Portraits Made From DNA Found On Used Gum And Hair

Portraits From DNA Found on Used Gum And Hair

It is an imaginable even in our day and time coupled with technological advancements, to think of a tasteless gum thrown away because someone has no use of it again being used to make portraits. This certainly sounds like the old fairy tales that grandmothers used to tell little grand children during bedtimes.  But the matter of the fact is that this is not a fairly tale but a reality. An artist who goes by the name of Heather Dewey – Hagborg, is able to make portraits from DNA; yes, you read it correctly portraits from DNA. One would ask how this is done but this is how it’s done.

The artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, collects chewed up bubble gum, cigarette butts, chopped finger nails, and locks of hair from public places.  After the collection of all these items the artist then goes ahead to do the sampling of the DNA and from the sampling is able to make 3D portraits that are able to show how the owners of the collected items might be looking like. The project “Stranger visions” has been described as both alluring and worrying at the same time. The idea for the project as described in Dewey – Hagborg’s blog came about as she sat in her psychologist’s office  where she noticed some hair pieces that were stuck on a photo frame. She then proceeded to think of how the person whose hair was stuck on the photo frame might look like.

She eventually extracted the DNA from the samples that she was able to find, and then used a database of known DNA strings that were able to show specific attributes of a person. Dewey-Hagborg is quoted as saying that she used approximately 40 to 50 attributes, like spacing between the eyes, the probability to gain fat more easily etc. Through this procedure she succeeded in creating a portrait using the 3D Basel Morphable module.  The intriguing part of this project was that after she gained a portrait in the program, it was printed on a 3D Printer to make an actual 3D head of the stranger that left their chewed bubble gum or cigarette butt behind. One can be able to see more of this project in her website. She even went ahead to create one of herself.

 It is important to note that DNA by itself cannot be able to tell us everything about ourselves. Even if there was to be a database that had connections between DNA and the facial features, these portraits would not cover the attributes that has to do with the genes functions that are bounded to the DNA itself but from the environmental changes to it. Dewey – Hagborg says that recently she had a conversation with a certain investigator who hoped that she could assist him by making a portrait of a woman who had been missing for the last 20 years. The investigator is working together with the artist in the hope that the portrait will shed some new light in the case of the woman who has been missing for the last 20 years.

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