Art Lesson Video

Uploaded by Kreauxm on 21.02.2010

It's Sunday Morning on CBS and here again is Charles Osgood.
Osgood: Stepping back from these small squares of paint reveals a self-portrait of the artist, Chuck Close.
Stepping into Close's studio reveals an artist of phenomenal talent and great physical courage. Come see for yourself.
A circle here. A heart shape there. Could there be hidden meaning in these images?
Close: The building blocks of my paintings are not symbolic, they don't stand for anything.
Osgood: Everyday, Chuck Close paints little squares.
Close: And it's a little bit like an architect picking a brick, you stack up the bricks one way you get a cathedral, you stack up the bricks another way and you get a gas station
Osgood: But take a step back and it becomes clear this is no gas station. Over four decades, Chuck Close has been reinventing the art of the portrait.
Even though for almost two of those decades he's done it confined to a wheelchair. More on that shortly.
Close: So here's where all the decisions are made. I mean literally at this distance, I never go back,
I know from years and years of experience what four or five or six of these colors will do from a distance
Osgood: He starts every painting the same way, with a photograph.
Do you number these? --> Yeah --> So you know which square?
Close: If you look at the photograph, every square here will become four squares in the painting.
There is no drawing on the canvas other than the grid. I never draw a nose; I never draw a lip or anything like that.
Osgood: We first visited Chuck Close in 1981. He was working out on an exercise bicycle in his New York studio.
Our visit was during his photorealism period. Close's paintings were so real, some viewers thought they were looking at photographs.
And they were big, really big. The first painting Close sold was a nine-foot picture of himself, blemishes and all.
Close: There's all kinds of evidence embedded in the person's face as to what kind of life they've led. So it's sort of a road map of their life.
If they've laughed their whole lives they have laugh lines, if they've frowned their whole lives they have furrows in their brow.
Osgood: But when Sunday Morning visited Chuck Close again, in 1991, the road map of his life had taken an unexpected turn. He could barely walk.
Three years earlier at age 49, a blood clot had formed in an artery leading to his spine. For weeks he couldn't move any part of his body below his shoulders.
He feared he would never paint again.
Close: I was scared to death, scared to death. I think I always thought I was going to make it. I was scared of living trapped in a body that didn't work.
Osgood: His wife convinced doctors that encouraging him to paint again would help her husband recover physically and mentally.
Close: We began to work with my occupational therapist in the hospital, trying to get orthotic devices,
something I could use to hold a brush and they built me a wheelchair accessible easel and I used occupational therapy for what I thought it was supposed to be,
a way to get back to your occupation. And I started to paint while I was still in the hospital.
Osgood: Today, you can find Chuck Close painting is his Bridgehampton, Long Island studio or at his second studio in New York City.
His ability to walk has all but vanished, a brace supports his arm, his brushes are held by a strap on his hand,
and he now paints with his entire arm, not just his wrist and fingers. And there are other adjustments.
Close: And that goes up and down so that I'm always at the right height.
Osgood: Has your work suffered or has it in some ways ripened and gotten better?
Close: What's changed is perhaps a slightly brighter palette, a more celebratory nature to the work because I was just so happy to be able to get back to work and to find a way to work again.
The other thing is, is that there's so many other things that I used to love to do that I put a lot of time and energy into,
I used to mow the lawn, I cut brush, and dig holes, and chop out trees, and walk on the beach, and roughhouse with my kids and all of this stuff that I can't do anymore.
Thankfully, if I'm only going to be able to still do something that I used to do, I'm pretty lucky that it turned out to be painting.
Osgood: His family is the center of his life. He likes to paint them.
His wife, Leslie.
His daughters Georgia and Maggie.
He also paints his friends, including many other artists. Close says his paintings have evolved, moving away from super-realism to focus more on abstract elements in the face.
Osgood: Occasionally does somebody look at what you've done and say, be mad that you've done what you have to their face?
Close: Ohh, almost always. Almost everybody hates the way they look,
some people immediately change the way they look, grow a beard if they didn't have one or shave it off if they did,
but I would say just wait another 10 or 15 years and you won't mind, you won't hate it so much.
Osgood: Which may be why Close remains his own favorite subject.
You've done so many self-portraits.
Close: Yes. I've never thought of them as a bodied work until recently there was a retrospective of only self-portraits.
And then I thought, "Oh my God, how narcissistic, how incredibly self involved and egotistical. Even I'm tired of me and I don't want to see another image of myself."
Osgood: In recent years, Close has begun to focus on photography. He uses the earliest form of capturing an image, daguerreotypes.
Close: It's exactly the same process as 1840 and in my opinion photography never got any better than it was at the very beginning. Everything I love is already there.
Osgood: And the bigger, the better. Last fall, corporate giant United Technologies displayed an assortment of Close's images in a New York park.
Close: I wanted to celebrate ordinary people, so I decided to use them because they are so intimate.
Osgood: Chuck Close is 66 now. His work sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars and is shown all over the world.
Twenty years after he almost died, he says he is one of the happiest artists you will ever meet.
Close: There is no artists alive working today who gets more pleasure day in and day out, year in and year out than I do, period. None.
I know there is no man or woman who gets more pleasure than I do.