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“Last Time I Looked, Discomfort Was Not a Major Offense”: Chuck Close Addresses Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Close explained his behavior after several women accused him of sexual misconduct during visits to his studio.

A self-portrait by Chuck Close at SFMoMA (photo by thenickster via Flickr)

Chuck Close has issued an apology in response to accusations of sexual misconduct lodged against him yesterday by two women who spoke with the Huffington Post. In an interview with the New York Times, the artist admitted that he has spoken to women about their body parts frankly and crudely, but explained that this was part of his typical process to evaluate them as possible models. The women claim that Close made lewd comments to them in his studio after he invited them to pose for him, leaving them feeling exploited. A third artist, Delia Brown, also described feeling that Close only wanted to photograph her as a pretext to see her topless.

“Last time I looked, discomfort was not a major offense,” Close told the Times. “I never reduced anyone to tears, no one ever ran out of the place. If I embarrassed anyone or made them feel uncomfortable, I am truly sorry, I didn’t mean to. I acknowledge having a dirty mouth, but we’re all adults.”

Photographer Julia Fox had told Hyperallergic and HuffPo that Close asked her to pose for him in the nude in 2013 and told her, “Your pussy looks delicious.” Close denied making this comment to the Times, which did not acknowledge the allegations from the second woman, who came forward as an anonymous source. A former graduate student at Yale, she claims that she was posing for Close, in the nude, when the artist reached toward her vagina and asked if he could touch her. Both women, in separate interviews, noted that Close wanted to pay them $200 before they left.

Close explained to the Times that he paid women $200 to audition for photographs — to “see their bodies” before the actual process of shooting. He occasionally creates daguerreotype nudes, he said, and doesn’t keep the necessary large format camera in his studio. Women he ultimately photographs reportedly receive $600.

Neither Fox nor the former graduate student, however, thought they were auditioning; both believed Close had already decided he was going to photograph them.

The Times also spoke with another artist, Langdon Graves, who visited Close’s studio in 2010, believing he had invited her over to view his art. After she arrived, Close told her he wanted her to pose for him in the nude, but that his models had to audition first. After he poured her a glass of scotch and showed her his daguerreotypes, he asked her to take off her clothes. Although flattered, and slightly tipsy, she left after Close allegedly asked her highly invasive questions about personal grooming. Close told the Times that he did not recall this incident but said that it sounded possible. In his apology, he also noted his severe paralysis, caused by a collapsed spinal artery, in his defense.

“As a quadriplegic, I try to live a complete, full life to the extent possible,” he said. “But given my extreme physical limitations, I have found that utter frankness is the only way to have a personal life.”

Asked about Close’s apology and his denial of the incident between them, Fox told Hyperallergic in an email, “Why would I lie about this? Does he think I want this? This is so humiliating for me! I never even told my best friends about it because I felt so much shame.” She added:

Ultimately, he is free to deny everything. I didn’t expect a man with such poor character to take responsibility. All that matters is that I know the truth and so does he. And he will have to sit and think about his disgusting choice of words toward me and my vagina. He is going to live with that. Not me. I’ve let it go, I was angry and ashamed for too long.  I did the right thing and in the end, that’s really all that matters anyway. I don’t care if people believe me. The truth always comes out and that’s what I have faith in.

Correction: This article originally misstated details of Langdon Graves’s account. We apologize for these errors, which have been corrected.

Hyperallergic is committed to reporting on sexual harassment in the art world. If you have a story about personal or institutional abuse in our field, please write to Claire Voon at [email protected]

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