For artist Ariana Page Russell, a light scratch on her body turns into swollen, reddish, raised skin. This allergic reaction is due to a medical condition known as dermatographia. Rather than shying away from her affliction and seeking to conceal it, Russell exposes her skin disorder in a visually arresting way for her series titled Skin.
The artist explains: “[I have] 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 temporary skin designs that Russell manages to source on her own body exude a sense of vulnerability. The artist uses her physical sensitivity to create a very personal form of art that presents both abstract patterns and text. The images she captures of her inflamed, bare skin are intimate portraits of a woman who has come to terms with her body’s involuntary reactions.