Inspirational Leadership Through Art

18 Oct



'Inspirational- leadership-Inspiration-leader-Chuck close- art'

Inspiration is defined as “stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity”.  I believe inspiration is something that transpires from who we are as individuals.  Meaning, inspiration is not one size fits all.  What inspires one person, may not another.


In regards to fine arts, especially photo realism painting, there is no bigger example of inspirational leader than Chuck Close.  Born in Washington in 1940, the American painter and photographer had a dedicated following as well as many levels of success throughout his career.  As a graduate student at Yale, Close was known early on for his skillful brushwork and meticulous eye, which later serves an ironic turn.

'Inspirational- leadership-Inspiration-leader-Chuck close- art-painter-photography'

Throughout his life he always pushed his limits and set new challenges upon himself.  He once threw away all of his tools to start over with a clean slate and new insight.  Upon doing so, he said: “If you impose a limit to not do something you’ve done before, it will push you to where you’ve never gone before.”  This empowering statement should inspire us all to step outside our comfort zone:  Whether as painters, designers, interns or educators.

His hyper-realism painting style involved working from photographic stills to create paintings that appeared to be photographs.  He later pushed his boundaries further by creating grid paintings that he would fill in cell by cell, which was known as his “topographic map” style.

'Inspirational- leadership-Inspiration-leader-Chuck close- art-painter-photography- Hyper-realistic-painter'

'Inspirational- leadership-Inspiration-leader-Chuck close- art-painter-photography- Hyper-realistic-painter- Picaso- super- realistic - painter'

Still living and painting in New York to this day, something happened to Close in December of 1988 that changed his life and work forever.  He was attending a ceremony in NYC honoring local artists.  Upon giving his speech, Close felt something was wrong, and he walked across the street to the medical center.  After arriving he suffered a seizure that left him paralyzed from the neck down.  This was later found to be a spinal artery collapse.  “The Event” as close called it, left him in rehab for months only attaining slight movement in his arms and stricken to a wheelchair.

'Inspirational- leadership-Inspiration-leader-Chuck close- art-painter-photography- Hyper-realistic-painter- Picaso- super- realistic - painter- Art gallery'

Many artists would give up at this point, internalizing their condition, surrendering.  Not Close.  Chuck used this as an opportunity to rise above and break even more barriers.  With the help of an assistant and a brush taped to his arm, he went back to his grid style of work, incorporating a pixilated style.  Paralysis restricted his ability to paint as meticulous; rather he used mundane objects to manipulate his ideas.  Adopting materials such as construction paper and ink he was still able to transcend these objects into super realistic works of art.  One would think his affliction with prosopagnosia (face blindness, a condition that prevents one from recognizing another person’s face) would deter him after all he has been through, but he never faltered.

We should take Close’s inspiring behaviors and actions in life as a learning tool.  If we are feeling less creative or lost for ideas, start from the beginning.  Exceed above your comfort zone, otherwise you will never break through barriers to make it to another level.  If you love what you do, don’t let anything stand in your way, work with these barriers and use them as stepping stones to incorporate into your creative process.   If you are looking for an inspirational leader in your life, someone who constantly broke the barrier, look to none other than Chuck Close.


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