City of Glass

If you're a Charleston resident and you're not sure what pioneering minimalist composer and prolific film scorer Philip Glass looks like, you're about to find out — in spades.

Last week, Spoleto Festival USA announced its 2007 poster image, and it's got Glass all over it. In fact, it's nothing but Glass — a portrait of the composer from 1979 entitled "Large Phil Fingerprint/Random," from acclaimed painter, photographer, and printmaker Chuck Close.

What makes it particularly interesting is that the portrait captures Glass' iconic hair and hooded eyes entirely through the use of black inked fingerprints from Close's thumb and forefinger. Close has been a quadriplegic for 18 years, yet it hasn't slowed him down. Many of his favorite subjects for portraits with the fingerprint technique have been prominent figures in the art world. He and Glass have been friends for nigh on four decades, and two years ago Glass created his own erstwhile portrait of Close in the form of a 15-minute work composed for the solo piano.


Even before this, it was already going to be Glass' year at Spoleto. Last year's festival began with a weird new work from the composer — performed by circling automobiles, no less — at the opening ceremony. This year's festival marks the American premiere of his new concert work Book of Longing at the Sottile Theatre on June 6.

But the whole city's gonna be under the composer's spell from now through the middle of June. The Spoleto Window Display Contest began with the poster announcement, and you're not going to be able to drive anywhere downtown for the next two months without spotting Glass' fingerprinted face on walls, in storefronts, on flyers and program guides, basically everywhere on the peninsula. Something tells me Glass is gonna be in for a major Being John Malkovich moment when he arrives in June.


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