Julie Burstein is fascinated by the roots of creativity, and she has pursued that passion through her work as a reporter, producer, and host at WNYC and PRI. In 2000, Julie created Studio 360, public radio’s premiere guide to pop culture and the arts, for Public Radio International. Julie led the Peabody Award-winning creative team at WNYC for the show’s first eight years, leaving her post as Executive Producer to write "Spark: How Creativity Works," her first book.
Julie Burstein: You need to embrace your challenges. Artists talk about walking straight towards things that most of us would run away from.
Chuck Close was severely learning disabled as a kid, and he had such trouble at school that his eight grade teacher said to him, "Chuck, don’t even think about college; you should go the vocational route. You’re not going to make it." And this is a guy who went on to get his MFA from Yale and become a world renowned artist.
He has something called face blindness where he can’t recognize faces in three dimensions. All of his work is portraits. He takes photographs and then makes his painting from those photographs. Also he has a tremendous difficulty understanding the whole, really getting the big picture, and so what he does with his paintings is he breaks them down into grids and he paints little piece by little piece until as he says, be builds the painting; he doesn’t paint a painting,
Chuck Close really rose to fame on his big self portrait, a wonderful picture that looks like it's seamless. He actually did it on a grid, but then he erased all the grid marks so that the picture looked almost like a photograph. Later in his career he started to let the grid show. This is the way he figured out how to paint because he couldn’t really grasp the whole. He would take a photograph, but then what he needed to do in order to paint it was break it down into little pieces. If you get up really close it just looks like a bunch of dots with a grid over top of it, but as you pull back suddenly it turns into a face and you see that this is a person.
What's extraordinary about Chuck Close is he he grappled with his learning disabilities himself. He really didn’t have anybody to say here is the interventions that you need Chuck for being able to grasp the whole. He worked it out through his art and was able to through his painting help understand how he understands the world and help organize it for himself.
Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd