New York artist creates 3D masks using strangers’ DNA

by jeeg 27. December 2013 21:39


We leave our DNA everywhere — on the side of a wine glass or on a strand of hair left in a public restroom. An artist is proving that what you leave behind could be a lot more than you think.

You may want to think twice before you spit out your gum or drop a cigarette butt in public. New York Artist Healther Dewey-Hagborg might pick it up — extract the DNA and turn it into a 3D face that could look like you!

“A lot of my work begins with a question. In this particular place the question was ‘what can I learn about someone from a single hair?’” Dewey-Hagborg said.

Once she finds a sample, she takes it to the lab to mine it for DNA, and then analyzes the results.

“From a cigarette butt — where someone’s ancestors likely came from, their gender, eye color, hair color, complexion,” Dewey-Hagborg said.

That information is then fed into a computer program that generates a 3D model of a face.

“The way that I’m using code here is a lot like how a sketch artist would use a pencil,” Dewey-Hagborg said.

It takes about eight hours to print in 3D at NYU’s Advanced Media Studio.

Then, the excess powder is removed to reveal the disembodied face from a stranger’s DNA — but there are limitations — the length of a person’s nose or the shape of his or her face cannot be determined.

“The faces have a general likeness. It might look like a family resemblance. Right now I can’t determine age so all of my masks are aged between 20 and 40,” Dewey-Hagborg said.

Dewey-Hagborg started the project called “Stranger Visions” after creating her self portrait two years ago. Now, she’s hoping it’ll raise questiosn about genetic privacy.

“It’s meant to be an exploration at the intersection of art and technology and science, and it’s meant to be a provocation,” Dewey-Hagborg said.



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