Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chuck Close at NAEA

Today's convention Super Session: A Conversation with Chuck Close & Irving Sandler (chronicler of the NY art world, art commentator, &educator)

Amazing, amazing. This session made the whole conference worthwhile, which was good because I was very unlucky at some of my workshop choices. Here are some choice tidbits from the amazing Mr. Close:
  • "The prevailing wisdom always sucks."
  • "There are only two things grad school is good for (nothing you will learn will ever be useful): Work habits, and the sense of community."
  • "Ease is the enemy of the artist."
  • "If you know what art should look like, it's not hard to make some of it."
  • "Inspiration is overrated."
  • "Inspiration is for amateurs."
  • "Don't sit around and wait for inspiration; just sit down and get to work."
  • "We don't always know what we want to do, but we always know what we DON'T want to do."
  • "Self-imposed limitations are always good to move you to a new place."

And so much more. Mr. Close was sharp and witty, and regaled the appreciative audience with funny stories particularly about his time as a young man in the Yale School of Art. He spoke about his peers at that time, all names that we've learned about in art school.

That's it for tonight! Tomorrow - about MoMA.


  1. OH NO..what has been up with your sessions you've gone to?!?!!?

    1. Oh dear. When something sounded good, there were such crowds pushing I couldn't get in. Being under 5'tall, I'm not good in pushy crowds. Gets claustrophobic. I heard there's like 4000 people here! It's pretty crazy.

      I went to some workshops that I walked out of 1/2 way - one was someone reading a deadly boring PowerPoint to us in a drone. Come on, really? I CAN READ MYSELF. In another workshop, the presenter basically told us how she gave kids watercolors and let them paint, and gave them wire and let them make trees. Duh. Where's the reason for the workshop here?

      By the time you realize a workshop isn't good, it's often too late to get into another. Trying to coordinate session times and keynote speakers and visits to the vendors and excursions out to get food or go to a museum and sleep and waiting for elevators is pretty exhausting, too.

      But Chuck Close was AWESOME!!!!!!!

  2. How cool to sit in a room with Chuck Close and listen to him. He is one of my favorites. YOU ARE SO LUCKY!!!!!!!

  3. thanks for keeping me/us posted on all of your adventures! Mr. Close sounds amazing! Glad you enjoyed that portion. Hope you are having fun at the it there!!

  4. It sounds like the 2001 NAEA COnvention, Phyl. I know what you mean about the claustrophobia and the uninspiring presenters. I'm so happy you got to hear Chuck Close speak. He is one of my heroes not just for his amazing body of work, but his triumph of the human spirit in overcoming his physical obstacles. It sounds like that issue hasn't dulled his wit and wisdom! Yay, Chuck! Thanks again so much for giving all of us who couldn't be there a taste of an amazing adventure. I'd love to hear more about the bloggers you've met and gotten to know in person. :)Pat

  5. I am so glad to have found your blog! I so wanted to attend NAEA this year but had a conflict with another conference. Reading your posts is almost like being there myself! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I LOVE his quotes on inspiration. Here's my new favorite: "Don't sit around and wait for inspiration; just sit down and get to work."

    Thanks for sharing! jan

  7. how wonderful! looks like you had a wonderful trip!!!

  8. We were two of the countless NAEA members who packed the Hilton Hotel's Grand Ballroom to hear Chuck Close "in conversation" with Irving Sandler. Mr. Close is admirable for courageously transcending his disabilities. He's also an engaging speaker, and as an artworld insider indeed had many amusing anecdotes to relate. Our own contrarian view regarding his work is spelled out in a brief article we posted just prior to the convention--"Portraiture or Not?" - . Michelle's session on Saturday, titled "Understanding Contemporary Art," attracted an attentive audience of about 40 teachers, professors, and students. We'll be posting it online, so check back later this month or contact us to be notified concerning the date. (For other articles see our "Readings on Art Education"
    page - .) -- Louis Torres & Michelle Kamhi, Co-Editors, Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts)

    1. An interesting discussion topic. I'm of the mind that a picture of a a person is a portrait, whether or not it shows the nuances of personality referred to in the article, no matter the process used to create it. Who decides what is or isn't "art" or any facet of art? Is there a rulebook that says that a portrait must show emotion? Or does the coolness of the work cause the viewer to have a different sort of emotional reaction to the work?

      In MoMA, the Cindy Sherman show had a decidedly different sort of portraiture on view. Are these portraits according to your viewpoint? They certainly are provocative (and I'll admit that I did not care for the recent work. At all. Because you can't help but have an emotional reaction to these pieces, maybe shock, does that make them more or less valid as a portrait? Or are classic portraits the only ones that you believe should be considered "true" portraits? I don't think agree.

      When students see art they don't understand, such as perhaps color field paintings, or Warhol's soup cans, or Pollocks splashes of paint, and they say "I can do that", I always remind them that a large part of what makes art "important" is the historical context. So many of the artists we remember, from Miro to Klee to Van Gogh to Kandinsky to Chuck Close are significant to me because they took a step in a different direction than anyone else around them. I would not negate the validity of their work or their significance in the art world because they don't comply with some set of rules that I certainly have never seen. Years ago, when I saw my first Philip Pearlstein painting, a nude study cropped below the head, I was struck by how the cropping removed the emotion from the painting, but also made it provocative.

      As far as who is selected to present at NAEA, there were many there who I had not heard of before. Unfortunately, scheduling made it impossible to attend them all. I certainly can't speak to why these contemporary artists you mention would not be selected, and without knowing their work, I don't know if it has any relationship to the above discussion of portraiture.

      Thank you for your intriguing comment, and I look forward to seeing posting of your session. I attended some less-than-fabulous workshops, so I wish that I had thought to select yours, as it sounds like it could have been an interesting and intriguing topic. Let us know please when it is available online.

  9. Wow! Chuck is the man!
    and I LOVE his getup! Was it a jacket? blanket? shirt? Kinda goes with his mark making...

    1. I wondered about the outfit too. It was pretty wild. But I was really viewing from quite a distance in a HUGE ballroom auditorium so I don't really know. My little camera has quite the zoom!