I'd like to congratulate Roger Downey on his excellent piece "Pixel Dust: The Magic of Chuck Close," in the 2/18 issue. Moreover, it should be noted Mr. Downey also brought off that happy and rare hat trick of debunking art critics of a certain sort—gas-bag theorists who write for specialist publications—while simultaneously demonstrating the value of art critics. I've been looking at Close for years and found Downey's quotations of Alden Mason on the shamanistic aspects of Close's methods illuminating. This is not the usual take on the work.
But to follow one of Roger Downey's other points, it seems to me the reason people enjoy Close's paintings is not only what one might call the "self-exemplification" of interesting cultural and intellectual ideas that are ably demonstrated there, but rather that Close is passionately involved in each fragment of his grid structure. It is never a matter of simple accretion; there is always some kind of mystery lurking there. One step this way and you get mush, one step the other, Phil [Glass]. How does this happen? In a sense it's like the eye of God that never rests and never overlooks anything. How does omnipotence work? Everything is important in that kind of sight.
Also, the painting clearly speaks as a testament of pure human effort, of sustained discipline, and the plain old vision thing. Mr. Close's medical problems seem to fade into insignificance. And lest this all makes the work sound a bit over lofty, Close never leaves out goofiness either. The man is a master, and Mr. Downey has educated us.
Bruce A. Harris
Your fine Chuck Close feature ("Pixel Dust," 2/18) mentions artists' searches for new attention-getting "styles," and knee-jerk patriots' attack on Western Washington Fair art show entries from Close and others in the early '60s. That attack almost destroyed one of the Northwest's (very few) important big annuals, which has taken years to recover to its present bigger and better status. In my youth, it was my first contact with "serious" art, and I'm glad to again enter and now and then win an award there—and to consider the irony of Close almost destroying the fair annuals and almost being destroyed himself by illness; and finally, becoming successful with a "style" the WW Fair "patriot" attackers would like.
Close up and personal
To add to Roger Downey's excellent feature article about homeboy Chuck Close ("Pixel Dust," 2/18), I would like to tell the story about the young artist, his mom, and an architect. Chuck's mom wished for a new house on the ridge overlooking Lake Stevens. Chuck, cruising the U District, introduced himself to the biker architecture professor Robert Reichert. Maybe it was at Dick's, Reichert's favorite pit stop. Not only was Reichert a kick-butt architect, but he was an organist like Chuck's mom. The plan was hatched. Reichert would design his mom's house with an organ, and Chuck would build it.
Chuck's mom, Mildred Close, must have had powerful artistic courage and a willingness to support her young artist's enthusiasm. Reichert's highly graphic houses were an affront to the misty-eyed Northwest architects and the conformist suburban dwellers. Completed in 1965, the striped roof bent down with the slope, cutting off most of the vista to Lake Stevens. Instead of glass and decks, the narrow three-story space under the roof/wall was filled with organ pipes and music. The windows were scattered on the other walls like pictures framing views of the wooded slopes. Some were square portholes only 6 inches off the floor. Others ran from the ceiling to floor like a knife cut. The exterior was a free-standing painting that would not be repeated by artists or architects in the US until the 1980s and still only by a tiny group today.
Ten years ago, both Reichert and Close told me this story. I wish I could have met the woman that clearly gave her son the gift of artistic courage with her most intimate territory, home.
The article on Cake was very inaccurate. Jackie McCarthy did not do his/her research. Ninety percent of the article ("Just Say No to Cake," 2/18) was not about music. It was about an American Eagle Outfitters catalog. Cake never gave permission for this catalog to use them in it. If Mr./Mrs. McCarthy had bothered to contact Cake management, or the record company, which is the bare minimum for journalism or editorial writing, she/he would have found this information out.
Fear of music
Geov Parrish in his pose of martyred youth has overdone the Speakeasy defeat by the state Liquor Board (Impolitics, "Fear of Youth," 2/25). There is no war on youth. The Liquor Board blesses the combination of alcohol and kids: Just see all the families around the tables in restaurants serving every sort of beer and wine. What the Liquor Board makes war on is music. Specifically, live music of any sort. It is amazing it doesn't shut down any restaurant that allows the singing of "Happy Birthday," because that is performed live on premises, and by rules of the board, the kids should all leave immediately. Oh, if it came into the room through wires and speakers, that would be fine too, the board beams its approval. Where are the voices of the arts establishment, the musicians' union, the City Council, common sense? Who appointed the Liquor Board to the post of music censors? Time for some new rules. Gary Locke, are you listening?
Ban sterile Seattle
I have lived in the city of Seattle for more than 10 years and I have always felt that there was a direct correlation between the decline of the local music scene and the banning of posters and flyers on the telephone poles (4th & James, "Poster Ban Under Fire," 2/18).
When the law was passed, it seemed like a "big brother" plot to sterilize the city and render it lifeless, scouring all independent art and creative endeavors from the public view. The City Council's claim that it was attempting to beautify Seattle by cleaning the layers of tattered paper from the poles falls flat when city dwellers look around them every day to piles of garbage and filth left on the streets by our "tidy" authority figures.
If the people of Seattle were to take back their right to advertise, proclaim, and express their creative selves through concerts, theater, garage sales, and even the finding of lost pets, this city might once again have all the vibrancy and excitement of its former self.
'Post it' note
Thanks to James Bush for the update on the poster ban issue (4th & James, "Poster Ban Under Fire," 2/18). The Seattle City Council's resolution to ban postering put an end to a long-honored tradition of free speech and expression in Seattle. Ending the ban is the best way to restore the freedom that once belonged to Seattle citizens and provide an environment where the art and music we Seattleites cherish can once again flourish.
It's the unreal thing
In addition to this ridiculous deal with the movie times, Regal Cinemas has also changed from a Coke shop to Pepsi ("Film-flam Men," 2/11). If the first issue wasn't enough to keep me out of the house (which it is), the second one most certainly is!
I read Eric Scigliano's coverage of the new library project's architectural genesis—today, a project! tomorrow, a boondoggle!--and have to ask what seems like an obvious question: Since we all know that our city leaders will blow this decision anyway, why not just cut our losses and buy the blueprints to Vancouver's new library instead? (See Quick & Dirty, "Function over Form," 2/4.)
Vancouver did it right, so let's build an exact duplicate of the Vancouver City Library here in Seattle. Just change the name, file off the serial numbers, and maybe slap a different color of paint on that sucker and we'll be in much, much better shape than if we let our clod-footed city leaders sell us another bill of goods.
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