I love the fact that drawing skin needs just a line, and you’ve built a frontier between the outside and the intimate. -Nataly S.
Nataly is an artist living in France (her work can be viewed here) and she wrote to me about her own experience with skin cancer, after reading my post Why It’s So Important to Visit Your Dermatologist. We’ve been talking about how paying attention to skin is so important because it can educate us, and how drawing skin can be as simple as a line separating inside from outside. In this way, skin is a frontier–it is something that acts as a border between us and the world, holding our intimate insides in, and it is also new territory to explore as it’s always changing. If something strange shows up, like a rash or a mole, it is worth paying attention to. It could reflect something like poor digestion, or, in Nataly’s case, a mole can indicate cancer is present. After going through surgery for skin cancer, Nataly sought answers from her naturopath about why she got it in the first place. Turns out, skin cancer is linked to unresolved emotional issues–in her case, an abusive boyfriend from the past. Her skin was communicating some internal unrest, as Nataly read when learning about all this, “What we don’t express is printed/we call for help with skin.” I love this idea of our inner workings speaking to us through our skin, so we pay attention to what needs to be taken care of (like something unresolved from the past). It’s our body’s way of calling for help. Yet another reason to listen to and trust your body!
Nataly explains a bit more about this, below:
Ariana Page Russell (APR): What inspired you to make drawings about skin and the body?
Nataly S. (NS): I’ve always drawn woman bodies…with just a few lines and few details. I love blanks in the drawing to let the imagination run. Recently, I’m interested in moles, scars and bones…because I had a melanoma. I love the fact that drawing skin needs just a line, and you’ve built a frontier between the outside and the intimate. I’m also interested in tattoos because it links skin and art.
(APR): Me too! And skin itself is the barrier between inside/intimate and outside. The way it functions, how strong and fragile and permeable it is at the same time, always amazes me. What do you love about your skin?
(NS): Mmm, I m not really sure I LOVE my skin..but anyway, its sweet, and there are some moles that I’ve always liked. I have red hair skin and it matches my blue eyes! And I think I’m lucky because I’m not very wrinkled and I hadn’t any stretch marks after pregnancy ! Also I love my hand tattoo 🙂
(APR): Your tattoo is amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone with a hand tattoo and nothing else–usually people get covered elsewhere, then tattoo their hand. Beautiful! What do you dislike about your skin?
(NS): Well I have to admit that I’d like to go under the sun without thinking about sunscreen …and to have a beautiful natural suntan ! But I always have to put some cream or my skin burns quite quickly 🙁 It can be very sensitive too and I often have red marks when I pick or when I’m gardening.
(APR): Me too! If I don’t wear sunscreen I get more and more freckles and moles, so I wear it every time I leave the house. I’ve learned to like my pale skin, because that makes me, me. Please tell me a little bit about the surgery and your experience with skin cancer.
(NS): I’ve discovered I had a melanoma on my right thigh just after giving birth to my daughter. The surgery happened when she was 2 months, and just before our first summer holidays. I had another in the back but it was not cancerous, but one more scar. This time during holidays was really strange for me, I had two different kinds of thoughts…one about happiness, family,holidays in the sun, my sweet baby, and on the other side was cancer, fear, death, scars…There was also a lot of injustice in my head…I didn’t deserve that ! Not now…What was hard for me is that I didn’t have the words to talk about it, and I didn’t know with who I had to talk.. Also I didn’t have the time to be able to swallow this bad news, because I had to focus on Life itself and take care of my baby.
But now I’ve found some time, I’ve talked with my naturopath, I’ve drawn a lot, read books about skin and natural health, and I think I understand why I had skin cancer…I have less fears and I consider this as a past episode in my life. I’ll go to the dermatologist every 6 months, and I hope I can be confident enough to one day stop this many appointments. If we ‘call for help with skin’, I think that if I don’t need help, I will no longer have a melanoma 😉
(APR): Yes, taking care of our emotional health, as well as our physical health is very important. But you should still see the dermatologist at least once a year! ;’) It was quite a shock to me too, to get diagnosed with melanoma. I’m young and healthy! I take good care of myself! Why me? But then I thought, why not me. Bad things happen all the time to good people, but amazing things happen all the time too. Now I respect my body even more for being strong enough to fight off the cancer! How do you take care of your skin? Your baby’s skin?
(NS): I’m not really a ‘girly’ girl, and I don’t use make up and all that stuff..I’m more a wild and natural girl! But I’ve always put some natural organics oils on and taken care of my skin. Usually, I wash my face with fresh water and put aloe vera and jojoba or sweet almond oil. Same on my body, but I love to put some organic balms with sheer or cinnamon smell. I’ve always used natural soap to wash.
My baby has some massages with sweet almond oil after her bath 🙂 and I take care of her skin under the sun with sunscreen, hats and glasses !
(APR): I use organic oils on my skin too–for washing and moisturizing. It feels so nourishing and clean! How has becoming a mother changed your view of your skin and body?
(NS): That was the most intense part of this time in my life : I discovered at the same time that body is full of magic and power and life…/ and can have some bad surprise and death cells etc… That’s why I’m drawing a lot about Life and Death..because that’s what I discovered very intensely at the very same time ! In my head I was thinking ‘Waouh…I made this baby come to the world, BUT maybe I will not be part of this world’ and I cried. This in a continuous loop…A strange mix of pure happiness and deep fears. This was the first months, but now being a mother makes me stronger and I quite love this new body with this little scar. My skin is the first thing my baby smelled and I love the fact that she loves my skin instinctively. Skin is very important when the baby comes, that’s how we learn to know each other, we smell and we caress..I love her sweet pure skin too and I hope she will never have to worry about moles (for the moment she doesn’t have any !). I love when she shows my moles on my skin, it makes her smile ! She ‘s there to make me think about Life all the time!
(APR): That is so beautiful, thank you Nataly! I love how you talk about motherhood and skin, and how all of this inspires you to make art. Keep it up, and keep in touch.
All images courtesy of Nataly S.