Jerry Saltz

Jerry was pleasantly surprised by Sarah Jessica Parker during the crit.

on Nov 3, 2011

On to the taping: I love this week’s challenge. Each artist is asked to respond to a work of art made by a child (on hand in the studio) with one of his or her own. This simple challenge works wonders, lifting all the contestants out of their comfort zones. Iffy artists step up; good ones get better; bad ones bottom out. I later learn that this challenge was SJP’s idea, and that she linked the show up with the extraordinary Studio in the School art program.

The scenes of artists at work in their studios are revealing. Not knowing what to do, Sara J. asks her kid, “Have you ever heard of exquisite corpse?” (I can only imagine what the kid was thinking.) I totally love it when Michelle asks whether she’s allowed to touch them -- meaning the kids, not the art. When her inner ghoul talks to her child about “swans pecking people’s eyes out,” I really perk up. I dig Lola and Young’s discomfort with their children. Young jumps the conceptual-art shark, asking his child, “Would you mind if I abstracted your idea?” Lola stares at her kid like it’s an alien (generally my mode of behavior in these situations). Some artists go gaga. Schoolteacher Dusty is a natural. Kymia somehow gets her reticent kid to spin an elaborate backstory for her drawing, and ends up rocking the house with a wonderful Grimm’s fairy tale foray into fantasy, horror, overeating, and innocence.

God help me, I even find myself sweet on Sucklord, who for one second drops his act and shows his inner sap, saying of his kid, “She’s just like me, a little super-villain.” Maybe this is why Lola says, “Even a Sucklord can be cute.” Speaking of Lola: gigantic fame alert! She tells the camera that, while she was growing up, her mom dated Al Pacino for ten years. No wonder I sometimes think Lola’s chakras are easily stressed, and that may help to explain something that happens to her work this week. In the studio, she’s making a fantastic Henry Darger–style drawing that tells me she has a real way of lacing together drawing, imagination, inner life, and intricate ideas. Yet as soon as Simon says he doesn’t get what she’s doing, she begins again, just like that. Lola! Artists! You gotta know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em. Or whatever it is. Shaken, she makes a crappy pastel flower piece that, lucky for her, doesn’t get her voted off the island.