Can a single strand of hair, a piece of gum or a cigarette tell us what the owner's face looks like? Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg set out to explore this concept by creating eerie and life-like 3D-printed portraits of people using DNA collected from random trash. She looked for the hair and other mementos at public places around New York City, ran them through a DNA sequencing system and then-3D printed the results with a face-generating program. The portraits, along with the sample kits, are part of the DNA & Dust exhibition at East Hampton’s QF Gallery, which runs until July 20th, 2013.
Dewey-Hagborg was first inspired to use DNA sequencing to create art when she noticed a strand of hair stuck in a framed piece of art. She began seeing stray hairs everywhere she went, and became inspired to fuse art and science into an incredibly innovative body of work.
After collecting her samples from Penn Station, public parks and other areas around the city, Dewey-Hagborg brings them to Brooklyn’s Genspace Biotech Lab, where DNA sequencing is performed on the samples in 40 different genomes. The artist then checks for potential traits implied by the DNA. The findings are then run through a face-generating program that Dewey-Hagborg modified from an existing program. Although the faces may not be accurate, the DNA gives a general idea, or suggestion, of what the original “donor” may have looked like. The formulated faces are 3D-printed, then airbrushed to look like hauntingly realistic faces. They are displayed alongside a kit containing the original sample in a petri dish, a photograph of the location where the sample was found, and the DNA profile found on the sample.
Six of Dewey-Hagborg’s incredible science-meets-fine-art sculptures are on view at QF Gallery in East Hampton.
Images ©Lori Zimmer for Inhabitat