Imagined DNA Portraits: Soundtrack

Created for the 2016 RPM Challenge

After 20 years of studying my Dorsey family genealogy through historical records and DNA research, I’m inspired by the information collected and I have begun painting a series of portraits of the Dorsey males that I descend from. Immediately I am faced with a dilemma. I don’t know what most of these men looked like. I know we share a common DNA signature that has been passed down generation after generation, so the project began with an Imagined DNA Portrait of each man. These new portraits depict the “imagined” DNA strand each of the men in my direct line of ancestors. Each Dorsey male before me has passed on an exact copy of his DNA markers, from father to son, generation to generation . With less than a .001% possibility of mutation over the course of 20 generations, it is fascinating to know that I share something unique and perfectly preserved with these men.

Beginning with the pioneer John Dorsey, who moved his family from Maryland to the wilderness of Virginia, this project includes the next 8 generations of Dorsey men who, for the most part,  lived their lives near the very same banks of 20 Mile Creek that John originally settled on.  It could be called a 200 year history of the Dorseys of West Virginia. Their wives and children and occupations and every bit of information I know of them are all elements of consideration as I create these Imagined DNA Portraits.


John and Arah were married on Sept 28, 1791 in Baltimore, MD and soon afterwards, they were awarded land grants and ventured into the wilderness of Virginia. I imagine their journey, a wagon full of kids and supplies, an axe and a saw to build their first home, settling on the banks of Twenty Mile Creek. They probably brought very few things, like pots and pans, the clothes on their backs, a horse, a cow, blankets, a rifle, a bible and an old iPhone.


Samuel and Nancy were married August 30, 1823 in Nicholas County, Virginia. After having 11 children together, Nancy died leaving Samuel, a blacksmith, alone to raise a family. He soon remarried Miriam, a sweet woman that knew there was no way he could do the job alone. During this time, the telegraph was invented and I imagined Samuel trying to communicate with his late wife to explain why he remarried one of her girlfriends.


Franklin and Nancy – Franklin was a kind farmer who was well liked. He died in a sawmill accident, helping someone ca.1877. I compared him and Nancy to Adam and Eve, the first farmer and wife.

Horse Trader

Samuel W and Mary – were married December 19, 1878 in Clay County, WV. Samuel was a horse trader, among other things, and family tradition tells us that Mary was a beautiful woman. The telephone was invented during their lives, so I imagined the joy that Mary would’ve experienced, having a telephone. Then I thought about all the guys that might’ve been distracted.


Benjamin and Libby – were married June 1906 in Clay County, WV. Libby was born in Scotland and came to West Virginia with her family in the late 1800’s. They moved to Pittsburgh soon after they married, where they had 5 boys and a girl. “Uncle Ben”, as he liked to be called, would ask his grandchildren, “What’s my name?” and if they answered correctly, he gave them a nickel.

Coin Collector

Robert and Mildred – (My grandparents) They lived in Brownsville, Texas after retiring from Union Carbide in South Charleston, WV. Grandpa collected coins and bought me a coin collection kit when I was very young. I remember sitting on the floor with him looking through a pile of coins. One time he came to visit us and when we were looking through our collections, I had a penny that he didn’t have. It was a 1944 steel penny. I was so excited to give it to him, as it was the only penny missing from his book. I was named after him and gave both Hondo and Ruby a “W” middle name.


David and Diane – (My parents) Dad hitch hiked to Florida from West Virginia in 1960. He worked at Uncle Curt’s gas station in Claremont. He worked for him for a while and was offered a sales job with Nabisco and soon after, a job with Kraft Foods. Dad was awarded a Jade Ring for Top Sales. My childhood memories are full of memories of the Kraft commercials on TV.

The Artists

Bob and Katy – Two adventurers making art and raising kids in the high desert. This song tells the story that everyone knows to be true. My friend Particle Dots collaborated with me on this track, providing the most beautiful parts of the song that I stacked sloppy bass guitar and vocals on top of. I felt it was a perfect tune to collaborate with another artist.