The painter and sculptor has struggled a lot through the competition with last-minute inspirations, half-baked pieces and basically running in the middle of the pack. He was very seldom the winner, but he also wasn't the worst. So, he continued to move on.
Through the competition, though, he stayed very self-aware, knowing that he wasn't quite meeting his potential. And when it comes to artistic talent, sometimes that incubation period is just what one needs to create that wow-inducing piece that has been waiting to make its debut.
With Abdi's finale show, it seems that he hit that stride. His images of race and class with religious overtones captured in sculptor, sketch and photography seemed to hit all the right buttons and highlight his broad skills. Not to mention, he lucked out with a guest judge like
David LaChappelle, whose own pop photography touches on the same topics.
We're not going to lie, though. We thought
Peregrine Honig, the girl who grew up in a liberal commune and clearly loved every moment of it, was going to take the show. We're not mad at the judges for choosing Abdi, but her circus/country fair theme was magical, weird and sad all at the same time. Plus, she truly worked it out all season long and to paraphrase judge
Jerry Saltz, we just loved having her in the competition.
So what of third place
Miles Mendenhall? His work and attention-grabbing use of himself in his art caused his competitors to call him a typical art school student, self-indulgent, a faker and even a d-bag. Much of that we can't disagree with, by the way. His finale show hit the judges as a "work in progress." And it did seem he hadn't quite closed the loop on what he thought he was expressing in the work and that came across in the exhibit.
Do you agree with the judges? Is Abdi the next great American artist?