For the next couple weeks on the radio show, we’ll be taking a peek at Studio 360′s new book, Spark: How Creativity Works. It draws on ten years (!) of interviews with America’s most accomplished filmmakers, musicians, art, and others about what it takes to live a creative life.
This week, Kurt talks with Julie Burstein, the show’s former executive producer, about a subject that’s meat and potatoes in the interview biz: childhood. We hear about Chuck Close painting from a nude model at age eight, “which made me the envy of everyone in my neighborhood” and helped him get past a severe learning disability. Richard Ford tells us that his childhood memories are cans stored in his mental “pantry,” waiting till he has the right recipe. One such memory, Ford explains, was an untimely end of the family cat under the family station wagon — which found its way into one of Ford’s celebrated Frank Bascombe novels.
You can hear Kurt’s full, original conversations with the artists below.
For over 30 years, Chuck Close has been making huge, meticulous paintings of faces — 9 foot, looming images of himself, and of friends such as the composer Philip Glass and the late painter Robert Rauschenberg. He is one of today’s most famous and seriously regarded portraitists — particularly impressive since Close suffers from prosopagnosia, face blindness. Kurt visits Close at his New York studio.
He’s not the type of novelist who cranks out a new book every year. Ideas marinate in Richard Ford’s mind for years – sometimes fifty years – before they surface in his stories. Ford spent so much time gathering material and reworking the manuscript of his latest novel, The Lay of the Land (2006), he kept the pages in his freezer for safekeeping. Ford talks with Kurt about the challenges of aging a character in real time.
Mira Nair’s films take place all over the Indian diaspora – from the rough city streets of Salaam Bombay! (1988) to the American Deep South in Mississippi Masala (1991). The Namesake (2006) spanned the distance from Calcutta to New York: a young Indian couple who makes a life together in the US, and the struggles of their American-born son. Nair tells Kurt why unconventional love stories have inspired so many of her films. And how an encounter with a band of street performers set her on the path to becoming a filmmaker.
Richard Serra began working with steel as a teenager, on a summer job in a steel mill. He went on to become one of America’s greatest sculptors. Serra’s recent pieces are massive, 12-foot-tall steel walls that curve and lean together to form fascinating spaces you can enter and walk around. Serra walks Kurt through a major retrospective of his work at New York’s MoMA as he finishes up its installation.