Nancy Burson (1996-02-16)

Nancy Burson
Practice: Photography and Digital
Date of Lecture: 1996-02-16

Burson_Nancy_w01Computer mix of Adolf Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao & Ayatollah Khomeini, 1983 © Nancy Burson

Nancy Burson is a pioneering American digital artist and photographer. While working at MIT in the early 1980s, she co-developed the computer imaging software that ages human faces. Utilizing the technology’s ability to isolate individual features and combine them in a seamless way, Burson created her first series of Composites. The resulting fictitious portraits, such as the compiled faces beauty icons, questioned both scientific truth and the physical nature of identity.

In the early nineties, Burson created a photographic series depicting children and adults whose appearances had been altered by disease or circumstance, thus challenging widely-held perceptions of normality and beauty. In the late nineties, Burson undertook several interactive and public art projects that sought to expose the socially constructed nature of categories such as age, race and gender. One of these projects, The Human Race Machine, digitally scans the viewer’s face and projects it back as one of among five races, emphasizing how race is a visual, rather than a genetic concept.

The recent 2002 retrospective, Seeing and Believing: The Art of Nancy Burson was held at the Grey Art Gallery in New York.

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