Portraits Take It From The Top
by John Paul Stapleton
The Hampden Gallery is almost hidden in the city that is UMass Amherst’s south- west residential area. Its current show, “Head,” fits right in with this setting, as if it were in a metropolitan arts district.
Curator D. Dominick Lombardi has brought together contemporary work from all over the United States, Europe and Asia. Every piece shows the breadth of representation that comes with portraiture.
Lombardi placed textile pieces by China Marks as the colorful lure to the first room of the gallery. “Drive He Said” centers around a head made up of landscape features against various scenes of cars on the road. Travel is obviously the formative point for the subject, with a head made up of the scenes that can be found on a long road trip.
On the opposite wall, Lombardi’s “Sacco and Vanzetti” is another surreal depiction of the famous men who were wrongly executed for murder in 1927. Their faces are appropriately discolored like corpses, floating above a rough sea. Lightning runs throughout the background, reminiscent of their execution method, the electric chair.
These surreal pieces are installed alongside works of many different styles, including some great sculptures. Cynthia Consentino’s animal-human hybrid sculptures “Wolf Woman” and “Wolf Girl III” are surreal forms with their fangs bared that are anything but cartoony. “Nude,” a naked figure topped with a rabbit head, makes you feel as if someone is sitting on the ground, watching you as you enter the next space.