After enduring seven years in prison, 33 portraits of ex-prisoner and transparency activist Chelsea Manning will greet art aficionados at a New York City gallery function next month.
The 3-D art show, titled “A Becoming Resemblance,” will decorate the walls of the Fridman Gallery from Aug. 2 to Sept. 5.
“Chelsea had been denied a public face, her image had been suppressed. And I was hoping that I could use this DNA to give her that public face back, so to give her a present,” creator Heather Dewey-Hagborg told Reuters.
“Prisons try very hard to make us inhuman and unreal by denying our image, and thus our existence, to the rest of the world,” Manning explained in a statement on the gallery's website.
Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg poses with various 3-D printed masks created from DNA extracted from cheeck swabs and hair clippings she received from formerly imprisoned U.S. Army Private Chelsea Manning while she was in jail. | Photo: Reuters
The army of Manning masks, titled “Maybe Chelsea,” vary in size, shape and color. Its creator hopes to show that even DNA samples can’t determine a person’s gender.
“The ‘Maybe Chelseas’ will be in a lot of different places on the gender and race spectrum. It really demonstrates that there are so many elements of DNA that are common to humans,” Gallery Director Iliya Fridman told The New York Times.
“Imagery has become a kind of proof of existence. The use of DNA in art provides a cutting edge and a very postmodern – almost ‘post-postmodern’ – analysis of thought, identity and expression. It combines chemistry, biology, information, and our ideas of beauty and identity,” Dewey-Hagborg said.
Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg works in her studio where she created computer models for 3-D printed masks created from DNA extracted from cheeck swabs and hair clippings she received from formerly imprisoned U.S. Army Private Chelsea Manning while she was in jail. | Photo: Reuters
The artist contacted the prisoner during her incarceration to acquire hair and saliva samples, which the artist manipulated using software that analyzes DNA to create the portraits. Manning was very supportive of the two-year project and requested that she not appear too masculine.
"I'm hoping people will walk in and see a portrait that resonates with them and feel kind of that connection with her," the artist said. "We are all Chelsea Manning and we all stand there with her."
The former army intelligence analyst was released earlier this year after dozens of petitions were launched by LGBTQ and human rights groups lobbying for the transgender ex-soldier's release. She had been incarcerated in 2010 after exposing U.S. war crimes in the Middle East.