Fanny/Fingerpainting, a portrait of Close's grandmother-in-law, represents one of the largest and most masterly executions of a technique the artist developed in the mid-l980s. That technique involved the direct application of pigment to a surface with the artist's fingertips. By adjusting the amount of pigment and the pressure of his finger on the canvas, Close could achieve a wide range of tonal effects. Typically, he worked from a black and white photograph which he would divide into many smaller units by means of a grid. He then transposed the grid onto a much larger canvas and meticulously reproduced each section of it. The result is a monumental, close-up view that forces an uncomfortable intimacy upon the viewer.
Seen from a distance, the painting looks like a giant, silver-toned photograph that unrelentingly reveals every crack and crevice of the sitter's face. Closer up, the paint surface dissolves into a sea of fingerprints that have an abstract beauty, even as they metaphorically suggest the withering of the sitter's skin with age. The fingerpaintings provide a far more literal record of the artist's touch than most abstract expressionist brushwork -- but are at the same time dictated by an abstract, distinctly impersonal system.