Nancy Burson studied painting at Colorado Women’s College from 1966 to 1968. She moved to New York after leaving school and became interested in interactive art. Through EAT (Experiments in Art and Technology), Burson began a collaboration with Tom Schneider and David Petty, computer engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to create an aging machine, or more specifically The Method and Apparatus for Producing an Image of a Person’s Face at a Different Age, for which she received a patent in 1981. She also collaborated with Cambridge computer scientists Richard Carling and David Kramlich (whom she later married) on further development of the process in 1982. Burson utilized the technology to create provocative portraits; these composite images of the major races, world leaders, and movie stars earned significant attention when they first appeared in the early 1980s. Perhaps the most humanistic application of her work has been in the location of missing children; her updated portraits have been used to reunite children with their families. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Burson’s work grew to incorporate more primitive media, including dauguerreotypes and images made with simple plastic commercial cameras. The results, though less sophisticated technologically, are of a highly personal nature that examine such subjects as birth defects and the horrors of disease.
National Museum of American Art (CD-ROM) (New York and Washington D.C.: MacMillan Digital in cooperation with the National Museum of American Art, 1996)