This year's winner — chosen by MOCA's executive director and chief curator, Bonnie Clearwater, to enter the museum's permanent collection — is Brian Bress's It's Been a Long Day, a 2:13-minute skull-staver depicting the L.A.-based artist with a bullet wound in his forehead.
Bress stares at the camera while blood oozes from his head, bringing to mind medieval altarpieces depicting the crucifixion, stigmata, or images of flayed church martyrs. While lamenting his suffering, Bress — wearing black pajamas and appearing a little like Gomez Addams — looks directly at the spectator and says he enjoys "painting every night before hitting" his pillows.
Brian Bress's It's Been a Long Day won over jurists at this year's Optic Nerve festival.
Optic Nerve XIII: Through September 4. Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami; 305-893-6211; mocanomi.org. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday 1 to 9 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Then he begins to swab the blood from his suppurating wound and finger-paints his mug until it turns a rosy crimson that recalls a glowing cherub straight out of a Flemish master's work. In fact, Bress is speaking to the tradition of religious subject matter and the self-portrait with a droll wit and irony that elevate his work above the others.
It's Been a Long Day, which was weirdly looped twice during the screening, will make a great addition to the museum's collection even if observers last Saturday couldn't stomach the imagery.
Catch the collection of films at the de la Cruz Collection (237 NE 41st St., Miami) during the September 10 art walk and through October 8. Call 305-576-6112 or visit delacruzcollection.org. You can also see all 18 films at uvuvideo.org.