I am an artist, and making art inspired by my skin has helped me learn more about dermatographia and how to heal it. Here is my artist statement and a little bit more about my art.
A body is an index of passing time. Skin protects us as it shows shifting bones, bruising, muscles loosening and tightening, and freckles and wrinkles forming. I think of this as a transient fashion of skin, including the revealing way a blush decorates one’s cheek, freckles form constellations on an arm, or hair creates sheen on skin’s matte surface.
My skin is very sensitive and I blush easily. I have dermatographia, 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.
The blooms, my skin, and how my body understands its place in the Southern California landscape. Impressions from local flora that stay long enough to photograph, temporarily changing the tactility of my skin, mirroring what’s pressed against it. Reverence for the life this Tongva land brings forth.
I collect flora found in and around the mountains near my home. One way I get to know it is to press it to my skin, revealing the scent and outline of the plant.
I like to see what kind of marks are left on me—I have very sensitive skin so any little pressure or scratch leaves a painless, temporary welt. It’s due to a condition called dermatographia, which literally means ‘skin writing.’ This pressing doesn’t hurt, it actually feels good to share a moment with the plant’s beauty. I am reminded of the delicate strength of nature and the body.
With my dermatographia and the natural materials I gather, a photographic series called Bloom Back came to be. My skin blooms back at the plant pressed against it, offering some reflection and appreciation, seeing how bodies can echo their surroundings.
In my series called Interior Optics, I start with very detailed images of my skin with some dermatographic drawings. Then I manipulate the color and saturation to produce bright, almost neon photos, simulating otherworldly terrain and diagnostic imaging.
I also make wallpaper and collage with photographs of my skin cut into decorative designs, then attached to the wall or onto board. I use these collages to decorate my skin by scanning the patterns and making them into temporary tattoos. Then I place the tattoos back on my body as an additional layer for the fashion of skin. The tattoos are red and pink shades of sensitivity so I can adorn myself with a longer lasting, intentional welt or blush.
Ariana Page Russell creates images that explore the skin as a document of human experience, using her own hypersensitive flesh to illustrate the ways we expose, express, adorn and articulate ourselves.
Ariana has exhibited internationally and resides in Los Angeles, California. Recent exhibitions include Shrine Empire Gallery in New Dheli, India; Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin; Magnan Metz in New York City; Platform Gallery in Seattle; Town Hall Gallery in Australia; the Luminato Festival in Toronto, Canada; Adelphi University in New York; and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Bolivia. Her work has appeared in Art in America, the Huffington Post, Wired, The Atlantic, VISION Magazine: China, and the monograph ‘Dressing’ published by Decode Books. She was featured on ABC News 20/20 and was a recent participant in the Sexto Encuentro Mundial de Arte Corporal in Caracas, Venezuela. She received her MFA from the University of Washington, Seattle in 2005.
To see more of Ariana’s work and her full CV, visit ArianaPageRussell.com