When you meet a renowned art critic and Pulitzer Prize winner IRL, you take selfies.
AM I RIGHT?! What a night! I think this means we're friends????
I had the privilege of attending Live Talks LA in Santa Monica, CA for a night with Jerry Saltz, led by Irwin Miller (accomplished designer and architect), and UMM it was as phenomenal as it sounds. (Blurry pictures be damned!)
Jerry was in LA to discuss his book, "Art Is Life", but really dove into all sorts of art/opinion-related topics and streams of experienced thought; even embracing his charming loss of thought and rabbit holes when shared ideas became bigger and bigger, spinning out even more wisdom. Perfection. And the Q&A was gold.
Ahead of the program, Jerry crept out from the curtain to take selfies with us. I was able to snap ours just before they caught him and drug him back to get ready.
Clearly old friends, this casual talk was packed with so much goodness, laughter, and banter between the two - even a custom designed t-shirt by Irwin as a gift to Jerry to celebrate his obsession with Double Gulp 7-11 iced coffee (follow him - you'll quickly know). It made for a captivating, comfortable experience. Like, chilling on the couch.
We're definitely friends.
One of the most memorable, impactful pieces was in regards to honesty and opinion. Jerry shared his philosophy of, "loving art and artists too much to not tell the truth." This resonated so deeply as it hit on the leadership principles passed on from someone dear to me - a prior boss and strong female leader in my life. She used to say, "Respect others enough to do the right thing and speak truth...love me enough to tell me if I have a booger on my face" (literally and metaphorically).
These wisdom drops from Jerry lined up right along this truth train and I ate it up. So many cringe at, disregard, fight, and are deeply offended by truth. It can hurt, sure. Of course. We'd much rather be fluffed and stroked, egos in tact, floating on clouds of our own amazingness.
But, it was refreshing to hear this other side from someone who spends his days seeking out things to criticize. Paid for his (probably more often unappreciated) opinion. And then, brave and open enough to tell us what he thinks. What a vulnerable position to take. This is so respectable. As someone who values honesty, I admire his willingness.
While it should certainly be delivered with care and love, I believe honesty is kindness. Note: this doesn't equal correctness! Opinion is still opinion, after all. Do with it what you will.
What I loved most is the thought-provoking discussion; walking away with an expanded mind ready to consider things more deeply, along with a renewed sense of empowerment in my own art practice and dreams.
Jerry may criticize us, but oh how he loves and believes in us! He is for us, not against us, friends! Embrace truth - it's how we learn and grow. Without it, we wither.
We may not like it, but consider the source of experience, wisdom, and understanding being passed around from this big-hearted artist turned critic. We'd be fools to not listen in.
Jerry Saltz, I just love and appreciate you. Delivering criticism with such charisma, humor, and realness, you make hearing truth an absolute pleasure.
Thank you for help me think. And for leaving me better than when you found me with each interaction.
I can't wait to keep diving into my books. Thank you for taking the time to sign & chat.
Jerry Saltz is the Senior Art Critic for New York Magazine, 1028 Pulitzer Prize winner for Criticism, two-time ASME Award winner, and author of NYT Best Seller "How To Be An Artist" and newly released "Art Is Life". His talks and opinions can be found all over the internet, YouTube, and social media @jerrysaltz
Check out the interview with Jerry Saltz and Nicholas Wilton from Art2Life Podcast, a respected artist and teacher whose community I have joined and invested in for my own art journey. It's a great listen (or watch on YouTube)!