Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg is making new impressions in a world where art bestrides science. Heather collects DNA from around New York City - anything from wads of gum on the sidewalk to cigarette butts, fingernails or even strands of hair. Using these discarded trails of forensic evidence, Heather uses standard DNA kits to extract purified DNA which then is sent to a lab for sequencing. Heather then compares the sequences returned from the lab to those found in the human genome databases including ancestry, gender, eye color and even the propensity for obesity. These factors as determined by the DNA sample are then entered into a computer program which creates a 3D model of the person’s face and then a lifelike mask sculpture is printed using a 3D printer.
Heather’s exhibition, titled “Stranger Visions,” displays these anonymous facial sculptures and is truly a testament to the development of new technologies and advances in genetics.
Heather is now working on a medical examiner’s cold case, where she is using DNA from remains that have been unidentified for 20 years to create a 3D facial reconstruction that could give investigators a lead on this unresolved case.
Where else can this technology and out of the box thinking take us next?