The task of defining art and artists will forever collide with dissent, argument, and debate; inevitably concluding with a wide array of opinions. Art’s strong relationship with our diverse human culture and identity, and concurrently its correlation with the ever progressive evolution of our customs and traditions, adhere to an ethos of complete subjectivity. It’s the proverbial Gershwinian quandary, “you say tomato, I say tomahto.” Yet there is a continually growing list of art and artists that upon examination compile definitive examples of the concept. I present to you such a model in Jerry Winsett and his burgeoning artistic accolades. Chapter One of Robert Berson’s text book Responding to Art offers that, “Today, an artist denotes a person whose creations embody technical skill as well as intellectual knowledge, inventiveness, and personal vision.” After skimming through the long list of Jerry’s varied accomplishments as an actor, writer, and singer many would quickly approve him as a noteworthy exemplar of an artist. Just reading about his work can embody the skill, intellect, and creativity he encompasses, but it was a conversation in a Wilmington, North Carolina coffee shop where I discovered his personal vision.
Jerry himself states that the reason he became an actor was because he wasn’t good at anything else. His roots can be traced to his home state of Tennessee where he was elected President of the Alpha Psi Omega honorary dramatics fraternity at Austin Peay State University, and later performed at Theatre Nashville, Ensemble Theater Company and Opryland USA. A move to New York would lead to nightclub, comedy club, and off Broadway productions, but it was a job as professional Animal Behaviorist at Mystic Marinelife Aquarium and later The Bronx Zoo that would solidify his career as a performing artist. Jerry never considered the training he did with chimps, dolphins and other “critters” along with their ensuing routine as art, more as just.