The art portrait, the pixel and the gene: Micro construction of macro representation

Steven McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Digital images rely on the fineness of pixels to create an illusion of pictorial reality, with individual 'picture elements' sacrificing themselves in service of the overall image. The elemental binary code underlying digital pictures has its parallel in human genetic code: bits of information are stored in the DNA, itself consisting of binary chemical relationships. The nature of human identity - as translated by artistic representations of the face - is emerging from this intersection. The mapping of the human genome has had implications for socio-cultural constructions of identity, especially for race and hereditary characteristics. This paper examines three artists whose creative inquiry addresses the human face and its relationship to digitisation, identity and genetic code: painter Chuck Close, Photomosaics® software inventor Rob Silvers, and photographer Nancy Burson. Their varying imaging strategies all employ micro and macro relationships, yet each offers different models for representing human identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-71
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2005


  • Chuck Close
  • Digital art portrait
  • Human genome
  • Nancy Burson
  • Pixel resolution
  • Racial identity
  • Rob Silvers


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