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Artist Chuck Close says he must study faces intensely to recognize them

Chuck Close can turn an array of blobs and dots into, for example, a self-portrait.
Chuck Close can turn an array of blobs and dots into, for example, a self-portrait. (Courtesy Of Chuck Close - Pace Editions, Inc.)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 16, 2010

Chuck Close started his art career as what he calls a "junior abstract expressionist." Look closely at any single square inch of one of his pictures, and you'll see nothing but a seemingly random assortment of blobs and dots. With most of his portraits, viewers have to step back a bit before the dots resolve into a discernable face.

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How did he gravitate toward faces? Close has said he believes that his particular area of interest -- and expertise -- is a natural result of something called prosopagnosia, or face blindness, a condition that impairs one's ability to recognize facial features.

The artist, who has called himself "hopeless" when it comes to remembering faces, says the only way he can familiarize himself with someone's appearance is through repeated, close and intense study.

-- Michael O'Sullivan


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