Morganroth Auditorium in the Larry R. Thompson Academic Center was buzzing with excitement in anticipation of the talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz on Friday, Jan. 13.
Saltz was invited by Ringling College of Art and Design Fine Arts and Visual Studies Department Head Joe Fig, to talk with students about his career in art criticism, the role of the artist in contemporary culture, and what art he is excited about right now.
“Jerry Saltz is one of the most influential art critics in the world,” said Fig. “He has over 500,000 followers on social media, where he addresses art criticism in a straightforward, understandable (and often humorous) manner, and cuts right to core of the meaning and importance of artworks and current issues in contemporary art. He understands artists and challenges they face.”
This event, like so many others at Ringling College, offered the campus community and students in particular an invaluable opportunity to listen and learn from a leading figure and voice in today’s art world. Saltz’s talk offered students, faculty, and staff a unique lecture that spoke to the student experience and the experience of being a working artist. Clearly written with Ringling students in mind, the talk was no less motivational for everyone else. His advice to talk to your parents less, stay up all night, and start a vampire gang, might also be useful advice for the faculty and staff in attendance.
Saltz spoke candidly to the packed auditorium about his experience as a student and the realities of his career. His work week consists of attending almost nightly art openings with his wife, Roberta Smith, senior art critic at The New York Times. They grab a slice of pizza, eat standing up, go to the shows, and return home to their separate work areas to write up their reviews. Joe Fig spoke kindly about Smith before the talk: “Roberta may even be more influential than Jerry. Together they are a super powerhouse couple in the art world, advocating for artists and supporting the arts in general.”
Saltz’s method of art criticism is approachable and rejects overtly intellectual art jargon. Similarly, his talk sought to find a common and relatable ground at every opportunity. In an attempt to distill the meaning and a definition of art, he gave a metaphysical reading of the oeuvre of Dolly Parton, with radical vulnerability as the key ingredient. The event felt like a TED Talk by a motivational speaker proposing a humanist approach to making art. He cautioned students to “make an enemy of envy” and to “finish the damn thing. It’s not going to be perfect, but finish it.”
The talk at Ringling College was a prelude to a ticketed event that took place at Sarasota Art Museum on Saturday which was open to the community.