Saturday, December 1, 2007

Chuck Close

Perhaps the most frustrating thing to me about being a dumb filmmaker is the lack of opportunities I get to practice my craft. I just can't wake up in the morning and announce that today I am going to make film. Like Blanche Dubois, I am dependent on the kindness of strangers (well-paid teamsters, SAG members, and other crew types.) I don't know if I would be a better filmmaker if I had more opportunities, but I certainly would be a different kind of filmmaker. I would really like to explore different visual styles and techniques.

All of this brings me to Chuck Close the photographer and portraitist, one of his self-portraits appears here. For more than thirty years Close has explored different versions of the same form. Typically he takes a photograph of his subject and then creates a grid on a canvas and paints huge portraits from the picture. Over the years his method has remained the same, but his style has changed.

Earlier in his career his portraits were photorealistic. Stunning giant portraits of his subjects that worked on the viewer differently from various distances. By the time you get close to a nine-foot tall face you see it very differently than from across the room. Today his portraits are much more abstract- see above- yet he still works within this same process of taking a photograph and creating a grid. Close's paintings take months to complete but they all start with that 1/100th of a second image which captures his subject and over the years he has returned to the the original photographs to make new portraits. I am envious that he can return to the same source material and create new works of art while exploring new artistic territory.

To me his process has many benefits. Everyday he can work on little pieces of his paintings. Each square of his grid becomes a mini-painting with its own abstract style. He can stop the work and return to it on and off for weeks. Each grid builds positively on itself and over time he has a finished portrait. The key here is belief in the process. Close has created a system which works for him and within that system he is free to change his style.

One final thing about Chuck Close. About 20 years ago he had a major stroke that rendered him paralyzed from the shoulders down. Since then he has done all of this work from a wheel chair with a paint brush strapped to his wrist.



D said...

Talking about viewing from different distances. Towards the end of Monet's life he was quite blind and when you look at some of his Water Lillie paintings they look all a blur, you need to get back at least 20 feet before you can see the beauty of the painting.


PeterH said...

Right you are D. And like Chuck Close he also explored the same subject matter at different times. His haystack series comes to mind.


denise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jolenesiah said...

I salute Chuck Close.. he do not let his physical inability to stop him from doing something he love...