This tapestry, hanging in the rotunda of the Bucksbaum Center, is titled “Lucas/Rug,” and depicts the distorted portrait of Lucas Samaras. Due to the fact that this tapestry was woven by hand from silk and linen, it took artist Chuck Close six months to finish it, in 1993. He spent four years planning each section. This likeness is one of several completed by Close portraying his friend and fellow artist Lucas Samaras. Most of Close's work consists of large paintings based off of photographs. Later in his career he began dividing each photograph into tiny squares of color and using alternative materials such as pieces of paper and fingerprints. Close’s paintings originally aligned with photorealist trends of the 1960s and 1970s, from which he later diverged by creating works that explore human perception.
“Lucas/Rug” spans 79x66 inches. Due to the fact that it abstracts the human face using non-analogous color blotches, it changes appearance based on the proximity of the viewer. These thousands of organic color ovals, when seen close up, do not appear to have any consistency or overall color scheme. However, when viewed from ten or more feet away, the human face comes into view due to the human eye’s ability to create continuity out of different shapes and colors, and therefore recognize objects. This is an example of closure, in which the contrasting and often clashing colors actually create overall harmony and unity throughout the piece.
The portrait itself is curvilinear and radial in construction. Large circles of analogous colors, primarily blue, red, and black, surround the head and create a halo effect throughout the entire piece. The face only comes into view from far away because it has little to no detail; in fact, the viewer can only discern that it is a male likeness because of its shorter hair, mustache, and beard. The facial hair is portrayed by darker shades of brown, blue, green, pink, purple, red, and black that contrast with the lighter creams, pinks, blues, and greens that make up the cheeks and nose. Red is the only color that consistently appears throughout each section of the tapestry, in various hues and saturations. The face is not depicted symmetrically by color, but rather by shade. The left eye is composed from blue, green, red and brown dots while the right eye is primarily red and brown. Both eyes have small patches of cream and light blue. The backdrop, only seen in the two upper corners and behind the shoulders, is mostly comprised of dark blue patches with specks of red and brown, bringing the lighter and more vibrant face much further forward. If one squints, one can more easily see the realism of the face and the way Close has chosen color to depict light splashing across certain parts of the face. The light source is omnipresent, neither coming from the top nor bottom but directly head-on. This stagnant image has little to no movement other than what is provided by the radial pattern of its construction.
The effect that this piece has on the viewer primarily relies its pattern of color and arrangement, which speaks to its content. Though he did not realize the irony of his portrait work until later in his career, Close suffers from the inability to recognize faces. This piece represents the nature of human perception, which is highlighted by the fact that the face in the tapestry appears to be staring straight at the viewer, placing him or her under an intense gaze (though this gaze is only noticed when viewed from a large distance).
In order to get a better idea of what Lucas actually looks like, here is a painting of him also done by Chuck Close: