"The truth shall set you free" is a phrase that keeps echoing in my mind as I write this. This isn't easy to write about, but I've come to the conclusion that my job isn't to protect people from the consequences of their behavior. If someone doesn't want their actions exposed, then they shouldn't mistreat others. They shouldn't engage in manipulation, lies, and purposefully create division. It's dysfunctional to cover up and conceal what is evil. All darkness should be brought to light so that there is accountability.
The Hero's Journey: A Point of No Return
Episode four of 'The Outstanding Artist' posed the greatest challenge and difficult test of all. In every hero's journey, there comes a decisive moment where your resolve is tested. Will you cross the threshold? Will you venture into the extraordinary world where true greatness lies? There's always a dark dragon guarding the entrance and a formidable battle to be won. But for those who win they cross over to a point of no return, never looking back. This threshold is the point of no return.
Eva's Dark Dragon
We are filming off-site, away from the hotel, for the first time. The previous day, we worked late into the night preparing everything. Eva, with her local knowledge, found us a carpenter who built a long table for the pochade boxes, as our tripods hadn't all arrived. Coordinating transportation was still a challenge. Eva also stayed up late, printing everyone's painting sources on her printer. She was stressed and unfairly burdened, having to help us constantly. On top of that, she was grappling with the heartache of her recent divorce and the lost dreams that resurfaced while having to paint at the church where she was married. She was facing her own dragon at the gate, dealing with the turmoil and feelings of abandonment by God.
It's the morning of filming episode four. As we are about to leave for the church, Eva pulls me aside. "I had the craziest dream last night that I don't understand," she confides.
"What was it?" I ask.
"I was getting ready to paint for the challenge, and Tarana came up to me and shaved off my eyebrows. I looked in the mirror and thought, 'How stupid do I look?' What could this mean?" she wonders.
"Yeah, that is freaky! I think it's a warning. Something wants to mess with your identity and make you look foolish. Also, remember eyebrows protect your eyes from dirt. Be vigilant about your vision," I advise her.
Eva doesn't look like her usual self today. Normally joyful and encouraging, she looks sad and upset, clearly still troubled by her dream. I watch as she mounts her moped with her canvas and art supplies and heads to the church. We had allowed everyone to take a canvas for today's challenge so they could apply modeling paste or gloss gel and let it dry in time.
After helping set everyone up for filming, I left the site. I spent the day painting back at my apartment with John. Dimitra, who was giving critiques to the artists, returns to the apartment and mentions that Tarana is in the worst shape and might lose this challenge. She was at the bottom for most of the previous challenges, so it seemed likely.
After lunch, when the challenge ended, there was a short break before the judging and elimination. Jake returns to the apartment, looking upset and worried. "Guys, we have a serious problem," he says, sitting down and looking solemnly at the ground, his hands folded in front of him. He looks up and says, "Eva cheated."
"WHAT?! She cheated? How?" I exclaim in shock.
"I saw it with my own eyes. Tarana came to me and the crew after the challenge and told us she saw Eva had little dots plotted on her canvas before the challenge started. We reviewed the footage, zoomed in, and indeed saw the dots she used to make her drawing in proportion easier. We have Tarana on film confronting Eva about it, and Eva looking guilty," Jake explains.
Weighing Fairness and Integrity
"Wait a minute. So, Tarana didn't say anything at the beginning when we could have fixed it by giving Eva a new canvas? She waited until she saw she might lose this challenge, to tattle on Eva? That's messed up! I think they BOTH should be eliminated," I argue.
"I can't believe Eva would do that. I never thought she was the type. She's always so loving and kind. I never thought she was capable of something like this," Dimitra adds, clearly disappointed.
"Look, I think Eva just got super stressed and felt insecure about drawing something foreshortened within the time limit, so she made little dots to help her. It doesn't excuse it, but it's not mean-spirited. I even saw footage where Tarana handed Eva her pencil and source, and Eva drew on Tarana's piece, trying to help her with her proportions. But what are we going to do?" Jake asks.
"Yeah, it's tough. If we expose Eva in the elimination, she'll always be seen as a cheater by those who don't really know who she is. This could harm her career. We promised we wouldn't make them look bad or degrade anyone. But it's unfair to the others if we don't address it or eliminate her. What about Tarana, though? Since she knew before the competition and didn't say anything, and clearly has the weakest piece, she only spoke up to deflect from herself. Does she just get away with that?" I ask.
Jake then adds, "Look, I know we said we wouldn't make anyone look bad, but if they make themselves look bad, it's not our job to hide that. People do strange things under pressure. Let's meet with Eva, tell her we know, and see what she says."
Adressing Eva's Actions
We all agree. We call Eva to meet us at the apartment and confront her. "Hey Eva, we saw the footage and zoomed in. We noticed you had put little dots to indicate points of the figure for your drawing. That gave you an unfair advantage, and you know you shouldn't have done that. So, what are we supposed to do now?" Jake asks Eva.
Eva looks down and takes a minute to respond. "I always do these things to myself. I'm so stupid! I get insecure and sabotage myself. I was so stressed yesterday and barely had time to work on my source. I was printing everyone's sources and dealing with my own emotions about the church and Father Gregory, just feeling terrible. I hardly slept, had a terrible dream about Tarana shaving my eyebrows, and just had a weak moment and made some dots." Eva looks like a little girl caught stealing a cookie, not her usual self. We could see she was going through some difficult times.
"But Eva, we can't ignore this. We have to deal with it somehow," I said.
"Yes, I know. I must eliminate myself. I'm so mad at myself for being so stupid!" Eva expresses remorsefully.
Navigating Ethical Waters
After she left, we had to call the director and inform him that Eva would eliminate herself. We call him on speakerphone to deliver the news. "Well, if you cheat, you get eliminated. That's that," he responds.
"I think we should do a double elimination. Tarana should be eliminated, too, for having the worst painting. We don't need to mention that she didn't expose Eva until she saw she would most likely lose. Let's just eliminate her on merit for having the worst painting. It's only fair," I suggest.
"WHAT!! You can't eliminate Tarana. First of all, the judging hasn't even happened yet, and second, you can't eliminate her to punish her for being courageous and coming forward to tell on a fellow artist. That must have been a difficult decision. Can you imagine being in her shoes?" the director advocates.
The Director's Stance
"Whoa! What an interesting point of view. You sound very pro-Tarana! Can't you see that she had every opportunity to say something before filming started but only spoke up after it was over, and her piece was clearly the worst? It's odd how sympathetic you are towards her. I wonder why?" I said.
"What is that supposed to mean? What are you accusing me of?" he protests.
I knew they had spent time alone together multiple times. We had warned him not to spend ANY time alone with ANYONE from the cast to avoid suspicions of favoritism. We made it clear that if he spent any more time alone with Tarana, he would lose his job.
Then Jake interjects, "Look, let's calm down. Where are you right now?"
"I'm at the beach by myself," he adds.
"Okay, look, Eva will definitely eliminate herself, and let's see how the judging goes. We'll decide if Tarana should be eliminated as well or whoever loses. Maybe only Eva will leave, or maybe two people," Jake reasons.
"Yeah, it sounds like you guys have it in for Tarana, and it won't be fair in the judging. She's the one who keeps the competition interesting. Everyone else is so sickeningly sweet to each other. If Tarana leaves, you don't even have a show," the director says.
Just then, the phone cuts out, and we lose connection...
As we navigate the challenges and moral dilemmas, the journey behind the set of 'The Outstanding Artist' takes even more unexpected turns. Will our team's unity and vision withstand the brewing storm? Find out next week in the Artist Odyssey newsletter!