Close came to fame by taking photographs of his subjects and then sometimes using an airbrush and grids to create hyper-realist paintings from them. (A nice synopsis of his methods may be found here.) In 1998 he suffered a spinal artery collapse and was paralyzed from the neck down; he continues to paint with assistance*, and has turned to a more pointillistic approach, as seen in this self-portrait.
Close keeps an apartment and studio in the city, but mostly lives in Bridgehampton, NY.
The Committee was established by executive order of Ronald Reagan in 1982. It advises other federal arts agencies and establishes its own programs, including the current Save America’s Treasures preservation program, which the President recently proposed to cut. Other PCAH appointees this year include author Jhumpa Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies, Pulitzer Prize 2000) and entertainment lawyer Fred Goldring. Obama’s previous appointments include Sarah Jessica Parker, Yo-Yo Ma, and Anna Wintour.
* Update: Though Close’s assistant draws his grid squares for him, Close manipulates the paint brush himself.