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“Genetic Art”- using science to save species

Posted by on October 8, 2013 post from Darrin Grandmason, founder of genetic art company DNA on a SHIRT. Grandmason is currently using his genetic art to help save the endangered cheetah.

A common conversation ice-breaker is “What do you do?” After answering this question too many times, I figured out the best answer.

That is what I tell people: “I’m a genetic artist.”

People take it in different ways. Some are intrigued, some amazed, others confused. Let me explain what I do exactly. I take a cell swab from the mouth of people, plants and animals, run the DNA fingerprint and place that in a modern art format to display or wear. Viola, genetic art.



DNA on a SHIRT founder and CEO Darrin Grandmason creates a human DNA print on brushed aluminium for the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation grand opening in 2013.

This led me to create my current company DNA on a SHIRT. At DNA on a SHIRT, we work with non-profits to spotlight the connection all life shares through genetic art.

I’ve been doing this work for over 7 years, and was cited by Newsweek magazine as the “founding father of the art style.”  I believe genetics will have a larger impact on mankind than electricity. That isn’t just my opinion. It’s shared by many people far more specialized and qualified than me.

I knew people would find genetic art fascinating in the same way I did when I ran my dog’s DNA fingerprint and hung it on my wall in 2005. What I didn’t anticipate was the emotional response.


DNA Canine Pet Portrait on brushed aluminum featuring a client’s dachshund

I remember receiving an email that after reading it, I was sobbing.

It was from a CEO at a fortune 200 company. She lost her child during birth and asked for help. She wanted something that could visually represent her son in her office, so we ran her son’s print and engraved it in brushed aluminium to hang on her wall.

Another time, I was contacted by a father who had lost his toddler. He asked for the DNA print to tattoo on his body to honour his son.

I received these types of requests on a regular basis. The memorial aspect of this art style took me by total surprise. It is something that resonates with people, showing our connection at a deeper, more personal level. I’ve always had a drive to help, and I saw this art style as my opportunity.

The memorial aspect goes much farther. We recently partnered with the Phoenix Zoo to create shirts featuring the DNA fingerprint of Duchess the Bornean orangutan, who passed away in 2012. The shirts are more than a memorial. Duchess was an ambassador for the orangutan species. We wanted to show that through the shirts.

This same approach is applied to our current campaign with the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia. We aren’t memorialising a specific animal – that isn’t all we do. We aim to educate and engage and the CCF works with an animal whose plight needs to be spread – the cheetah. If we can help save these iconic big cats through our art, we want to help in any way possible.

I have learned that this art style can serve as more than a fashion statement or conservation outcry. It shows our connection and unites us as a species and planet, unified by a common bond of DNA.

You can find more about DNA on a SHIRT on Facebook, Twitter, or via their website.

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