Suppose you were really bad at most school subjects. You had a hard time learning to read and couldn’t memorize the times tables. But, suppose you were really good at art, really good. Artist Chuck Close was that kid. He was dyslexic before anyone knew what that meant. Despite that, he was also lucky, because a lot of people—especially his parents–believed in his artistic ability and encouraged him to follow his passion. He even managed–with a lot of help–to get into college and attend a prestigious summer art program at Yale University. He became famous for painting gigantic portraits of ordinary people and sometimes other more famous artists he admired. Oh, did I mention that he has a medical condition, prosopagnosia, commonly called “face blindness?” That means he has a lot of trouble remembering people—what they look like or their names—even if he sees them every day. Then there was “The Event,” a collapsed artery in his spine that left him paralyzed from the neck down when he was 48 and rising to the very top of the modern art world. And yet he persevered. He triumphed.
He’s taught college art courses, married, has two daughters, has received numerous accolades for his work and last year, in 2011, Chuck Close was appointed by Barack Obama to The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Not too bad for a boy who might not have amounted to much and still needs to use dominoes to add or subtract.
Because this is an autobiography, you’d think that perhaps Mr. Close has written to crow about his accomplishments. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Set up in a question/answer format, Close has made an effort to address the inquiries of children about his art and life in a quiet, matter-of-fact manner. A truly remarkable feat of design, a type of “book within a book”, is a 20-or-so page “flip book” in the center. Well known for his self portraits, Close has chosen to show them rather than write about them in a way the readers can interchange portraits in varying styles and media to make a completely different work.
Much like Close’s life, his book is a tour de force. It can be read and appreciated by children and adults alike and I certainly hope it will be.
Posted by: Eileen