The skin can become a canvas in many ways, from body paint to tattoos, and piercings to scarification… but what if you could simply draw using only your skin? Artist Ariana Page Russell has this talent, born with a skin condition called Dermatographia, any light scratch will raise her skin into rosy welts which last for about 30 minutes. She explains dermatographia as:
a condition in which one’s immune system releases excessive amounts of histamine, causing capillaries to dilate and welts to appear (lasting about thirty minutes) when the hypersensitive skin’s surface is lightly scratched. This allows me to painlessly draw on my skin with just enough time to photograph the results. Even though I can direct this ephemeral response by drawing on it, the reaction is involuntary, much like the uncontrollable nature of a blush.
The photographs from her series Skin capture her body covered in beautiful temporary designs of her own creation. She writes words, creates patterns with floral flourishes and points, and even connects her freckles like stars in a body based constellation.
Inspired by her uniquely sensitive skin, Russell explores the artistry of the subject further in her Blouse, Save Face and Dressing series’, photographing her skin and reprinting it as temporary tattoos in transparent reds and pinks. She then covers her body with intricate patterns of this second skin.
“Rather than being frustrated by my skin’s transparency, I claim it by dressing up in the crimson hues that reveal my vulnerability.”