Chuck Close likes to say that art saved his life. Twice. When he was a kid, dyslexia left him labeled as “dumb,” so he turned to drawing to earn attention. Art came to the rescue again when he was paralyzed later in life and his determination to create helped him through rehabilitation. This dedication to art helped to develop Close’s unique style and talent, allowing him to become one of America’s most recognized modern painters and photographers.
The hurdles he’s had to overcome have been plentiful. In addition to dyslexia, he suffers from prosopagnosia, or face blindness, and the huge faces in his oversized artwork help him recognize and remember faces. What’s more, his paralysis (as a result of a collapsed spinal artery) force him to paint with a brush strapped to his wrist. Regardless, his work is stunning and highly sought after.
His latest creation is a children’s book called Face Book, a volume that is divided into two parts. First is a collection of his self-portraits. The images are representative of the many different styles he’s utilized over the years, from watercolor to oil to stamp pads and thumbprints. The pages of self-portraits are split into three even horizontal strips so that readers can flip sections and mix and match the different portraits.
The second part of the book is devoted to kids asking the artist questions. Real kids ask Close if he ever felt like giving up after being paralyzed (he didn’t; he worried about supporting his wife and two daughters), if others help him make his art (they do, in lots of ways), which artists influence Close (Pollock, Warhol, and Byzantine mosaics), why his portraits are so darn big (a long and very interesting answer), and much more. Close answers honestly and candidly. When describing a self-portrait where he’s pictured smoking, Close tells kids “I made this painting forty years ago, before people knew how bad smoking is for the body. I am sorry I ever smoked. Do yourself a favor and don’t start smoking. It is not cool.”
In the back of the book, there’s a timeline detailing Close’s life, a glossary of art terms, a list of museums where you can find his work, and a list of the illustrations found in the book. The questions and answers might be the best part and Close’s responses are revealing and interesting, not just to children, but adults, as well. All in all, Face Book is not only a great way for kids to learn about an important artist, but also an outstanding and interactive way to get them thinking about art in general.
Disclosure: GeekDad was sent a review copy of this book.