The other night I was watching “Sugar Destinations” on Food Network Challenge — giant sugar showpieces.

If you don’t know about the Challenge show, it’s a — what else? — reality show, a competition between 3 to 5 cooks or pastry chefs, given a specific challenge and a short time to create it in. The prize is 10K and the competition is fierce.

In this one, the teams of pastry chefs were first sent on a trip with Carnival Cruise lines, then asked to create a sugar showpiece that told the story of their experience on the trip.

Each team approached the challenge differently, as they always do. One guy (I’m sorry I forgot his name) made this amazing, amazing piece, about his experience snorkeling in Cozumel. He made it in two parts, two domes, one the undersea world and above it, the waves with a stylized catamaran.

It was super cool. As someone who admits to getting sucked into watching these challenges now and then, I can say I’d never seen anything like it before, and I was sure it would win, because it was so cool and inventive.

Buuuut… it didn’t.

Because one of the judges was the lady from Carnival Cruise lines. And the assignment was to tell a story. To tell a story about their experience on the cruise. And this contestant, with the under the sea dome, didn’t. He left himself out of it.

The winner, Tracy, put herself in her piece, literally, as a tiny gum paste Tracy. But besides that, she captured her experience in sugar, she made the cruise ship, she built a jungle tree and zip line (that’s where gum paste Tracy was, on the zip line, and she really zipped down it).

Tracy won because she fulfilled the assignment. Her sugar sculpture was a good match with what the most important judge wanted.

What’s this got to do with sculpture in metal?

It works the same way with non-edible art, when you’re applying for a show, or for a grant. What matters very much is, is your work a good match for the foundation and the grant requirements? Is it a good match for the theme of that gallery show? Or are you stretching it a bit, trying to make it work?

It’s easier to see when it’s someone else, some one else’s sculpture, edible or not.

But I saw that episode of the Challenge and I thought it was such a perfect example of — getting turned down, losing, doesn’t always mean your art work isn’t good enough. Sometimes, it just means it wasn’t a good match for that challenge.


Here’s a link to an article about Tracy and team, with a previous win:

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