrobatics, fire spinning, and belly dancing. “If ‘Skin Wars’ is kind of like the ‘American Idol’ of body painting,” Gleason told us when we spoke by phone, “then ‘Skin Wars: Fresh Paint’ is like ‘Dancing With the Stars’.”

Although body painting has less cultural cache and is more ephemeral than other contemporary artforms, Gleason does see a relevance to high art. “It’s very sexy, it’s fun, it’s not the kind of art that will be in a museum in 500 years,” he told us. “But in a way it’s dada. Duchamp said every work of art has a lifespan. He didn’t believe that art really spoke after a couple of centuries.”

In his new role, Gleason will be following in the footsteps of other critics like Jerry Saltz, who was a judge on Bravo’s contemporary art showdown “Work of Art.” He sees these programs as platforms for opinionated art talk that is often lacking from contemporary art writing. “One thing I do like about these shows, is that they are a environment for judgment and criticism, even if it’s in a nontraditional media,” he said. “I got paid to talk about art in a critical manner on television, how often does that happen?”

For Gleason, who has been an acerbic voice in the LA Art World for over twenty years, the show is also an opportunity to expose new audiences to art, without the obfuscation that clouds so much contemporary art dialogue. “People might look at this show as hokey, but I don’t see it as hokey having worked on it,” he told us. “Body painting’s a gateway for people to discuss art. A lot of people are turned off by the pretentions surrounding art, contemporary art especially. The medium of television has found a way to talk about art. I think it’s great.”

Despite television’s attempts to make art palatable to a wide audience, an anecdote from Gleason’s audition speaks to the gulf between the two worlds. “I asked them, ‘Who recommended me?’ and they said, ‘We googled “art critic” and found you.’”

Skin Wars: Fresh Paint” airs on the Game Show Network Wednesday, August 26.

also by Matt Stromberg

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