A Closer Look at Chuck Close
At a new show, Close’s intense gaze sees more deeply than most—even if it’s hard for him to see himself
By Tim Appelo
February 8, 2017
Chuck Close’s “Self-Portrait” stands out even among the big names (Gauguin, Francis Bacon, Seurat) in the Pivot Art and Culture show A Closer Look: Portraits from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, because it reveals his troubled sense of self.
How do we know? At the dawn of his fame, the painter and photographer told us so in a 1981 interview with Seattle (then called Pacific Northwest). He’s had a chip on his shoulder ever since his Everett junior high teacher tried to keep him out of college and make him a car mechanic, because of his dyslexia. “She was a strong motivating force,” Close said in that early interview. “I guess you could say I owe it all to her.” He sent her his University of Washington and Yale School of Art diplomas, and joined the world art pantheon in 1968, when he discovered portraiture. He has prosopagnosia (face blindness), so he can’t recognize even friends, and his self-portraits have unsettled him. “Things I didn’t like about myself, the way I looked, were enlarged, [so] they were impossible to ignore. Somebody said I had lima-bean nostrils. It was a painful kind of experience.” But as this show, which closes this month, demonstrates, Close’s intense gaze sees more deeply than most—even if it’s hard for him to see himself. Through 2/26. Tuesday–Sunday 10 a.m.–6 p.m., $5. SLU, Pivot Art and Culture, 609 Westlake Ave. N; 206.342.2710; pivotartandculture.org