Imagine, as an artist, climbing to the top of the art world, huge studio loft, living amid the exciting swirl of the New York art scene, your paintings in dozens of major museums around the world, collectors clamoring for your work, selling everything you do before the paint is even dry, for prices well into six figures. Then, suddenly, you are paralyzed from the neck down. Doctors tell you you'll never even FEED yourself again, much less paint. No amount of surgery, pills, or potions will ever change that. Imagine you're Chuck Close, December, 1988, the world as you've known it has come to an end.

Now, fast-forward to 1998. Again you're at the top of the art world. Your enormous "portrait" canvases are getting critical reviews far surpassing anything done ten years ago. Your work has bridged the mile-wide chasm between photo-realism and near-abstraction. This time however, each painting takes up to a year to complete. Your brushes are tied to your hands. Years of physical therapy have given you some degree of arm and leg movement. You work from a "wheelchair" that is in reality a forklift. This is the world of Chuck Close today. His almost total disability was not the end of his world, but the beginning of a new one, the opportunity to reinvent himself.

Whereas before, his work captured in paint every last follicle, every last pore, every last crease in his model's face, then magnified it some eight to ten times, now each seven to ten-foot portrait image captures exquisite, glimmering light in thousands of incredible little squares which are, in reality, tiny, individual, abstract paintings. Seen up close, they work as marvelous small paintings within a painting. From a distance, his straight-on, mug-shot-like faces (often self-portraits) radiate a shimmering glow that is both hypnotic, yet wildly exciting. It's the stuff legends are made of. Chuck Close did not "die" in 1988. He is now 58.