“For me, this is like bringing a part of someone’s life back”

  • Published: 21 Aug 2019

We spoke to Forensic Art & Facial Identification student Danielle Elizabeth Adair about her Masters Show project, which she hopes will change people’s lives in the near future…

Danielle Elizabeth Adair’s Masters Show exhibition showcases her research in the area of maxillofacial prosthesis – hyper-realistic prosthesis which replace a part of the face. Her work explores orbital prosthesis in particular, looking at how these could be developed to ensure an even further degree of realism. She told us more about this fascinating and meaningful project…

“Maxillofacial prosthesis replaces a part of the face that has been lost through disease or trauma. With recent advancements, a prosthetic can be remarkably realistic and look just like the body part it replaces; a nose looks like a nose, an ear looks like an ear, and so on. However, the prosthetic eye will remain static, whereas the healthy eye will of course move. I believe there should be a way to advance that because all the technology is out there.

“I’ve created two examples of orbital prosthesis that demonstrate how a prosthetic using this advanced technology could look. One uses a motor built into the eye cavity and the other uses a screen onto which I’ve digitally painted the eye. These are both programmed at a random speed and a random position, and the eye will find its fixed position and then move to a randomized position within a controlled level of angles. I wanted to replicate how a normal eyes moves, moving in different ways and at different speeds. You need to get that balance of small movements to get that realism.

“Before I came here I’d graduated with a Fine Art degree, but I quickly realised that I wanted to use my artistic skills to help people. I was working as a freelance artist, but it was curating or running workshops with children – where I was supporting other people – that I enjoyed the most.

“I’d contacted a maxillofacial prosthesis lab in Belfast before I started the course here and they allowed me shadow someone who worked in the field in the NHS for a week. I was able to sit in on appointments with a couple of people who were getting orbital prosthesis and that had a really big impact on me. One patient who came in was a retired teacher who seemed really reserved and shy, but as soon as he got his orbital prosthesis at the end of the week he changed completely; he was instantly a lot more confident. He even said he was going to go out to visit friends and family that weekend, which he hadn’t done in months.

“It was amazing to see that instant improvement in his quality of life. Once I saw the patients and how much it affected them, and their families, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I’m a sculptor, so for me, this is like bringing a part of someone’s life back. It’s like moving art; I’m just giving someone back a part of themselves that’s been missing.”

You can read more about Danielle’s work on the Masters Show here. If you’d like to find out more about our MSc in Facial Art & Forensic Identification have a look on our course pages.

"Once I saw the patients and how much it affected them, and their families, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I’m a sculptor, so for me, this is like bringing a part of someone’s life back."

Danielle Elizabeth Adair, Forensic Art & Facial Identification student