You Won’t Believe What This Photographer Uses as Her Canvas

by Amy Carlberg


Skin: we’re all wrapped up in it. But some of us have to consider it more often, and more seriously, than others. How would you feel if your skin bubbled and swelled wherever it was touched? Photographer Ariana Page Russell decided to make art out of it.

She has dermatographia, a condition which makes her skin hypersensitive. She’s used this interesting feature of her body like a canvas, drawing on her skin and then photographing the designs the raised tissue creates. With Russell’s condition, she explains, “one’s immune system releases excessive amounts of histamine, causing capillaries to dilate and welts to appear (lasting about 30 minutes) when the skin’s surface is lightly scratched. This allows me to painlessly draw on my skin with just enough time to photograph the results. I started doodling on my skin and photographing it back in 2003.”

She started the blog Skin Tome so that individuals with unusual skin conditions like hers could write about skin and share their experiences. Russell’s photos revolve around the interactive nature of skin. 

Russell’s work is fluid, bold, and arresting–she explores the variance of skin by playing with the medium in inventive ways. She scratches and draws patterns on it, but she also takes photos, alters the flushed pink and red tones, prints those tones onto temporary tattoo paper, then applies the tattoos onto her skin. This daring young artist reminds us that we should see the superficial changes our bodies go through not as biological betrayals, but works of art.

Russell had a piece in the group show Up, Close & Personal at Fuchs Projects in Brooklyn, which ended May 13.

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