Era Farnsworth in the White House Map Room with Chuck Close's tapestry Obama 2012 (II), waiting for the president to arrive. Photo by Donald Farnsworth.
Magnolia directors Donald and Era Farnsworth traveled to the White House recently to oversee the signing by Chuck Close and President Barack Obama of Close's recent print and tapestry portraits of the president. These editions, published by Magnolia Editions, were sold to raise funds for the president's re-election effort. Only official White House photographers are allowed to take pictures of the president in the White House, but Era Farnsworth sent these images and a first-hand account of signing prints with the nation's leader:
Hi friends and family,
It turns out there were no national emergencies and our meeting at the White House with Chuck Close and President Obama went extremely well.
We were picked up by Chuck, Sienna and Chuck's nurse at our meeting place, the Willard Hotel. Then we drove across the street to the White House, where we had to pass thru about 5 different security gates. At the first gate, Chuck's nurse was turned away: she couldn't even drive the van onto the grounds since she had not been previously cleared. So Sienna took over and we drove to the next gate, which was maybe 10 yards further. There a guard came out with a German Shepherd and walked a rotation around the van, the Shepherd sniffing it from all angles.
Chuck Close passing in front of the Treasury Department and one of the gates. (It's really cold in Washington!)
We passed the dog test and another gate slid down into the road, allowing us to drive through. At that point we were able to park with a number of other vans and SUVs, some of them with Obama stickers. We got out of the van into the DC cold, where we waited patiently at another gate while the guards checked our credentials once more. We walked down a path next to the Treasury Department and turned into another guardhouse, which then, after more checking of papers, scanning, etc, led directly into the White House.
Chuck and Meaghan, one of the people running the re-election fundraiser campaign, in a beautiful waiting room.
"Our" room is ready ("The Map Room").
Sienna, Chuck's partner, is an excellent photographer and talented artist. We were told in emphatic terms that we were not allowed to photograph the president in the White House.
After unpacking we had a bit of a wait until the great man arrived.
Don enthroned in a replica of a chair once owned by George Washington. They had some of the original chairs in the room; same red damask, slightly faded.
Manny, Chuck's right-hand man, and Chuck. Beth, Chuck's other irreplaceable assistant, had to hold down the fort in NY and could not be with us at the White House.
After a couple of false alarms ("We have movement; he's on his way" -- it turns out he was moving somewhere else), Obama walked into the room with a few secret service agents. Famous big smile, he seemed like an old friend. He greeted Chuck, whom he knows, and came over to me. I told him that we were from Oakland. He replied, "I love Oakland." Good response, but I bet he says that to all the home towns. I said everybody in Oakland and all of the artists, when I told them I might be meeting the president, said, "Give him a hug from me. We love Obama." He said, "Well, you better give me a hug, then." So I hugged Obama from all of you (in my mind, everybody who is receiving this update) and he hugged me back. Awesome!
He very efficiently signed all the prints he was supposed to sign and all of the tapestry labels. He made a couple cracks about the new Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's signature and said Lew is going to have to do something about changing it. Obama has a great signature, by the way, and so does Chuck, so the signatures look wonderful on the prints and on the labels. They don't devalue them, as Obama has joked Jack Lew's signature might do to the currency.
Generally, a respectful silence was maintained while Obama was signing. It's difficult for anyone to try to field questions and carry on a conversation while signing a number of pieces which have to be signed perfectly. It was so tempting to pull out an iPhone and snap a photo. Too bad it makes that ostentatious clicking sound.
After signing, I did manage to tell him that we drive a Volt which we power with solar panels. And Don mentioned that we have not filled up in over 2,500 miles, which is true. In fact, we have not filled up that car yet. I thanked him for the federal tax credits. He seemed pleased. Don told him that the artists loved him. Manny got a hug, too; something about his grandmother wanting to give Obama a hug. Apparently, this is the path to an Obama hug. Actually, Manny's grandmother wanted him to give Obama a hug and a kiss. Obama said he'd hug him, but declined the kiss. And that was it; he was out the door to his next important meeting or task. We found him to be absolutely charming.
Didn't manage to get a photo of Don with Obama, but did get one of Don cuddling up to Bo, the family dog. This photo was taken right after Bo had been licking Don's face. So Don must have some Obama family DNA now.
We may get some photos from the official photographer. If so, we will certainly share them!
Love from DC,
Era and Don
Previously: Chuck Close Obama tapestries in the news
Prints and tapestries by Chuck Close from Magnolia Editions
Artwork by Donald and Era Farnsworth from Magnolia Editions