Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Skin Deep Art

When I was a teenager, we used to write things on our skin with tape and then lie in the sun so that the taped area would remain lighter than the surrounding suntan. What a great way to protest war or advertise our favorite musicians ...or boyfriends. ;-) Along those lines, Ariana Page Russell does her own method of skin art. She suffers from a condition known as dermatographia. When her skin is lightly scratched welts appear. She draws various patterns on her body and then takes pictures of herself, thus works of art are born. She said that she was inspired by her skin condition and the fact that she had no control over her body’s reaction to scratching. Rather than feel sorry for her sensitive skin, Ms. Russell has taken control and used her liability to create an asset. This, and similar photos, have been selling around the country recently for upwards of $4,500.

Tattoo artists use the skin as a canvas, but their artwork is permanent. Scarification is another form of skin art that requires no ink but is also permanent. Perhaps the best part of Ariana Page Russell’s artwork is that the effect on her body is temporary and the photographs beyond the duration of the welts.

"Each body becomes an index of passing time. Bones shift, muscles loosen, freckles and wrinkles form, bruises appear; skin is the forum for these transitions. It may also evidence sensitivity, embarrassment, discomfort, fear, excitement, infection, health, attraction, and energy expended—reflecting vulnerability and conditions we’ve inhabited."

"My own skin frequently blushes and swells. I have dermatographia, a condition in which one’s immune system exhibits hypersensitivity, via skin, that releases excessive amounts of histamine, causing capillaries to dilate and welts to appear (lasting about thirty minutes) when the skin’s surface is lightly scratched. This allows me to painlessly draw patterns and words on my skin, which I then photograph."

"I also make wallpaper with photographs of my skin cut into various designs. The patterns I use range from adaptations of Greek and Etruscan vases, Medieval wall coverings, and Renaissance pottery to contemporary clothing and wallpaper found in domestic spaces.

Cut c-prints (of skin) mounted to wall

Attached to the wall or onto board, these skin designs form shifting crimson patterns embellishing the surfaces. Recently I’ve turned some of the patterns made from photographs of skin into temporary tattoos, adorning my skin with the translucent designs. C-prints, temporary tattoos, skin

These tattoo designs cover me like clothing, an intimate fashion. They also go on the wall or window after they’ve made contact with my skin, leaving traces of cells and hair, and holding a record of skin’s map. I share these designs with my surroundings."

"I am investigating where one surface ends and another begins, the bloom of adornment, and how shifting exteriors reveal as they conceal."

About her exhibition entitled, "Leather and Lace", Ariana writes:

"Leather and Lace is a collaboration with my studio mate Allison Manch. Allison embroiders music and pop culture references on vintage handkerchiefs, and I work with photographs of skin. Temporary tattoos became the intersection of our work. Utilizing embroidered images and text, along with my photographed skin wallpaper designs, we printed our own temporary tattoos. Our mutual admiration for Siouxsie Sioux, Kate Bush, Debbie Harry, and Stevie Nicks inspired us to use imagery and lyrics referencing the singers’ styles. Assuming the style and dress of these icons, we turned the resulting photographs into temporary tattoos as well. This series is an exploration of surface—skin, fabric, and image."


lee said...

truthfully I dont know what to say about this. On one hand I feel bad that she suffers from this skin problem. But yet she has taken the challenge of her skin problem and gone with it. Mostly I think it disturbs me that anyone has to suffer this.

Rowan Willow said...

Stacy...I sooo needed your lovely comment to kick me in the butt...Thank you! I feel so privileged to have such wonderful blog friends :0)

This gal has definitely made lemonade out of her lemons...I think it's really cool!

Take care,
Rowan Willow
aka Tiffany

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