What advice would your 80-year-old self give you? That is the question artist Susan O'Malley, who was herself to die far too young, asked more than a hundred ordinary people of every age, from every walk of life. She then transformed their responses into vibrant text-based images. From a prompt to do things that matter to your heart, to a reminder that it's okay to have sugar in your tea, these are calls to action and words to live by—heartfelt, sometimes humorous, and always fiercely compassionate. This stirring celebration of our collective humanity unveils the wisdom we hold inside ourselves right now.
About the Author
Susan O'Malley (1976–2015) was an internationally exhibited artist and curator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. As curator and print center director at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, she worked with hundreds of artists and organized more than fifty exhibitions and public programs. As an artist, she made work that brings a sense of interconnectedness into our lives, from conversations with strangers to installations in public places. The impact of her work has traveled far and wide. O'Malley's artwork has been exhibited in public projects across the United States—San Francisco, New York, Nashville—and around the globe in the United Kingdom, Poland, and Denmark. She exhibited at alternative spaces and cultural institutions including, in California, the Montalvo Art Center, Kala Art Institute, and Palo Alto Art Center, as well as the Contemporary Art Museum (Houston, TX), and the Parthenon Museum (Nashville, TN). Her participatory installation Finding Your Center, a collaboration with Leah Rosenberg, was recently featured in Bay Area Now 7 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and her project A Healing Walk is permanently installed at Villa Montalvo. The powerful optimism of her work lives on.
" 'Since death alone is certain, and the time of death uncertain, what should I do?' So goes an ancient Tibetan meditation, intended to use our mortality as a clarifying force of guidance in how we live our lives. A modern-day take on this question was at the heart of a wonderful project by artist and curator Susan O'Malley, who asked a hundred ordinary people between the ages of seven and eighty-eight what advice their 80-year-old selves would give to their present-day selves." —Brain Pickings—-
"Advice from My 80-Year-Old Self is a brilliant and winsome inversion of that quintessentially twenty-first-century genre, the self-help book. Rather than looking inward, O'Malley reaches outward—to others, strangers, friends. She turns introspective reflection into a resolutely collective and communitarian experience. The accumulated words of advice become forms of visual communication, somewhere between interview and social campaign, conversation and agitprop: lay off the cigars; friends before screen time; i told you so; life is short make it good. The voices gathered here display incredible wit, sincerity, and generosity; we are lucky to be able to listen to them." —Michelle Kuo, Artforum—-
"From an 8-year-old boy's admonition to 'listen to your mom, be friendly to people, don't pull people's hair' to an 85-year-old woman's counsel to 'stay in touch with your friends,' everyone, regardless of age, can take something away from this uplifting work." —RealSimple.com—-
"O'Malley solicited advice from strangers of all ages and turned it into larger-than-life truisms—both emptying and adding meaning." —Miranda July—-