Mon
May 6 2013 4:00pm
Artist Finds Your DNA, Reconstructs Your Face

In what sounds like something straight from our favorite science fiction, artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg is making DNA-based art! Basically, she’s collecting random DNA from saliva and hairs she finds, then entering the genetic information into a computer and using that information to create a 3-D reconstruction of what that person’s face would look like. How close does she get? Check out the very REAL results below.

Here’s the artist with her own DNA art face!

Below is the face of a person she reconstructed after obtaining his DNA from a cigarette butt in Brooklyn! Most of the faces in her art project are discovered through random objects like gum or cigarettes.

However, there are lines she won’t cross. From the Smithsonian Magazine:

Rest assured, the artist has some limits when it comes to what she will pick up from the streets. Though they could be helpful to her process, Dewey-Hagborg refuses to swipe saliva samples and used condoms. She tells me she has had the most success with cigarette butts. “They [smokers] really get their gels into that filter of the cigarette butt,” she says. “There just tends to be more stuff there to actually pull the DNA from.”

Want to see this stuff in person? Dewey-Hagborg is taking her show on the road! Her work will be on display at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Tory, New York on May 12. She is also taking part in a policy discussion at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. on June 3 and will be giving a talk, with a pop-up exhibit, at Genspace in Brooklyn on June 13. The QF Gallery in East Hampton, Long Island, will be hosting an exhibit from June 29-July 13, as will the New York Public Library from January 7 to April 2, 2014.

Read the entire article about her process here at the Smithsonian Magazine!


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3 comments
Mahesh Banavar
1. maheshkb
Looks very interesting. It will be interesting to see how accurate these estimates of human faces are.
Bridget Smith
2. BridgetSmith
How weird would it be to go see the exhibit and find your face there?
Twitchity
3. Twitchity
For those looking for more information on this project (caveating its limitations), check out http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/oscillator/2013/03/12/identity-theft-nature-and-nurture-in-art-and-science/; a recent effort to identify genetic loci predictively influencing facial morphology can be found at http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1002932. With sufficient data, actually developing a reasonably-useful correlation between genotype and facial phenotype might be a matter of analytics.

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