Heading into the final judgment on Wednesday's Work of Art, Lola Thompson, the mischievous and provocative artist whose mom dated Al Pacino for a decade, believed her conceptual portrait of a couple of historian-collectors had a real shot at making the Final 3. And the episode, indeed, painted the judges as having to make a tough call whilst evaluating the portraits of people found in the village of Cold Spring, N.Y. No one stuck out for being exceptional or a total flop. "It felt like that. I don't think any of us really knew what was going to happen," Thompson, 24, said. "I was definitely surprised. I was sort of hoping and thinking maybe I would make it to the finale. So, it was really sad when I didn't."
Thompson, who says she's currently working as a nanny for "two gorgeous young girls," spoke with TVGuide.com about giving judge Jerry Saltz (unintentional) grief over her elimination, why it appeared she threw Dusty under the bus, and the real deal between her and Kymia. Plus: Her final word on The Sucklord.
Jerry is completely beside himself with guilt! He feels like eliminating you was a huge mistake. What do you have to say about that?
Lola Thompson: Getting a chance to meet and talk to Jerry is one of the reasons I wanted to do the show in the first place. I'm really flattered by various nice and supportive things he's written in his recaps about me. It's slightly frustrating that a couple of times now he's said, "Oh, in retrospect, I really thought Lola's piece was great,"[or] "in retrospect, she should have won the challenge." I wish he could have found that insight during the competition. I really, really wanted the chance to spend a couple of months just making artwork. But yeah, I thought his recap was really funny. I understood at the time that firemen and a patriotic and sentimental work like [Sara's] was gonna be hard to compete with. I love that Jerry admitted that.
As a viewer, it was surprising to see you break down during your critique. Were you surprised you reacted that way?
Thompson: I was a little embarrassed seeing myself cry. Obviously, there were various other parts of the critique where I think I was defending myself more coherently than that moment. But you know, the whole experience was really hard. It was really emotional. There was a lot at stake money-wise and work-wise, and also just emotionally. By that stage, you've just put so much energy and so much of yourself into it, and I definitely got defensive when Jerry called me defensive [Laughs]. I kind of wish I hadn't broken down, but what can you do? That is how I was feeling, and... I'm not very good at controlling my emotions.
You also spoke out when the judges said they liked that the candy was falling from Dusty's piece, which appeared unintentional on his part.
Thompson: The weird thing about watching the show is that there was so much discussion in all of the critiques from all of us. Everyone really participated in all of the critiques. There was a lot of peer-to-peer criticism and commentary. It definitely comes off as me being bitchy and like I'm attacking him, but it really wasn't like that. We were having a conversation, and a lot of questions were brought up during everyone's critiques. They were talking about that part of Dusty's piece so much, and you know, his aesthetic is super clean and everything that he makes is really well-built, so I thought it was valid to question whether the fact it was falling apart was intentional or not, and what that means. It wasn't a personal attack on him.
How do you feel about the way you've been portrayed on the show? You seem to have been pegged as the household troublemaker, albeit a playful one.
Thompson: It's been weird watching it! It's really surreal to watch myself on television and obviously there are some moments where I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to shut up. I was just trying to be honest about the experience I was having. I had no filter. I wasn't trying to be super careful of anyone's feelings — and I don't think very many of us we're doing that. I think everyone at certain points criticized each other and I think they maybe showed a little more of me doing that than others.
Was there really bad blood between you and Kymia?
Thompson: There were a couple of moments of tension. The stakes were really high, and I've said many times that I felt very competitive towards her because she's smart and a good artist. But we're still friends. We really love each other. For us, it definitely didn't feel as tense and dramatic and catty as it looks on television.
So you two resolved the sticker issue after the street art challenge?
Thompson: That was done at that episode. Nothing really carried over. I said sorry in the critique, I said sorry at home. But I said sorry whilst standing by the fact that it's street art, and I think tagging is a legitimate form of street art and it was part of the idea of my piece. But yeah, I apologized for hurting her feelings and after that it was done, we were totally cool, and we still are. I talk to her often. I mean maybe she was really good at hiding her feelings and was secretly despising me the entire time, but I felt like we were friends.
Jerry has written that he's really liked the pieces you've made that involve drawings coupled with text, but I'm curious to know how you describe your own artistic aesthetic.
Thompson: Hmm, to be honest I'm still trying to figure that out. I think that doing this show was a really good opportunity to make things with the freedom of just being an artist and not being this type or that. I'm definitely interested in using text — I write a lot, I read a lot, and I think the idea of writing is embedded in my work, whether in the title or putting the text in the work. But I'm the first one to say my work is evolving. I'm just beginning.
Which was your favorite piece?
Thompson: I really like the one I made for the New York Times challenge, the drawing of the Libyan rebels, and I also really liked the piece I made for the pop art challenge. I wasn't in the top or the bottom so I didn't get a lot of feedback on it, but I made all these toy cell phones and iPads and iPods and all this technology and the title was "We're Live Streaming with the Ancestors of Tutankhamen So Why Do I Feel So Alone?" or something like that... I thought that piece was really whimsical and funny and I've been exploring making projects based on that same idea.
What else are you working on now? What's next for you?
Thompson: I'm still struggling to balance my artistic life with a job where I make money. I haven't quite merged those two aspects of my life yet. Since the show, I've been trying to make work and give myself permission to experiment and take risks in the same way that I did on the show, which is really hard. It's much harder in my everyday life to throw myself out there and fail completely.
How do you feel about the Final 3?
Thompson: I think they're all smart artists and I think all of us that were in the Final 5 deserve to be in the Final 3. I don't think anyone was undeserving. I certainly wish that it was me instead of whoever else, but I knew that Young would be in the Final 3. He's super smart and very calculating — and I mean that in the best way. There was no way he wasn't going to make it. I was happy he did. I'm excited to see what they all do in the future but, yeah, I'm definitely jealous.
I'd be remiss not to ask: Are you over The Sucklord? Was it ever really a thing?
Thompson: [Sighs] Yes, I'm still pining away for The Sucklord [Laughs]. No, I'm totally over The Sucklord. He's a great guy, I really like him. Unfortunately, I can't talk to him anymore because his girlfriend is very jealous and I think very angry at whatever flirtation we had. But it was pretty harmless. I hope that he keeps doing his Suck-y thing.