Project Genesis

group portrait

This project developed out of Prof. Laetitia La Follette’s Spring 2015 seminar on Roman Portraiture. It is the latest in a series of collaborations between faculty and students in the Department of the History of Art & Architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA).

Other UMCA Exhibitions >>

Emulation and Repetition in the 19th c. Art produced by Professor Cakmak with students in her course on 19th century art

The annual graduate curatorial fellowship, now in its ninth year

Recent undergraduate practica, where student curators have produced exhibitions, both physical like the 2014 exhibition The Art of Collecting: Contemporary Prints from the Risa Gerrig Collection, which was given to the UMCA by Richard Gerrig in memory of his sister Risa Gerrig, a UMass alumna (1981), and virtual, such as the 2015 online exhibit accompanying 10,000 Wonderful Things: A Conversation with the University Collections.


Thanks go to the following individuals and institutions who made this possible:

Loretta Yarlow, Director of the UMCA, for her interest in and encouragement for the project from the inception,

Chuck Close and The Pace Gallery for permissions and access to the digital images of the Close photographs featured here,

The Institute for Curatorial Practice, Hampshire College, its Director, Prof. Karen Koehler, Kress Curatorial Fellow Jocelyn Edens and intern Ashley Williams who provided the essential technical expertise that transformed our initial design into what you see,

Academic Computing at the Office of Information Technology at the University, Dr. Alyson Gill, Associate Provost for Instructional Innovation and Robert Davis, Manager, OIT Academic Computer Classrooms, for the generous loan of computer equipment,

Lyle Denit of the UMCA team for his brilliant help with the setup for the computer kiosk,

And most of all to the two art history seniors, now recent UM/A alums, Kim Cabrera ’15 and Michael Pratt ’15, who embraced my idea of comparing Chuck Close photographs with Roman marble portrait heads for the immediacy they each conjure up and the cultural values they encode. Their work takes this project far beyond what I had envisioned. Michael explores not only the way Close’s male heads reflect historical awareness of earlier portrait traditions, but also how they play with artistic techniques drawn from antiquity even as they express a modern minimalist sensibility. Kim expands the original focus to compare Close’s photographs of the female body to Roman portrait statues of women, showing how his nudes and those sculptures of elite Roman matrons, nude or clothed, each spell out conflicting ideas about female sexuality.

About the Professor

Kim portrait

Laetitia La Follette enjoys shaking up the way we look at art. Currently Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, she developed an interactive etext for the introductory survey, ancient through Renaissance, that now replaces the expensive textbook for the course at UMass. She also advocates for the protection of ancient art and antiquities (moveable and fixed) in her role as Cultural Heritage VP for the Archaeological Institute of America. This is her first venture into museum work.

About the Designer

Wiliams portrait

Ashley Williams is a 2nd Year James Baldwin Scholar at Hampshire College. She is currently studying computer animation and architecture. She is an intern for the Institute for Curatorial Practice Program. She hopes to better digitize the museum world.