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  • Writer's picturePaul Kelly

Medical Illustration Podcast interview with forensic artist Lisa Bailey

Welcome back to the Medical Illustration Podcast, in this episode we have an extraordinary guest whose work has bridged the gap not only between art and science, but also mystery and investigation. Lisa Bailey is a retired Forensic Artist who worked as a Digital Information Specialist for the FBI Laboratory. Working with investigators and Forensic Anthropologists, she worked with unidentified remains, using details about the age, sex, stature and ancestry of the individual in conjunction with a 3D print of their skull to sculpt facial approximations of what these individuals may have looked like, hoping to spark recognition and generate leads from the public. 

Over 4,000 unidentified remains are found each year in the US, and over 25% of those will remain unidentified a year later. In about 10% of these cases, a Forensic Artist will be called upon to create an approximation, in the hopes that someone will contact authorities to provide information about a missing person. During her time at the FBI, Lisa completed well over 80 facial approximations, both 2D and 3D–about half of those leading to a positive ID which is an incredible success rate. 

During her career, Lisa also launched a 5-year research project at the University of Tennessee "Body Farm" to create a 3D digital and photographic forensic art reference collection of over 100 contemporary skulls. Lisa has also been featured on other podcasts, including the “FBI Retired Case File Review Podcast” with former FBI agent Jerri Williams, the "Body to Burial" podcast, and NPR. She recently published a book about her career–"Clay and Bones: My Life as an FBI Forensic Artist", available now. 

In this interview we’ll explore her journey, discuss her sculpting process and techniques specific to forensic facial approximations, and learn more about her powerful story. Lisa will be the keynote speaker at this year's Association of Medical Illustrators conference being held in Rochester NY, home to the Rochester Institute of Technology, or RIT, medical illustration program. The conference will be July 24th to the 27th of 2024, and conference attendees will have the opportunity to see Lisa present more about her career, niche technical expertise and pioneering research in person. Please enjoy this interview with Lisa Bailey. 


Images © Lisa Bailey

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