After 25 years, longtime forensic scientist Jennifer Hannaford traded in her lab coat for an artist smock.
“Everything about forensic is protocol driven and exact,” said the 50-year-old painter, who finished up her last job in the field last month.
“Now my world is loosened up, and it feels very good.”
On Saturday, Hannaford opened an art gallery in Port Jefferson at Chandler Square, at the previous Crushed Olive location.
“Her work is breathtakingly beautiful,” said Steve Muñoz, head of the Port Jefferson Retailers Association. “We are excited to watch her paint live in the studio.”
There, she is selling her original artwork, where she specializes in painting people underwater, as well as her fingerprint series — these are known mug shots of known celebrities, criminals and civil rights leaders created entirely with her own fingerprints.
Hannaford has used fingerprints to tie her worlds together before.
When she was pursuing a master’s degree in biomedical forensic sciences at Boston University, she even wrote a thesis in discovering fingerprints in artwork for authentication purposes.
“I was always fascinated by fingerprints, in science and now in art,” she said.
Even though she was always interested in art, there was a long hiatus before she picked up a drawing utensil since her teenage years.
“When I was a child my mom said the minute I could pick up a pencil I was drawing everywhere and on everything,” recalled Hannaford, a Placerville, Calif. native.
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She remained interested in drawing until she graduated high school. But she got interested in and pursued forensic science as the OJ Simpson murder trail swept the nation.
She graduated from Sacramento State University and moved to the East Coast for work.
Her itch for creating art didn’t begin until about five years ago, when a close friend of hers was going through a hard time.
“I decided to draw her a picture of her child to cheer her up,” she said. “After that, I got the bug again.”
At 45, she left her full-time job as director of a crime lab in Vermont to move to New York City with her boyfriend, Karl Turkel, who is an advertising and marketing professional.
“Karl has been very inspiring and encouraging through this whole process,” said Hannaford. The couple now lives in Port Jefferson.
While still consulting for crime labs, Hannaford spent most of her free time researching and studying art techniques.
She says she owes much credit to Alyssa Monks, a professional artist based in New York City, who helped her learn how to paint professionally.
“I loved her work and I knew she taught in the city,” said Hannaford. “I tracked her down … she said she wasn’t teaching anymore, but that I could come to her studio and she’d teach me how to paint. I was beyond thrilled.”
After working with the award-winning artist, Hannaford began perfecting her craft.
“The first piece I sold was in Houston of [John Herbert] Dillinger, a gangster, in fingerprints to an art collector that only collected unusual art,” she recalled. “I was so excited and so thrilled.”
After that, her work began appearing in more galleries across the U.S. She also sold her creations online and through people contacting her on Facebook and Instagram.
“I was amazed by the people reaching out,” said Hannaford. “Social media has really empowered us artists to make our own business.”
She then took her digital footprint and following and leveraged it all into her own Long Island gallery.
“This has been a family pursuit,” said Hannaford, who will be featuring work from her nephew, Miles Hannaford, and her niece, Madison Fauci.
“She inspired me to draw,” Fauci said of her aunt. “To see her go from a regular career path with a steady paycheck to pursue her passion has been an incredible process, seeing her bring it all together.”