ADVERTISING

ART

Prosopagnosia: This is how this condition manifests itself in art

A rare disease, examples in art, and how an artist uses portraits to understand her life with prosopagnosia.

In mid-2022, Brad Pitt revealed that he has several difficulties recognizing faces. It’s not that he’s conceited or that he’s just got a bit carried away with being one of the world’s most famous actors. He explained that he really has a hard time remembering other people’s faces. It is a rare condition, prosopagnosia, which prevents the brain from retaining the information we normally acquire about another person by looking at their face.

What is prosopagnosia?

Almost all people are “equipped” to recognize faces. The eyes, noses, and mouths of our loved ones, celebrities, or people we live with occasionally stick in our minds, so we can see them again with the certainty that they are who we remember. But if you have prosopagnosia, you may not recognize people on the street or, in more extreme cases, your own partner or family. You may also have to rely on other physical features, such as body shape, hair texture, or voice to recognize someone.

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Face blindness, as it is also known, can be acquired by brain injury or, in most cases, come from birth. And, as it is not a problem of sight but brain processing, it is not easy to explain to neurotypical people. The art world, however, is full of examples of prosopagnosia: the vision of artists can be a sample of what it feels like to look at a face... and then forget it.

Pablo Picasso’s Cubist portraits often depict people with misaligned eyes, noses that look like doubles or triples, and mouths that are too far down on their characters’ faces. If we look at the portrait of The Weeping Woman, for example, we can perfectly identify every part of that face: we know it is a person because it has everything that a human face includes. But it is easy to forget her, and in fact, if we were to meet that woman in person, in real life, we would not recognize her.

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Carlotta and prosopagnosia

Carlotta, a German artist, has lived with prosopagnosia since she was a child, but only learned about it relatively recently. As an adult, she paints self-portraits but is unable to recognize her own and other people’s faces. In an interview with the BBC, she recounted that, while she was unable to identify people she was amazed to see how her mother could do it when they went together to doctor appointments or shopping: “I was amazed that my mother could do that, I thought it was an incredible gift that she had, to recognize other people.”

The artist had a difficult childhood because of her condition, unknown to her and to the adults around her, which brought her problems at school: teachers scolded her for being “absent-minded” and other children bullied her. As an adult, she distanced herself from other people, preferring to be alone. But it was only after she turned 40 that Carlotta discovered the term “prosopagnosia” in a specialized magazine.

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW

For her, the real revelation came when she discovered an art book, which invited her to illustrate a self-portrait through touch alone: by touching her own face and drawing it. “Art has definitely been cathartic for me. Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am now. In making art, sometimes I also destroy it. I can deal with a lot of emotions and hardships that I experienced growing up and no longer carry with me. I can look back, and understand my teachers and my parents more. I know now that they didn’t know.”

Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

ADVERTISING - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Podría interesarte
ADVERTISING
ADVERTISING