Uniquely cool. Shop our new patterned styles.

Episode 9
The MacArthur Fellows Program at 40 with Curator Abby Winograd and Remembering Chuck Close

  • 2 min read

Episode Description

1:01 - Abby Winograd, the MacArthur Fellows Program 40th Anniversary Exhibition Curator at the University of Chicago Smart Museum of Art, discusses her work organizing the multi-site exhibition “Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40” and an accompanying museum exhibit at the Smart Museum of Art.

39:45 - Craig takes a look at the life of Chuck Close


Craig: [00:00:10] This is art, since a podcast focus on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. First up this week is my conversation with Abby Winograd, the MacArthur Fellows Program 40th anniversary exhibition curator at the University of Chicago Smart Museum of Art. Winograd discusses her work organizing the multi-site exhibition toward common calls Art Social Change in the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40 and an accompanying museum exhibit at the Smart Museum of Art in Segment two. I'll be taking a look at the life of Chuck Close, but first up, the MacArthur Fellows program at 40.

Craig: [00:00:59] Abby Winograd, thank you for joining me today on the podcast. Abby, let me let me ask. Let's start here. I'm not sure that everyone knows about the history and the mission of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Can you kind of give folks kind of a general overview before we start kind of diving deeper on exactly the work that you've been partaking in?

Abby: [00:01:22] Sure. I mean, I don't work directly for the MacArthur Foundation, so I don't know that much about it. Actually, I do know a little bit when I can say is that the MacArthur Foundation was started think well over 50 years ago. John Dean himself was an insurance magnate.

Show More >
Craig: [00:01:38] My research says that he was into insurance and had some real estate holdings.

Abby: [00:01:42] And right, so so he and I believe he didn't have any heirs, direct heirs. So he just he was convinced to set up a charitable foundation. And so the MacArthur Foundation really is a kind of a massive organization that does investment all over the world and in various kind in various areas. But, you know, one of the oldest and most important, you know, philanthropic organizations in the United States, I think you could really think of them, their peer institutions, as you know, the Ford Foundation and Mellon and these kind of older foundations that have been around for a long time. And the fellows program is unique within within the fellows or within the MacArthur Foundation itself. It's it's not technically a grant making body. It is because the fellowships are not grants. There are no strings attached. They award people with extraordinary creativity who they believe can make a difference in the world and and that it's also unique in that it's not, you know, discipline specific, right? Macarthur Fellows receive the award for work that you know, spans the sciences to the visual arts and all things in between. So it's a really kind of unique, unique gift in that you know what they provide. What they try to provide is a platform for creative individuals to both elevate the work that they do to bring more visibility, to work that they do, but to give them either the financial freedom to do that work without other, without other distraction or, you know, a financial assignment, the financial support to do work that they might not otherwise be able to do. And like I said, it's a it's a no strings attached gift.

Abby: [00:03:40] So for those of us that work with organizations like the MacArthur Foundation who apply for grants and, you know, rely on philanthropy to support the work that we do, you know there is there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into meeting the meeting, the requirements of those gifts, reporting, you know, corresponding with corresponding with a funder and the fellows program is is entirely hands off, which is a really interesting model and a really, you know, a generous model. And what I did try to do was to use the kind of generosity of the fellowship to as a model for the exhibition to kind of think about how the project itself could be a platform for sharing the work of artists broadly in the city of Chicago and potentially trying to reach a nontraditional contemporary art audience. And what I mean by that is, you know, folks who wouldn't necessarily go out of their way to see a contemporary art exhibition. So to think about how how that could be a potential model for for making the work of the the artists that we were working with more visible, but also to think about the partnerships that we developed with organizations as a way to support the work of those organizations as well and to make all of the work that we did to the best of our ability, you know, mutually beneficial and real and to therefore establish real partnerships with. In order to do that, we had to establish real partnerships with with the folks who were working with both artists and institutions.

Speaker1: [00:05:37] The exhibit is toward common cause art, social change and the MacArthur Fellows program at 40. Basically, the fellowship programs, you know, celebrating a 40th anniversary, and you have brought together roughly 29 artists that are creating work for this exhibit. Some of that work is in a Biennale style site, specific installations around Chicago. But there's also a museum exhibit that that accompanies.

Craig: [00:06:10] Correct.

Abby: [00:06:10] Yeah. So I I was approached almost four years ago by the MacArthur Foundation and invited to submit a proposal to them to for an exhibition that would celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Fellows program. And I got a phone call when I got this phone call. I actually hung up the phone and looked at my husband and said, You know, I don't think they realize the kind of opportunity that they were offering because they seemed genuinely unsure of whether I would want to take this on. But obviously, this is an, you know, it's an astonishing group of artists to be given the, you know, the opportunity to work with. I mean, obviously, they had to want to work with me as well, but I obviously so I didn't say no. I jumped at the chance. And you know what they asked me for was an exhibition, you know, that was consonant with the goals of the organization. So thinking very specifically about these ideas that those of us who listen to NPR here on the radio every day, right, that the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is working to create a more just verdant and peaceful universe. So I was I've kept that in mind, but it also was. It was the end of 2017, beginning of 2018 that I was thinking about this project, and it felt like a moment of incredible political urgency, which, you know, looking back on that moment in 2021 feels almost naive to feel like that was the moment of political exigency that that inspired the project. But I really did want to make something that responded to the moment because it felt like we were in a place as a country, if not in the world as a whole, where all of the kind of values and agreed upon set of norms were being called into question yet again.

Abby: [00:08:12] So I I thought quite specifically about a book called Common as Air, which was written by a MacArthur fellow named Louis Hyde, which is essentially a history and defense of the the cultural commons. And so I wanted what I proposed, and what MacArthur accepted was an exhibition that uses the Commons as a thematic umbrella to look at a variety of different subjects. So for really in particular, the natural environment, the built environment, identity and representation and monuments and institutions, and and that was the proposal that I gave them with a list of 20. I think it was 26 or 27 artists at the beginning, which has grown slightly to 29 artists. And you know, the other the other requests they made was for an exhibition that was somewhat decentralized. So thinking about Chicago and the geography of Chicago and kind of the location of cultural institutions in the city, what we what I really wanted to do was move the project into areas of the city that didn't have easy access to cultural cultural resources, which meant thinking about the west sides of the city and the south side of the city. And it also meant, you know, not not relegating ourselves then to traditional museums, but thinking about other types of institutions that could host an art project and then really in hoping to lower the barriers of access as much as possible, trying as as much as we could to partner with organizations that were free or that were publicly accessible in order to make the project, as, you know, visible and culturally, geographically, institutionally diverse as we could.

Craig: [00:10:25] You know, just as I hear you talk about it, I seem overwhelmed by the size and scope of the undertaking because, you know, it's one thing to write a proposal to the foundation, but it's another thing that you know once once you're handed the keys, how did you go about collaborating with the artists? Because there's a bit of, I wouldn't say a prompt, but there is a theme they needed to be able to respond, and I assume that they also had input. There are a lot of these works seem kind of specific to the areas. How did they go about sitting down with you to? To pick out how to make these works the most impactful within within those communities.

Abby: [00:11:04] I mean, I was very much a conversation with artists to start with, and we had the luxury of time to begin with in thinking about, you know, so I was able to call people and say, I'm working on this project. It's not going to open until sometime in the calendar year of 2021. This is why I want this is, you know, this is the prompt. This is the focus or this is the question. The exhibition is trying to ask. But for me, you know, and most of those conversations, the question, you know, the question of the Commons is, like I said, the thematic umbrella. But I was also really wanting to explore, you know, how art responds, how art and artists responds, respond to crisis, right? Because it felt like I said I felt like a moment of crisis. And I was also, you know, I mentioned Lewis Hyde, but I was also at that moment thinking very specifically about Fred Moten and Stefano Harness the Commons. And Fred has since this project started, been made a MacArthur Fellow just by happens. You know that that wasn't planned. Of course it was. It was a happy coincidence. But you know, I was thinking very much about the possibility of resistance because that was the, you know, the buzz word of those those early days of the Trump administration was thinking about this notion of resistance and how you could resist, right? So I that was part of my conversation with artists was to say, you know, if you could propose a project in this moment, what would it be? How how do you think artists respond? Or how would you, as an artist, respond to X, Y or Z? But it was really to start a conversation.

Abby: [00:13:09] And I think that the scale of the project is in part because I was working with a group of folks who don't have small ideas. They have big ideas. And so that was that's, you know, a little bit how the scale of the project grew. It was very organic, an organic response to a conversation that I was having with artists. And it was also, you know, an organic response to finding partners who also wanted to think broadly about what we could do together. And so I would say that it was in part a conversation with artists, but it was also very much a, you know, a kind of matchmaking between organizations that I felt had, you know, thinking about this idea of consonant values that the the organizations that we were working with either had an interest in the kind of work that the artists were doing or they had an interest in the issues that were at the heart of those projects. And so pairing artists with institutions or groups of artists together to have a conversation was the way that I approached this.

Abby: [00:14:33] And and, you know, partnership is really hard, and in almost every instance, these are years long conversations and what we were really very early on myself, our colleagues at the MacArthur Foundation and and my colleagues at the smart who took on this project really very committed to not doing anything that felt like an imposition. So all of the parties involved had to agree that this was something that they wanted to do, that it was something that was valuable and that it was something that was going to leave a legacy that was positive. We didn't want to drop a project into a space and then disappear. That wasn't the goal. And that's obviously much easier said than done. But because you mentioned the biennial as a model, and that is, of course, you know, in some ways, the model here. But I what I wanted to be mindful of in in making a project that was really looking at, you know, questions of racial reckoning and climate crisis, that what we weren't doing was producing something that felt extractive in any way. And if at all possible. Lacks resources behind or left, you know, the seeds of a continued partnership behind or in some way had an afterlife that would that would outlast the exhibitions themselves so that in some way the projects were a starting point rather than an end point

Craig: [00:16:22] When the process started. We couldn't have anticipated exactly how traumatic the last year and a half has been. But I mean, obviously there was there was something there, there were some storm clouds of some sort or, you know, these issues wouldn't have been so, so relevant. You know, did any of the artists decide to change course as the events of the last year and a half unfolded?

Abby: [00:16:49] Yeah, they did. You know, it's interesting because and I've said this to some people recently, the hallmark of a good artist or a great work of art is that they anticipate or in some ways are press, you know, our kind of prescient comment on situations that we are experiencing as a society or individuals, as a community, I very can say very specifically, you know, give you a very specific example, which is, you know, Melle Mel Chin's funded project, which we've brought to Chicago, which Mel wanted to bring to Chicago, which is a project that has looked at a public health crisis that has been a reality for communities, communities of color across the United States for decades, if not a century. That is an entirely manmade crisis of lead contamination led exposure in children, which is a problem that's disproportionately borne by communities of color and low income communities that melt. The foundation of that project for Mal was that this is a public health crisis that's hiding in plain sight, which we don't which the, you know, the country at large are our elected representatives. The government doesn't care enough about to dedicate the infrastructural dollars it would take to address this problem. But then during COVID to understand that that reality, that public health crisis that we're ignoring, we're choosing to ignore also makes communities of color increasingly vulnerable to things like a pandemic that this is a this is a crisis that we are just not paying enough attention to felt, you know, that there's this insidious public health threat, which we ignore.

Abby: [00:18:58] That that gets thrown into relief by COVID is not surprising. It's devastating. And we should all, you know, collectively be ashamed that we live in a country where that's the reality. But Mel has been calling attention to that to that issue for 13 years. So 400 at this moment feels incredibly timely and necessary. But it's not a new project, right? It's it's an existing project. And you can say that about any number of pieces in the show that either were, you know, calling attention to issues of racial violence or issues of economic disenfranchisement, disenfranchisement and economic inequality, or any of the issues that are central to the exhibition. Or, you know, even to this question of monuments, which in twenty eighteen also we were having we had just reached this moment when, you know, the city of New Orleans was decommissioning monuments and there was an incredible conversation, like a national conversation about happening, about that question. But we couldn't have there was no way to know that by 2020, we would be in the grips of a kind of national iconoclasm and that you would be seeing monuments pulled off their pedestals in a way that we in the United States associate with, you know, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the fall, you know, the war in Iraq, but that would be happening in your backyard, you know? All of those things were were percolating and part of the conversation and artists in the show, so, you know, were were responding directly to that.

Abby: [00:21:03] You know, Kerry Mae Weems, for example, really very last year at the, you know, not even last year at the beginning of this year decided to shift what she was doing to really respond to the moment and respond to the context and think about Chicago specifically. But I would say that that, you know, the kind of the urgency across these projects isn't new. It's just that we it feels in a way like the country is catching up to where these artists have been and what they've been trying to show us. So that was also something that felt really, you know, felt both gratifying. But also it's disheartening to to know that there are there are these folks who are trying to draw our attention to these issues. And we're not we're not really listening. So hopefully, you know, I don't know. I don't know if I could be hopeful about where we've turned a corner or anything has changed. Who knows what what this will be, but.

Abby: [00:22:14] So the short answer to your question is yes, there were changes. But I think more and more it's it's more interesting to think about the fact that we didn't have to change so much of of what was in the show for it to feel relevant. And it also, you know, we also made a decision at some point that we were going to do this project and we were going to open it this year, no matter what. So there was a lot of trying to process in real time and make contingency plans for the unknown. So, you know, I'm I'm certain that many of the artists in this show will make work that responds to the last 18 months in a more direct way than it does then than it is right now. Because this is we're all we've all the whole world has gone through an incredible trauma, right of various kinds. So I'm not sure that that making this project in 2021 when the pandemic isn't over. If anything, we're just entering a new phase and what that means none of us really know. But it, you know, in all of those ways, this project is really a, you know, a reflection of of the times and trying to give a platform to people who were sounding alarm bells before we found ourselves here.

Craig: [00:24:05] And that's that's the reason they were MacArthur Fellows to begin with, right? And you know, when I think of MacArthur Fellows, I think of like Rick Lowe and Project Rowhouses or Alfredo Jaar. And you know, these these are guys who create conceptual pieces that inspire change. In many ways, the people are prophets and change agents, right? And sometimes prophets are lauded, and sometimes they're maligned because people don't want to hear necessarily the truth. Right? Yeah. And so this this collection of artists, it's not necessarily market darlings. These are folks that, yes, they may be rewarded within their lifetime, but history is going to see this collection of artists work as being monumental in my mind.

Abby: [00:25:00] Yeah. Well, there is a spectrum here. I mean, there's certainly there are certainly artists on this list who are, you know, what we might define as art stars, right? But I think you know what part of what I also was trying to do and thinking about this list of artists was look at kind of a spectrum of practice. And, you know, very early on, the idea was that the foundational idea here is that, you know, all art is a form of social practice and that that is what happens across the spectrum so that there are artists like Ida, Apple, Berg and Nicole Eisenman and Carrie Jane. Marshall, who have spent decades trying to expand the canon of representation and that that is a form of social practice and it happens in traditional art spaces. But you know that that's foundationally important. You know, I had the privilege of working with Kerry James Marshall on his retrospective when I was an intern or it was a curatorial fellow at the NCA Chicago and continued to work on that project as a research associate. And you know, one of the things that that project taught me was how, you know, fundamental representation within institutions is so I wanted to make sure that there was that kind of a presence. But then, like you said on the other end of that spectrum are the Malkin's and the reclose. And Wendy Ewald sees these kind of artists who are doing work that's deeply embedded in community and that's produced with, you know, that's context specific, that's produced by community through community engagement, but that all of these types of artistic practice are fundamentally committed to an idea of that that art is is capable of creating social change in various ways.

Abby: [00:27:26] And I do, you know, the reason that I'm a curator is because I fundamentally believe that art has the power to change things and that the, you know, the visual encounter the esthetic encounter is capable of, of changing the way people see. And if you can change the way people see, then you can change. You can have a different kind of conversation. You know, it's obviously an incredibly cliche, things to think, to say, right? But there's a reason that cliches exist. So there's a million of them, right? Seeing is believing in a picture is worth a thousand words. And and all of those things are, I think, you know, embedded in this fundamental, fundamentally fundamental true, this fundamentally true thing, which is that, you know, the encounter with an an art object is unlike anything else. And so wouldn't it be interesting to give all of these artists this platform, this prompt and to then presented in aggregate and see see what comes of it? So I don't know if that's exactly the response, but you know, it's something like that.

Craig: [00:28:49] As the exhibition winds down, will there be a transition from the curation to the archiving of this sort of work? How do you wind down something like this?

Abby: [00:29:01] Well, hopefully we don't. So some I mean, some of these like we we actually, because of one of the other COVID realities that we faced was a like a purely somewhat boring logistical challenge of scheduling. So we actually ended up rather than having a kind of concentrated opening as we had planned in July, really three waves of projects. So we had a small cluster of of exhibitions that opened in the beginning of the summer end of May, beginning of June. You know, the bulk of the exhibition then opened in July, but we do have six or seven more projects that are going to be going up at the end the beginning of September, in the beginning of the fall. So some of that is to coincide with the school year in the city of Chicago. And, you know, working the education team at the smart, which is incredible, as is working with teachers all over the city to and developing lesson plans based on the exhibition. So some because many of the projects are up through December. So we hope that it's a resource for students and teachers and folks in the fall. But there are also a couple of exhibitions then that are actually geared specifically towards, you know, either they have been produced in in collaboration with students like the work that Wendy Ewald is doing or is something that is specifically targeted to a kind of a school aged audience.

Abby: [00:30:42] So we're doing a project with a social service organization on the west side of Chicago called DBF Family Services, which is. After school programs, so that project since that building is occupied by schoolchildren, after they come, after the school day is over. It made more sense to open that project to coincide with the beginning of the school year. So the in part the answer is we have more that's going up and that we'll actually have exhibitions that are up into 2022 and we are starting, you know, we have had, but our starting also to really get into programing which because of the nature of the exhibition we think is really central to. It's not kind of the it's not we're not we didn't program in a way that we felt like I was know would come after the exhibition. But really, in some ways, it's integral to the projects and conversations that are happening in the project. So I do think of the programmatic structure that we have for the exhibition as part of the exhibition itself. So that will be ongoing. We have. And then there are the projects that hopefully have really rooted and will continue and the relationships that will continue. So, you know, the work that we are doing with Rick Lowe, of course, Black Wall Street journey. We think of this as the first iteration of that project. It was launched as part of Toward Common Cause, but it doesn't end with toward common cause.

Abby: [00:32:15] And so those kinds of projects and there are a handful don't end in December when the majority of the show closes. And then you know this, the answer to the other part of the question is Yes, we are. You know, this has been very much about process, so we don't have a definitive answer about what the legacy project of this looks like because we need to see what happens as an outcome of what we've started. And hopefully, like Black Wall Street journey, it will. Some of these projects will either route themselves in Chicago or result in future collaborations. Who knows what we'll see moving forward? And so we are, you know, thinking very, very specifically right now about about how to document what has happened. And that's also, you know, in thinking about the biennial model, I'm thinking about the exhibition model. You know, we made a decision early on to not produce a catalog, for example, that would be available for the opening of the exhibition because so much of this work was in progress and because of the conversation around the project was so important that whatever we produced as a kind of, you know, an analog document needed to come after things have closed. So that's a conversation that we're continuing. And like I said, we just I'm not sure what exactly that looks like yet, but we're thinking it through.

Craig: [00:33:56] Sure. And I guess part of what I hear there is that if the artists accomplish what they hope to accomplish, that there won't necessarily be a hard and fast ending to this, that these things will take root and bear fruit in some ways have impact and legacy within the Chicago community.

Abby: [00:34:13] Yeah. And within the Chicago community. But potentially beyond that, you know, the work that we've done with Inigo Mangano is is part of a series that he's been, that he has done and would like to continue to do so. Thinking about the relationship of the well series and the hydrant in Chicago to potentially to future projects is something we're thinking about that that the artist and I are thinking about, you know, but also so. So I think that there are potentially, you know, yes, there are projects that are very Chicago specific and we hope have future, you know, expressions in the city. You know, we've we've developed relationships with institutions and between artists and institutions that we hope are ongoing. And and I'm here to facilitate that if I can. But there's also, you know, I'm certain there will be unintended and unexpected results that are unexpected, you know, happy coincidences or happy accidents or, you know, things that are follow on from this, which have an impact in the city, but but also beyond the city and beyond the project? Absolutely.

Craig: [00:35:43] So if folks wanted to keep an eye on the project and your work there in. How the specific projects are, you know, the nature of them and how they're progressing. Is there a website where someone can go and learn more about what each artist is working on?

Abby: [00:36:00] Yeah, absolutely. So the project has a website that's toward common cause. Org and which has, you know, artist specific, venue specific project specific information for all of these artists and all of the venues. And you can see that's also where we're archiving the conversations or programs that come out of the exhibition. There's teacher resources. There's information about how to get involved in specific projects and how to get involved with the causes related to specific projects, and all of that is centralized in that place.

Craig: [00:36:42] Abby, I really appreciate your time today. I admire so much the work you've done and the work you are doing, and I can't. I have to be honest and say that I'm jealous of the opportunity you have to, you know, to put this project together. It just it seems like a dream, and I really appreciate you taking time out of this busy schedule in the middle of all of it to talk to us about it. And I really appreciate your time.

Abby: [00:37:09] I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about it. And I apologize if I rambled, Oh no, no, it's really been, you know, I am. I feel incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity. It is certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity and given the events of the last 18 months. But you know, really what the last four years have been, I have been given the incredible privilege of working with just some of. The most, you know, all of these people, incredible people, so I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it and I appreciate you taking the time and reaching out, and it was it was my it was an absolute pleasure. Well, thank you.

Craig: [00:37:56] So I've been talking a lot in these spots about how my Canvia is great for finding art, learning about art, displaying art, historic works all the way up to NFTs, which you can view directly from your crypto wallet, click on your NFT, see it on your Canvia. But did you know that your Canvia is also great for viewing collectibles? A few months back, I jumped on the NBA Top Shot bandwagon and started collecting moments. Moments are NBA Top Shots version of a video trading card that reflects a particular play by a particular player in a particular game. Like any collectible, quantities are limited. I was lucky enough to obtain and sell a pretty valuable moment, which is funded by further collecting on the platform. So now I have 20 or so of these moments in the cool thing about my Canvia is that those moments can now move from the NBA Top Shot website and onto my wall via my Canvia. So just tonight, I downloaded a moment from one of my favorite hometown players and started playing it on my Canvia. The process took about 10 seconds, and since the 16 by nine aspect ratio of the full HD, Canvia is the same as the aspect ratio of the top shot moments. The collectible looks amazing on my wall. So if you want to learn more about Canvia and all the device has to offer. Head over to Canvia Dot Art and check it out. And now a look back at the life of Chuck Close. The art world lost one of its biggest names this week with the passing of Chuck Close Close, who is eighty one, died of congestive heart failure at a hospital in Oceanside, New York.

Craig: [00:39:57] He'll be remembered for the scale of his work, his willingness to experiment with materials in his resilience in the face of a health event that left him a quadriplegic for the last thirty three years of his life. He was a native of the Pacific Northwest and studied art at the University of Washington in the early sixties, before obtaining his MFA from Yale, where he was classmates with the likes of Brice Martin, Richard Serra, Nancy Graves and Robert Mangold. Close was poised to follow a path of Abstract Expressionism, but challenged himself to produce a monumental work without the use of brushes that black and white. Seven foot by nine foot aptly named Big Self-Portrait portrayed close, irreverent, confident in cigaret dangling and his lips. He had used an airbrush and assorted unconventional materials to obtain a heightened sense of photorealism. The painting was acquired by the Walker Art Center in nineteen sixty nine and close never looked back. What followed was a string of giant canvases initially in black and white, but then in color, he would painstakingly paint his photorealistic color portraits in thin layers of cyan, magenta, yellow and black, as if he were an offset printing press. I remember running into one of these iconic pieces years ago when meandering through the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago. It had been installed just around the corner from Charles America windows. There was just something about 60 plus square feet of someone's face that makes you take notice.

Craig: [00:41:34] I admired the craftsmanship necessary to pull off the photorealism. I remember being taken aback by the size of the subject's paws. But like all photo realism, you eventually reach a point where you ask yourself why? Why spend months or even years creating something that can more easily be printed from the original source photograph? If we're close, you'd have to ask yourself, why faces? Why these faces? Turns out, many of closest models were artists in their own right. One muse that said form time and time again was composer Philip Glass. Now, Glass certainly has an interesting face, but it's more than that. I believe close love the idea of immortalizing these members of his tribe. It has close later explained these portraits helped him cope with his face blindness by flattening the features of these friends and giving him a better chance of recognizing them in the future. To accomplish these works, close needed to not just be a painter, but also a photographer. He became astute with the camera. The large format cameras that provide the most vivid details he would even on occasion, shoot with the extra large twenty by twenty four inch Polaroid cameras. At the core of his process was the grid, a process called squaring used for centuries by artists to scale up their small concepts to much larger work by marking a grid of squares on the source material and a grid of much larger squares on the painting surface. This was part of Close's practice from the time of those first large scale portraits.

Craig: [00:43:14] However, evidence of the grid would be obscured to maintain the hyper realism, but the grid became an integral visible part of Close's work. After his near-death experience in December of nineteen eighty eight, in what Close called the event, he suffered a spinal artery collapse, which left him confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life as a quadriplegic, unable to grasp brushes. He would spend the rest of his life strapping them to his wrist and coaxing the paint. With the use of both arms confined to his chair, he could no longer move around the canvas, so he commissioned mechanisms that would raise lower and rotate his paintings so that the next square on the grid was within reach. This period produced the work that is most iconically chuck close large, realistic portraits broken into squares, squares filled with abstract and concentric shapes of color that, upon optical mixing, provided a portrait that was not only a strong lightness but had a texture in energy his works never had before close to always seem to be in the public eye. He was an ardent supporter of the arts in New York City and was a regular at a host of art venues. If you search for close on YouTube, you'll find a wide range of documentaries and news stories which chronicled his work, his process and his candor. His candor was a double edged sword. His candor made him exciting to listen to. But it also contributed to a host of sexual harassment claims. More than six women came forward to major media outlets with claims of sexual harassment by close at various points over two decades.

Craig: [00:45:03] The stories shared many common themes. The women told stories of meeting clothes while studying art at Yale and being asked to come to a studio under the guise of posing for one of his big faced portraits. Once there, he would make vulgar comments to them while trying to convince them to pose nude. Close lost his position on the school's Deans council as a result of the allegations. Some think this unacceptable behavior may have been tied to his 2015 diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia. This particular brain disease causes a deterioration of the prefrontal cortex. This is the same part of the brain that is not fully developed until twenty four years old. Therefore, leading teenagers to make poor decisions, say stupid things and think they're indestructible. It's the part of your brain that provides discretion. Now, whether this contributed to Close's inappropriate behavior will never be known. But despite this dark mark on his resume, Chuck Close is a favorite in introductory art classrooms all over the country because of his physical limitations. Close had proven that old adage that one could actually eat an elephant of a painting by focusing on one small bite at a time. And that's a vital lesson for students who see the challenges of figuration as being insurmountable. I'd like to wrap up this segment remembering Chuck Close with Chuck's own words from a two thousand twelve segment on CBS This Morning called Note to Self produced by Paige Shindig and edited by Shilpi Gupta.

Chuck: [00:46:51] This is a note to myself at age 14. I was in the eighth grade and was told not to even think about going to college. I couldn't add or subtract. Never could memorize the multiplication tables was advised against taking algebra, geometry, physics, chemistry since I was good with my hands. I was advised to aim for trade school, perhaps body and fender work. Never let anyone define what you are capable of. By using parameters that don't apply to you. I applied to a junior college in my hometown with open enrollment, but got in and embarked on a career in the visual arts. Virtually everything I've done is influenced by my learning disabilities. I think I was driven to paint portraits to commit images of friends and family to memory. I face blindness, and once a face is flattened out, I can remember it much better. Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get the work. Every great idea I've ever had. Grew out of work itself. Sign on to a process and see where it takes you. You don't have to reinvent the wheel every day.

Chuck: [00:48:31] Today you'll do what you did yesterday. Tomorrow you'll do what you did today. Eventually, you will get somewhere. No one gets anywhere without help. Mentors, including your parents, can make you feel special even when you are failing in other areas. Everyone needs to feel special. My father died when I was 11, and that was the tragedy of my life, a horrible thing to happen when you're so young. Oddly enough, there was a gift in this tragedy. I learned very early in life that the absolute worst thing can happen to you and you will get past it and you will be happy again. Losing my father at tender age was extremely important in being able to accept what happened to me later when I became a quadriplegic. If you're overwhelmed by the size of a problem. Break it down into mini bite sized pieces. Quadriplegics don't envy the able bodied we envy paraplegics, we think they've got a much easier row to hoe. There is always someone worse off than you. I am confident that no artist has more pleasure.

Chuck: [00:50:14] Day in and day out

Chuck: [00:50:16] From what he or she does. Than I do.

Craig: [00:50:36] That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to art since you can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rates show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. If you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read a transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to Canvia Art. You can click on the podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me, you can email me at Craig at Canvia. Art, thanks for listening.

< Show Less