By Peggy McGlone / The Washington Post and Herald staff
WASHINGTON — Snohomish County’s most famous artist has had his show canceled at the National Gallery of Art over charges of sexual misconduct.
The museum will not present solo exhibitions by painter Chuck Close, a Snohomish County native who graduated from Everett High School, and photographer Thomas Roma, also accused of sexual misconduct.
The Close exhibition was supposed to open May 13, while the Roma show was planned for September. The decision to halt the shows was made earlier this month and marks the first time the gallery has canceled exhibitions because of public allegations made against the featured artists, according to Anabeth Guthrie, chief of communications.
“Given the recent attention on their personal lives, we discussed postponement of the installations with each artist. All parties involved acknowledged that it is not the appropriate time to present these installations,” Guthrie said in an email.
Close, 77, grew up in Snohomish County and graduated in 1960 from Everett Community College, where he was encouraged by the legendary art teacher Russell Day. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington and his master of fine arts from Yale University. He has lived most of his life in New York.
A crowd of fans showed up to the reception when Close came to Everett in May 2016 for the opening of his nearly four-month exhibit at the Schack Art Center. “Chuck Close: Prints, Process, and Collaboration,” with 90 huge prints and working proofs, drew throngs of people over the course of the show.
Close is perhaps best known as a painter and photographer who achieved international renown with his huge portraits that incorporate grids and intricate patterns to form realistic paintings. He has been represented by the Pace Gallery in New York since 1977. His work is sought after by museums and collectors around the world.
In 1988, Close suffered a spinal artery collapse that left him partially paralyzed. He has used a wheelchair ever since.
Close and Roma are part of a tide of sexual harassment accusations against powerful figures that has surged since the downfall of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Prominent figures in media, art, and academia have also been the subject of allegations.
According to media reports, Close sexually harassed women who went to his studio to pose for him, charges he denies. Roma retired from Columbia University earlier this month after five former students came forward with allegations of misconduct, according to reports.
“In the Tower: Chuck Close” was expected to include 30 works by the artist, mostly from the museum’s collection. Information about it has been deleted from the museum website.
The Roma show was to feature about two dozen works that the museum recently acquired. In November, it announced a gift of 87 photographs from Roma’s series, “Come Sunday.” The images were created between 1991-1994 and depict religious services inside Brooklyn houses of worship.
Roma’s work is in the collection of several museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.
The museum has not determined what will replace these installations.