In the winter quarter of my junior year of college, I convinced my roommates to run away from school. It was 1973 and I was nineteen years old. We drove from Bowling Green, Ohio to Chicago, and after three days of feeding our stomachs with deep-dish pizza and 3.2 beer it seemed right to feed our souls with a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. We wandered from one gallery to the next, when we stumbled upon a special exhibit featuring the works of contemporary artists. On a far wall was a massive painting of the head of an attractive woman. It was by the American artist, Chuck Close and it was unlike anything I had ever seen.
The painting was highly detailed. I would later learn that most of Close's work from this period was painted in a style called Photorealism. I walked closer. The woman who looked attractive from a distance began to change. Her lips were cracked. Her skin was a bit wrinkled and greasy. I could see open pores, and split ends, and caked makeup. I kept walking closer. I stood in front of the wall-sized painting. Everything was now massive —the cracked lips, the wrinkles, the open pores, the split ends. But I also noticed something else. It was an unexpected beauty. A complexity, and a depth, and a sense of design.
I turned to one of my roommates and said, "I think this is a metaphor."