What Kate Moss, Barack Obama, and Diane von Furstenberg Have in Common

“People lend me their image in an act of tremendous generosity and with a great deal of guts,” Chuck Close once said of his sitters—whose sessions with Close are incarnate as floor-to-ceiling, soul-exposing portraits revealing every freckle, wrinkle, and pore. But what do Close’s subjects say about him? Hear what Close’s sitters have to say after revealing their most vulnerable sides to Close—alongside Close’s own insights on the portraits.

1. Julianne Moore on Close:

“It was certainly a little unnerving to sit for Chuck because his work is known for a somewhat unvarnished quality! It was sheer narcissism on my part; a desire to be included among the notable people he has shot. I was tremendously flattered to be asked. Chuck’s enthusiasm for life is reflected in his portraiture. When you sit for him, you feel he is trying to capture you at your most authentic. He is extremely collaborative and relaxed, and so interested in the very humanness of us all. I found that very compelling.” Source

2. Diane von Furstenberg on Close:

In the grand tradition of bad luck on school portrait day, Diane von Furstenberg suffered a skiing accident days before her photo shoot with Close—leaving her with a black eye and broken nose. In six weeks, though, von Furstenberg was ready for a close-up like only Close can deliver, sans makeup and embracing every imperfection. “I was a little bit intimidated,” she told Harper’s Bazaar, “because if Chuck Close photographs you, it’s very much like an X-ray, in the sense that there’s nothing to hide behind.” Of the photographs, Close said, “She’s a very beautiful woman, and I couldn’t get what I consider good photograph of her. She loved them but I didn’t.”

3. Close on Cindy Sherman:

“Obviously, Cindy is very reluctant to present herself in a straightforward manner,” Close said of the photographer. “She creeps into her images and she layers them with junk and she wears disguises, and the question is where the real identity is, where the real self is. Whether or not she is ever going to appear as the real Cindy Sherman is up for grabs. I myself photographed her for my paintings and I didn’t recognize her when she walked through the door. I think she came in disguise for me to present herself in a way that she felt would be interesting for a painting but not necessarily reveal very much about who she was.”

4. Close on Brad Pitt:

In 2009, a forty-something Brad Pitt requested a daguerreotype portrait by Chuck Close to accompany his interview in W Magazine. “You can’t be the fair-haired young boy forever,” Close said of Pitt. “At some point he’ll have to become some sort of character actor. Maybe a photograph of him with crow’s-feet and furrowed brow is good for him. It humanizes him. It makes him less of a cinema god and more of a person.”

5. Kiki Smith on Close:

“It is this sort of enormously vulnerable situation to be in, having people looking sort of through your pores into you body.” Source

6. Kate Moss and Close:

“I’ve had enough pretty pictures taken of me,” Kate Moss said of revealing a vulnerable side of herself for Close. “I wish I’d trimmed my pubic hair a little bit.”’

“Usually when I’m doing a nude,” Close said of the shoot, “they immediately put a robe on the second I’ve taken a picture ... but she sat there for hours naked and talking, so very comfortable. It was quite amazing.”

7. Close on Lou Reed

“Lou Reed’s got wrinkles in his wrinkles.” Source

8. Close on Barack Obama

“Obama was right on time, and I photographed him for more than an hour,” Close told The New Yorker, adding that to entertain the president, he told a story about photographing the Dalai Lama. “I was told I couldn’t touch him, and I couldn’t tell him what to do... I said, ‘How can I take a picture of him and not tell him what to do?’ They said, ‘He will know what to do.’ He came in, put his arms around me, kissed me, put a scarf around my neck, gave me a book he’d autographed, and sat down...”. After his story, Obama had replied, “Well, you know, my friends call me Barack.”

9. Close on Alex Katz

“I thought to myself that the difference between my portrait of [Alex Katz] and Alex’s self portrait was that he was kinder and gentler to himself than I was,” Close said, “And Alex said, ‘You really captured my rage.’ I didn’t realize it, but he felt that I managed to put my finger on the rage beneath the surface. Another anecdote is, I was coming out of my shrink’s office and a woman came up to me and said, ‘Alex is much better looking than you made him!’ She was furious with me.”

10. Close on Philip Glass

“I love the way he looks, with heavy, hooded, druggy eyes and a very sensuous mouth,” Close said. “And his Medusa-like hair is great for formal invention because it lends itself so well to fingerprints or dots or anything you can think of. It’s not that I was cashing in on anyone’s notoriety–we were both unknown at the time. I wanted everyday people, not superstars, because that’s what Andy [Warhol] was doing.”

Explore Close’s latest exhibition at Guild Hall on Artsy.


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