Laurie and Debbie say:
Vibeke Venema, writing for the BBC, profiles Carlotta, the pseudonym of a superb German artist who has prosopagnosia, or face-blindness. Carlotta’s face-blindness is intense, and one of the faces she cannot recognize is her own.
If she catches sight of herself in a mirror, Carlotta will think, “the woman looking at me is in my nightie and in my flat, so it must be me”. She will also recognize her hair – it’s what happens underneath those grey curls that’s a mystery.
Her face-blindness made her childhood and young adult years very difficult, as detailed in the article. We aren’t surprised that she became intensely curious about her own face.
Carlotta says it was a “revelation” for her when she read in a book once that you could draw self-portraits by touching your face.
“The face is a hilly landscape that I travel with my finger and transform into a two-dimensional drawing. It’s not that easy, because I can’t see what I am doing,” she says.
Although she is making visual representations of her face, she can draw in the dark, because light isn’t her medium: instead, she traces her face with one hand and reproduces the results with the other.
Many blind people, of course, use their fingers to learn other people’s faces. As we wrote about here recently, DeafBlind people are developing Protactile, a language based on touch. So Carlotta’s work is not only valuable on its own, it also represents a range of human adaptation, as well as the endlessly resilient nature of art–which will find a way to express itself across an amazing range of neurodiverse abilities. Unfortunately, the fabulous quality of her art goes unmentioned in much of the publicity about her work. Laurie is particularly impressed. You can see more of her beautiful work, other than the self-portraits, here.
Since [learning that she could touch her face to make a self-portrait], she has done little else, working on them so furiously, that sometimes she tears through the paper with her tools – she usually creates monotypes, a type of etching, and scratches on paper with knitting needles.
Venema provides an account of neuroscientist Valentin Riedl, who has studied Carlotta and made a documentary film about her: Lost in Face, and then returns to Carlotta for last words:
“My art is an inner necessity for me,” she says. “I can’t help but make art, to feel my portraits and put them on paper again and again, and to keep going in search of my face, of what will escape my memory in the next second.