Portrait of the Past
updated 09/04/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 09/04/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT
That posed something of a problem for the Charlotte Museum of History, which happens to be located next to Alexander's 1774 stone house and wants to place a sculpture of him nearby. The museum turned to local graphic artist Josh Cavalier, 30, a former medical illustrator who found a way—he thinks—to conjure Alexander's face from beyond the grave. Using detailed photographs of direct Alexander descendants, Cavalier analyzed the family's features, selected the dominant traits and then, using a computer program, morphed the photos into a composite image of how Hezekiah likely looked. "At first I was skeptical," he admits, "but after I got feedback from the family, I thought, 'Wow! Maybe we've got something here!' " It's not exact, he admits, but it's close enough to be the basis for a sculpture. "We are looking for a representation, not a dead ringer."
Museum board member Walter Klein believes Cavalier's technology will allow anyone to line their dining room with plausible portraits of ancestors. "They'll get so close to that great-grandfather they'll think they can touch him," he says.
Not everyone thinks it's such a swell idea. "It's ridiculous," says forensic anthropologist Midori Albert of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. "You don't know what's in these men's genotype." But Ted Alexander, 62, a direct descendant of Hezekiah, doesn't care. "It's better," he says, "than no picture at all."