Countless procedural crime television shows and movies show us hyper-paranoid characters that scrape up every skin fiber and hair follicle lest some wizard-like detective use DNA information to track them down. Now, one artist has taken this notion and applied it to an art project that marries DNA analysis with the art of facial compositing.
Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg used genetic material collected in public places around New York City to create a series of human portraits called Stranger Visions. The genetic material came mostly from hairs, but the artist has also amassed a collection of discarded cigarette butts in hopes of one day extracting DNA from those items as well.
Dewey-Hagborg worked with community biolab Genspace to process the samples, and used data related to gender, ancestry, eye color, and other factors to work up a profile of what the person might look like. After combining that data, she then transfers the information into a software program that ultimately yields a 3D portrait that she then outputs on a 3D printer at New York University.
Of course, the portraits aren't accurate representations of what the owners of the DNA actually look like, but even these approximations based on broad factors opens up an interesting new way to look at the intersection of art and science. You can check out the full DNA portrait collection here.