Art is a lie that tells the truth.”  Pablo Picasso
As we arrive at the sixth and final step in Jerry Saltz’s book How to Be an Artist, here are a few closing thoughts to wrap your galactic brain around:
You don’t own the meaning of your work. Quoting his wife Roberta Smith (art critic of The New York Times): “Artists do not own the meaning of their work. This is something you want. This means your work is alive, that it has more than just you in it. … If you’re lucky, it will remain alive long after you’re gone, changing and growing as more and more people come into contact with it.”
You must prize radical vulnerability. “What’s that? It’s following your work into the darkest or most dangerous corners of your psyche, revealing things about yourself that you don’t want to reveal but that your work requires you to, and allowing yourself the potential of disappointment. You must be willing to fail flamboyantly, to do things that seem silly or stupid, even if they might put you in the crosshairs of harsh judgment.”
You’re always learning. “At the end of each day, you know something you didn’t know at the beginning. We’re all learning on the job. This is true even when the thing you’ve learned is that you knew less than you thought. Whatever you’re creating makes you more than you were before you made it.”

About the Image
A prime example of an artist who was willing to do what seemed silly and place herself in the crosshairs of harsh criticism was Georgia O’Keeffe. In the early 20th century, O’Keeffe was one of a handful of artists creating completely abstract images – yet the male critics of the era dismissed her vibrant, abstract close-ups of flowers, such as the Red Canna paintings, as representations of female genitalia. A claim O’Keeffe consistently denied. She never buckled beneath derision or stopped portraying her unique enigmatic world. She only considered it demeaning for her art to be viewed as “silly” or “girly.” Her vulnerability of vision would eventually accord her the title “Mother of American modernism,” the record ($44.4 million in 2014) for the highest price paid for a painting by a woman, and numerous honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts and induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame. Saltz encourages artists to “channel your inner O’Keeffe.”
Adapted from How to Be an Artist by Jerry Saltz
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