Since the inception of her career as an artist, Nancy Burson has been interested in the interaction of art and science. Starting in the early 1980s, in collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Burson began to produce computer-generated composite protraits. The work was informed by centuries of social, scientific, and pseudo-scientific study of the human face (physiognomy, phrenology, etc.). However, Burson’s attitude toward science was always laced with a touch of irony, and her early composites exhibit a keen awareness of the absurdities embedded in many of the historic theories with which we are now familiar. From the start, Burson’s work was conceptually challenging, as she addressed issues not only concerning science, but also race, biology, politics, ethics, and much more.
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