Chuck Close's giant photo-derived portraits of his friends like the composer Philip Glass virtually define the term Photorealist. While the Photorealist painters, such as Richard Estes and Robert Bechtle, utilized more traditional means to create their paintings, Close meticulously layered the dye colors of photomechanical reproduction over the matrix of an image provided by a photograph blown up to an enormous scale. Using an airbrush, and working from top to bottom, Close created an exact image of the subject--not of the person, but of the photograph of the person, complete with all of the camera lens's inherent distortions of focal plane and perspective, as well as the photographic print's dazzingly slick surface and color. Close's images, enlarged as they were, exacerbated the abstract qualities of photography, and led the viewer to re-evaluate the most commonplace image-making process of the twentieth century.
While seeming to abandon the obsessive finish of his earlier pieces, in Georgia/Fingerpainting, Close's technique is employed for its ability to reveal another aspect of photographic imagery that has become increasingly evident in today's computer-literate society: photographs can be digitized, created by discrete dot elements called pixels. The pixels of the computer screen can be any size or shape that allows for the modulation of tone, color and value of the image. The choice of size and shape will determine the sharpness of the reproduction. Georgia/Fingerpainting is still derived from a photograph, but it is literally, and ironically, handmade--the brushstrokes are actually the artist's fingerprints. Instead of eliminating any evidence of the artist's touch on the surface of the canvas, as he did with the airbrush, Close emphasizes the tactile surface. Close had carefully scaled the picture so that his fingerprints are the correct size and shape to give the verisimilitude of his earlier work, but the use of his fingerprints gives it a more painterly quality. Georgia/Fingerpainting's literally handmade quality reinforces its identity as a work of art, a painting, rather than a photomechanical reproduction.