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Work Of Art: The Next Great Artist Season 2 - Exclusive Interview With Leon Lim

Posted on 11/01/2011 by Todd in Work Of Art and Cast Interviews

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Leon Lim from Work Of Art: The Next Great Artist Season 2

by Todd Betzold


The judges on Work Of Art: The Next Great Artist may have missed the message Leon Lim was trying to portray with his pop art and sent him home, but not before the deaf artist showed the world that a disability should not hold anyone back. Today we got an exclusive interview with Leon about his experiences on Work Of Art.


Q: Todd, RealityWanted: What made you try out for Work Of Art?
A: Leon: Because I wanted to have some critiques and dialogue with people I always admired such as Jerry Saltz and Simon de Pury. I don't see Work of Art as an art school in where I have to refine my work to fit the machine. The reality show, Work of Art is like having an exhibition in a prestigious museum for one day because last season, the show averaged 1.4 million viewers, comparable to museums such as New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which attract between 2.5 million and 5 million visitors every year.

Q: Todd, RealityWanted: Are you proud of your time on the show and being able to put a positive image out there for the hearing impaired community?
A: Leon: Before I answer this question, I would like to emphasize and educate people a bit that deaf people should not be called hearing impaired. Deaf people and deaf communities, including myself, prefer to be recognized as a "Deaf person" and "fluent in American Sign Language." We do not describe ourselves as having an impairment. "Deaf" and "Deafhood" are terms of our identity, language, history, values, social beliefs and culture.

Yes, I am proud of being on the show and being able to show positive image for all kinds of groups, not only deaf community. Because many parents and teachers around the world don't think deaf people can do it. The art world hasn't recognized any artist who is deaf and fluent in sign language. Like in the last century, women artists had hard time to show their artwork to the art world.

Q: Todd, RealityWanted: Did you feel at a disadvantage any time during the show because of your hearing impairment, or ever feel treated differently?
A: Leon: Sometimes I do feel that barrier but I am used to living in the hearing world since I was kid. It would be worse if an American Sign Language-English interpreter was sick during the show. When I was making work for the show, I prefer not to know anything from people talking or laughing. Deafness helps me concentrate on work without feeling interrupted by noise or sound or having work influenced by kinds of sounds. Seeing is the very first rule in the art world.

Q: Todd, RealityWanted: Do you think the judges missed the message you were trying to portray with your piece, or do you regret it now?
A: Leon: No, I don't regret what I created. The problem is the judge probably forgot where I am from or where Pop Art began. Pop art was not visible in Malaysia when I was growing up. Islam is the religion of federation there, and Malaysia doesn't show sex, bold, politics, fun, or brashness.

Q: Todd, RealityWanted: Did any of the other artists stand out to you during the competition?
A: Leon: Young Sun Han is a really good thinker and genius. Michael Tewz is like new best friend I have because we have many interests in common, like collecting something that captured our imagination. I was surprised that Michael is a Gemini. I am a Gemini too. But I don't believe in horoscope or astrology. Kymia Nawabi's stories in her work are incredible. All artists are great people because we helped each other when the interpreter was sick.

Q: Todd, RealityWanted: Would you ever do another reality show?
A: Leon: It would depend on who will be judge or what the mission of the show was. If I could do it again, it would be under different circumstances. I'd love to be able to show people how I see things and how I can create original objects that have never been seen or thought of before. For example, I have this idea of a room without light: the darkness shows only black, not green or blue. Who is the ownership of black?

If the judge was Snooki, Sarah Palin, Oprah Winfrey or Glenn Beck, I wouldn't participate in the show.

Q: Todd, RealityWanted: What's next for Leon?
A: Leon: Recently I visited my family, grandmother and relatives in Malaysia. I did interviews with several national newspapers and two magazines, Prestige Magazine and Esquire Magazine in Malaysia. The two magazines commissioned me to make new works with the element of fire. The good thing is I was chosen for Prestige Magazine's November-issue cover for The Art Issue. Artwise I am working on new projects for further exhibitions for next year and making new work with the elements of fire, water and sunlight.


Work Of Art: The Next Great Artist airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Bravo.


(Image courtesy of Bravo)


Follow Todd @tbetzold


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