This post was inspired by my visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and a great accidental private tour I got of the museum. As in, no one else showed up for the tour, so I bonded with my tour guide over stories of travel, museum and art adventures. (It was as if we were the same person and got excited by the same artists and museums. Only she was probably in her late sixties, which means she’s young at heart or I am old at heart…) When I first got to the National Gallery of Art, I zoomed through the West Building only stopping to art-crush on a man who was painting in one of the galleries. I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable so I didn’t just stand there and watch him. I did, however, pretend that the gallery he was painting in was super interesting to me (it wasn’t) and walked through at least five times. I’m sure that made him feel super comfortable :) But it wasn’t until I walked into the East building that I wanted to cry of happiness. What an amazing collection! I’ll talk about some of the art I found in a later post, but for now I want to talk about Matisse and Chuck Close.
Visually, these two artists have little in common (Matisse on the left, Close on the right). But what connects them is their insane dedication to their work despite the hurdles life has thrown at them. Where others have give up, they haven’t. Here are images of the two artists working:
After a colostomy, Matisse was mostly bound to a wheelchair, but that did not stifle his creativity. He is quoted as saying “You see as I am obliged to remain often in bed because of the state of my health, I have made a little garden all around me where I can walk… There are leaves, fruits, a bird.” and “Only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated.” He called his cutouts ‘painting with scissors’. Close, likewise, was left mostly paralyzed after a seizure in 1988. Although he could no longer paint like he used to, he didn’t stop, he simply adjusted. After regaining minimal strength in his shoulder and arm, Close now paints with a paintbrush taped onto his hand. I can’t find any insightful quotes from Close on whether he found his disabilities as freeing as Matisse did, but he does talk about his disabilities being a major force behind his work (in fact, the reason he started doing portraits in the first place was because he has problems with face recognition and this was a way to help himself remember faces!) I loved seeing both Mattise’s cutouts and Close’s portraits at the National Gallery of Art and was fortunate to have a great guide giving me the stories behind a lot of the work :) The East Building of the National Gallery of Art is probably on my list of favorite ten art museums, I highly recommend a visit! (Although, perhaps wait until after the renovations as many of the galleries will be closed on and off)