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Published On September 21, 2018


Putting the Dead to Rest

Students at the New York Academy of Art are using their sculptural and artistic training to reconstruct the faces of unidentified remains.

Putting a face to unidentified remains requires both anatomical knowledge and an artistic hand. Sculptor Madison Haws began this bust with the bones of a woman who died anonymously in a home for the mentally impaired in Queens, N.Y. Haws started with a 3D-printed replica of the woman’s skull, then built up layers of clay to recreate lost muscles and tissues. Genetic analysis of the remains allowed her to factor in racial and other physical factors.

Haws’ work is part of a program offered at the New York Academy of Art, where she is a student. The majority of the skulls come from the Arizona desert, where many migrants perish attempting to cross the border. The aim is for these painstakingly rendered pieces to be recognized by friends or family, allowing them to put the dead to rest.


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