Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chuck Close: The Invincible Magician

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If you've ever had the pleasure of standing in front of one of Chuck Close's (1940-) enormous portraits, there is that feeling of magic. When you stand near, it is a jumble of small colored shapes. The mind's eye sees no specific image, but stand back and there it is. The viewer's eyes blend the colorful shapes and a face appears - a portrait of someone. It is like the magic of an illusionist.

The magic doesn't end with the portrait for there is something else. Chuck Close has "face blindness" ("Prosopagnosia" in medicalese) How is it possible that someone who cannot distinguish faces is a famous portraitist?

Close says that he can only recognize faces when they are static. It is a problem of recognition in 3-dimension. As Close describes, "... move your head one half inch and its a face I've never seen before." Naturally, Close does not paint portraits from life, but rather from photographs. That's not the last of the magic...

...after spinal artery collapse left Close paralyzed, he learned to paint again by strapping a brush to his wrist. In his wheelchair, he is elevated up to scaffolding where the canvas is raised as he paints to a finished size of 9 feet x 7 feet! One painting may take him 6 months as he interprets a photo into a series of small colored areas on a very large canvas.

How does he do it all? I'd say he's a magician with an invincible spirit.

9 comments:

  1. I've seen Chuck Close's work in a museum. It's astonishing to stand away from the painting and a portrait seems to emerge. There's a film that was done about him. Len

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  2. Wow! It's way on beyond pointillism and pixels. How does he "see" in his mind how the different shapes and colors will appear from a distance? I've never understood how extremely large paintings are done up close. It is magic for those of us who tend to work in tiny detail. SZ

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  3. This artist is new to me, but what a 'wow' impact. I too have wondered how an artist can work so large close up and make it look like it does from a distance. I am definetly interested in learning more about Chuck Close. Thanks for sharing this wondrous information about an unusual artist.

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  4. Wow! What a wonder! MAR

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  5. I don't think I exaggerated when I referred to him as an inspiration.

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  6. Unbelievable!! FAB

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  7. This is amazing. A true test of what an artist can do even with limited physical ability. Makes my excuses seem irrelevant!!

    Sherryce

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  8. He's amazing!! Thanks, Connie.

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  9. Thanks for your great blogs...the face-blind painter is just amazing...really blows me away.
    Jackie

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