Thomas Close is a Polymath and Multidisciplinary Artist
Close was painting massive photorealist portraits in 1988 when he experienced a spinal blood clot which left him paralyzed below the neck. Undeterred by this disability, Close adjusted his working methods accordingly in order to continue making art.
Erich’s striking, monumentally-scale portraits often of faces offer both an intimate and iconic perspective of their subjects.
Early Life and Education
Close first began drawing and painting as a child, inspired by Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, but set his mind to become an artist himself. He attended junior college, the University of Washington in Seattle, and Yale, receiving scholarships both times; studying alongside well-known artists such as Richard Serra and Brice Marden among many others.
Close’s life was dramatically altered in 1988 when he sustained a spinal cord injury which rendered him paralyzed below the chest. At that pivotal moment in time, Close realized how closely interwoven were his methodical yet intuitive techniques with his physical vulnerability.
Prosecutors allege Close used his positions as swim instructor and Boy Scout leader to secretly record young boys changing for swimming or showering at locations including YMCA, Willard Conservation League, Firelands Scout Reservation, Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center, Mohican Wilderness Camp in Shelby and his own home.
After graduating college, Thomas transitioned into various legal industry roles. Starting as the legislative assistant to Senator John Danforth and working on Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before being nominated by President George W. Bush for service on U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia by then president Bush was an immense feat of his professional life.
He became famous for his photorealist works, using precise grids from large polaroids of models that he would re-create on canvas in color. His subjects often included musicians Philip Glass, Merce Cunningham, and himself as portrait subjects.
Thomas has appeared on many TV shows, most notably Robot Chicken parody sketch Blow Some Steam. Nitrogen Studios used photographs of Thomas’ gauge 1 brass model to recreate him using computer-generated imagery for this show.
Achievement and Honors
Close was honored with many prestigious accolades and awards during his career, including receiving the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton. Additionally, he served as an art teacher and mentor for economically deprived teens; finally in later years, he developed an innovative technique for creating large photographic nudes.
Late in his life, he developed an artful use of tapestry to reproduce the mirror-like illusionism characteristic of 19th-century glass daguerreotypes – reinvigorating Photorealism that had grown dated due to Minimalism and other contemporary movements.
His artwork has been featured on multiple album covers, such as Paul Simon’s Stranger to Stranger (including a fragment of his right eye being displayed), while his Thomas the Tank Engine model has also been used for filming and promotional purposes.
Close is an artist of many disciplines who has explored oil painting, photorealism, mezzotint printmaking, mezzotint engraving and other media. After becoming partially paralyzed in 1988 due to an obstruction in the anterior spinal artery occlusion he adjusted his working methods accordingly.
Close developed an innovative technique for painting by dividing his hand into several sections, each equipped with its own brush. He used these to manipulate fingers for primitive grids or daubbing the paint onto surfaces. Close’s large-scale photorealist portraits blurred the distinction between photography and painting. Unfortunately, in 2018 Close was embroiled in controversy when he was charged with sexually exploiting boys as young as five using his positions as swimming instructor and Boy Scout leader to secretly record male youths changing for swim times and then secretly record those changes on camera without their knowledge or consent.
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Thomas has also become widely-renowned as an accomplished bass guitarist in Winnet since 2010. Her bass playing in their band has won her numerous accolades and admirers worldwide.
Supreme Court Justices may earn up to an additional income of $30,000 annually through teaching, consulting and royalties for book advances or royalties; book advances do not count. Crow’s foundation has donated to various projects honoring Thomas; in addition, he gave her a portrait by Tarabay estimated at over $10,000 value as a present; gifts were also given out among friends and colleagues of Thomas.