"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chuck Close Face Book

Chuck Close Face Book by Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012.

This book provides an excellent introduction to the artist Chuck Close and his work. If you are unfamiliar with him, as I pretty much was, you should first know that the subject of his art is always the face, usually his own, his friends' or other artist's that he admires. He uses many different processes to create his portraits, and they are typically extremely large, sometimes more than ten feet tall. Close has used methods such as silkscreen, woodcut printing, etching, and more, even using stamp pad ink and his fingerprints to produce his art!  Although many of his portraits appear "pixelated," he does all of his work by hand, and was using a grid method well before digital photography familiarized most of us with the concept of pixels.

 Readers will be interested to learn of the challenges Close has faced in his artistic journey. As a young person in the 1940s and 50s, he was "severely disabled." He had unrecognized dyslexia and was unable to learn math. He had "face blindness" and was literally unable to recognize others. And he had neuromuscular problems that made him nonathletic. However, he discovered he was better at art than other kids in his class, enough so that he put all his energy into it. Later, as an established and lauded artist, he had a vein in his spine collapse, paralyzing him from the chest down at age 48. Still, he was determined to keep on painting, even if he had to spit it on the canvas. This attitude, along with the effort of physical therapy, has allowed him to continue to paint.

 After a intriguing introduction, the book's text is questions from children and Mr. Close's answers. Some are: "Why do you only paint faces?", "Where did you get the idea to use a grid?", and "Why doesn't anyone in your art smile?". Fourteen self portraits provide a sampling of his art, in full color where appropriate. These are cut into thirds so that the reader can flip the pieces and mix and match the sections of Close's face. His portraits of other models are displayed throughout the book, including one of Bill Clinton, his first instantly recognizable face. A timeline of Close's life, a resource list and a glossary round out this well produced offering.

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