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Chuck Close Forgot His Own Face

Todd Powelson
Self Portrait

It’s amazing to me that Chuck Close, who became famous for his super-sized photo-realistic portraits of himself and his friends, suffers from prosopagnosia… that is, he is face blind. I recently heard him interviewed, and when he describes his condition he says he sees other people as an “unrecognizable collages of noses, lips, eyes, and ears.” He went on to explain that it is easier for him to recognize static flattened out pictures and photos, but in day-to-day life, when someone “moves their head one half inch, it’s a face I’ve never seen before.”

Self Portrait

Chuck Close needs an assistant to help him in his studio while he paints,because in 1988 he suffered a seizure that left him paralyzed from the neck down. He has regained some motor control and learned how to paint again, but still needs help. Even though he works with his assistant daily, he is still often caught off-guard and wonders who the stranger is with him in his studio, because he cant recognize them from moment to moment. Actually going out in public and socializing can be very confusing, although Close says he has learned to deal with it through humor.

Chuck Close thinks he has always had this condition, even though it wasn’t diagnosed until he was older. I find it kinda cool, him turning faces into landscapes, trying to recreate and understand something through his artwork that he just will never quite get perceptually.

"Mark" by Chuck Close
Todd Powelson
Todd Powelson works as a Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Visual Artist.

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