Forensic Art Discipline History


History of the IAI Forensic Art Discipline

Forensic art is "Any art that is of a forensic nature; that is, art used in conjunction with legal procedures." A working definition of forensic art is "any art that aids in the identification, apprehension, or conviction of criminal offenders, or that aids in the location of victims or identification of unknown deceased persons."

Taylor, K.T., Forensic Art and Illustration. Boca Raton: CRC Press LLC, 2001

History of the IAI Forensic Art Discipline

By Karen T. Taylor

Through many hours in the library, I have documented that the use of forensic art goes back at least one hundred years. Our IAI Forensic Art Discipline can trace its roots to 1984, when Detective Frank Domingo, now retired from the Artist Unit of the New York City Police Department, organized the First National Composite Art Symposium. Held on October 15, 16, and 17, 1984, at the World Trade Center in New York, there were more than fifty artists from the United States and Canada in attendance. At the 1984 meeting, I was personally proud to meet many artists who continue today to be valued friends and professional colleagues, including:

Frank Domingo (1940 - 2009)
George Homa (retired)
Tom Macris (retired)
Scott Callander
Horace Heafner (1928 - 2014)
New York City Police Department
New Jersey State Police
San Jose, California Police Department
U.S. Secret Service - Washington, D.C.
FBI - Washington, D.C. and teh National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

There was general discussion of the formation of an independent professional organization for composite artists. During the conference, Kay McClanahan of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division spoke to the group as a representative of the IAI. Frank Domingo discussed the importance of communication, education, standardization and perhaps eventual certification in the police art field. It was subsequently voted upon and agreed that the IAI would be an excellent "umbrella organization" to facilitate the composite art organization. It was later decided that the generic term "forensic art" would be used rather than "composite art" to encourage membership by those who were involved in other forensic art endeavors such as facial reconstruction from the skull or demonstrative evidence.

In 1985, a handful of artists met at the 70th Annual Educational Conference in Savannah, Georgia, and discussed plans for our fledgling organization, and got to know the IAI.

In the following year, 1986, Frank Domingo represented the artists' group at the 71st Educational Conference in London, England, where he addressed the Board of Directors concerning the value of adding forensic art as a discipline. A vote was taken during the business meeting and forensic art officially became a discipline under the auspices of the IAI.

The first Subcommittee Chairperson was Frank Domingo and the first members were:

Susan Biesiada
Frank Gorey
Paul Johnson
Marla Lawson
Tom Macris
Neil McDonald
Glenn Miller
Carrie Stuart Parks
Karen T. Taylor
St. John's County, Florida Sheriff's Department
Nassau County, New York Police Department
St. Paul, Minnesota Police Department
Atlanta, Georgia Police Department
San Jose, California Police Department
Orlando, Florida Police Department
Fairfax County, Virginia Police Department
Freelance artist, North Idaho
Texas Department of Public Safety

Also in London, Frank submitted a rough draft of a document that was reviewed and approved for publication. Thus, later in 1986, there was the publication of the Composite Art Manual written primarily by Frank Domingo and intended as a reference document for police agencies and those new to forensic art.

Kevin Richlin from the Sunnyvale, California Department of Public Safety and I co-authored an article which appeared in the July/August 1989 issue of the Journal of Forensic Identification entitled "Forensic Art: Defining the International Association for Identification's Ninth Discipline." The article introduced our field to the IAI membership at large and defined four general areas of concentration within the field:

  1. Composite Imagery
    • Composite drawings
    • Mechanically-generated composites
    • Object or evidence drawings
  2. Image Modification and Image Identification
    • Methods of manipulation, enhancement and categorization of photographic images
  3. Demonstrative Evidence
    • Visual information for case presentation in court
  4. Reconstruction and Postmortem Identification Aids
    • Methods to aid in the identification of physical remains in various conditions