Call her the gum scavenger. The human hair collector. The DNA sculptor. The Creators Project recently interviewed New York City artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, who creates three-dimensional portraits of strangers' heads using DNA samples they've left behind in public: on gum, hair, cigarette butts, and fingernail clippings. Dewey-Hagborg, who considers her work a provocation on the theme of "genetic surveillance," works with a lab to extract DNA from the detritus and render it using facial modeling algorithms. These algorithms, and our understanding of the relationship between genes and facial features, are still quite crude: Geneticists can reliably identify a person's hair and eye color from their DNA but they're still largely stabbing in the dark when it comes to predicting features like nose shape and overall facial structure. (Dewey-Hagborg, who calls her project "Stranger Visions," told The Creators Project that her renderings are "very probabilistic.") Here are two examples of her recreations, including the artist with her self-portrait:
Images courtesy of Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Dan Phiffer
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