December 22, 2011:
Work of Art: Kymia Nawabi, an exhibition by the winner of the second season of Bravo’s Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, will open to the public on Thursday, December 22, and will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum through February 5, 2012. Bravo’s Work of Art is an hour-long, 10-part, creative competition television series among fourteen contemporary artists who assembled in New York City under the watchful eye of art world luminaries to battle it out for this show at the Brooklyn Museum.
A poem by Nawabi, titled “Not for long, my forlorn,” introduced this presentation when it initially appeared on the final episode of the Bravo series. Nawabi’s poem articulates her ideas on the cyclical nature of life, with death and rebirth as natural aspects. Her winning exhibition may be seen as an expression of her personal mythology and a metaphysical journal that explores what it means to be human.
The exhibition includes 12 paintings and two sculptures inspired by the Egyptian deity Thoth, most often represented as a man with the head of an ibis, a sacred bird in ancient Egypt. The artist appropriates for her own mythology the idea of Thoth as the god who holds the universe in balance and who greets the deceased in the afterlife. The bird and the pattern of a bird’s feathers are recurring motifs in her work, often in the shape of the feather skin of her figures. Sometimes, as with the sculpture of a helmet, Closer to Thoth, or the large drawing The Soul Purpose, the skin of feathers resembles blades of grass.
Nawabi also expresses the idea of the cycles of life through the use of the Ouroboros, an ancient symbol of eternity that is often depicted in the shape of a snake eating its own tail. The snake, as it appears in Nawabi’s poem and in her painting Have Faith in the Ouroboros, is viewed by the artist as a positive force, and the shedding of skin becomes a metaphor for the renewal of life and the passage from one form of life to the next. References to burials are common in her work: in an image of a feathered figure returning to earth or an allusion to Norse boat funerals as portrayed in the painting The Bridge. Similarly, three sculptures of soil, stone, and wood that comprise Devotional Medal, a work decorated with mirrors, may be viewed as burial mounds.
Thirty-year-old, New York-based artist Kymia Nawabi received a BFA from East Carolina University and an MFA from the University of Florida and is recipient of several residencies and awards for her work.
Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, which culminated on December 21 with the airing of the finale, revealed Nawabi as the winner selected from a group of three finalists for a prize of this one-person exhibition, a cash award, and the cover of an art publication, Blue Canvas magazine. Each of the three finalists was given three months to prepare for the final episode. The exhibitions were on view at Phillips de Pury & Company, a leading global auction house for contemporary art, design, and photography. Simon de Pury, the Chairman and Chief Auctioneer, served as a mentor to the contestants throughout the competition, alongside China Chow, who functioned as host and judge, with series judges Bill Powers and Jerry Saltz.