Articles Tech & Gadgets

Face Sculptures from DNA Samples


Take a look in the streets on your way to somewhere and notice how many gum leftovers and cigarette butts you will come across. These to you and me are mere trashes, but to a New York-based artist, they’re an opportunity to produce something amazing ­– face sculptures out of DNA from these filthy oddments. But don’t you worry,  she’s not a detective to give charges for littering. Well, not just yet.

You will see Heather Dewey-Hagborg in the streets of NYC collecting these pieces of litter. She usually picks up used gums and cigarette butts for these. According to her, they have the most generous amount of human DNA traces, which means a higher success rate to her remarkable scheme.


How is it done?

Back in her lab, the specimens are extracted of DNA. With the technique called PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), some of the DNA regions are amplified, which allows her to study certain areas further.

The results are sent to a lab for another process and then, she gets them back in text file formats which are fed to a computer program she formulated.  From there, the person’s qualities like gender, ancestry, eye color, hair color, freckles, lighter or darker skin and etc. are being gathered.

She uses 3D modeling software for some finishing touches, and then exports it for printing on a ZCORP 3D printer. The printer is capable of printing full color using a powder type material, which according to her is like sand and glue.


How did the bright idea start?

On her day to a therapy session, a framed print on the wall caught her attention. While staring at it, she noticed a tiny crack on the glass with a small hair stuck in it.  At the back of her curious mind, she wondered to whom that piece of hair belonged to, and what the owner’s features could be. Absorbed and intrigued, an idea sparked on her mind, and thus, the amazing breakthrough was born.


Face sculptures from DNA images from

Faces of random people.
sample_face_dna1 sample_face_dna2 sample_face_dna3 sample_face_dna4


Faces of people familiar to her.




Manu Sporny –


Orta –


Who is Dewey-Hagborg?


Heather Dewey-Hargborg with her self-portrait sculpture.

Heather Dewey-Hagborg is an information artist residing in New York City. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Information Arts from Bennington College and an Interactive Telecommunications Program Master’s degree at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. She is currently taking a doctorate degree in Electronic Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Know more about Heather in her website:


Here’s a video of Heather talking about her project.


Science and art blend together nicely. Though most of the times the product seems bizarre, it’s always undeniably fascinating. So put your geeky glasses on and bring your uncanny ideas to life.


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Mark Vincent del Rosario
Mark is passionate for arts. Dance,design and illustration are just some of the things he enjoys doing. He is currently working as a Web Programmer,but his desire to be creative will always be something at heart.
Mark Vincent del Rosario

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