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.
A Dialogue With Skin | Ariana Page Russell
Ariana Page Russell is a visual artist with dermatographia. She 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.
Jorge : How would you describe your relationship with your skin?
Ariana : I love my skin, but it hasn’t always been that way. I used to get so frustrated by my redness (I blush very easily) and freckles. I wanted perfect, tan skin–not pale white, red, super sensitive skin with freckles. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to love myself and my skin just the way I am. Because of my sensitivity I have to be very gentle and respectful to my skin, and my body in general. It’s helped me learn how to take care of myself and listen to my body
Jorge : Could we describe your pictures as a dialogue between you and your skin?
Ariana : It’s more of a dialogue between my body and me, and sometimes the objects that I use to draw/mark my skin (like in my series Bloom Back for example). Skin allows the body to speak, things show up on the surface that might otherwise remain hidden within.
Jorge : Before turning your dermatographia in art, how did you use to live this characteristic?
Ariana : I just thought I had really sensitive skin and felt very self conscious about it. But it ultimately wasn’t a huge deal because I would mostly keep it hidden, or try to at least. Before I knew I had dermatographia I would just tell people my skin was super sensitive if they asked. After being diagnosed I was able to talk about the condition… I wasn’t diagnosed until after I started making photographs of my dermatographia.
Jorge : Do you feel that your art is more a performing one or a photographic one?
Ariana : It is performance for the camera. I make these marks and interact with objects and then photograph the results. The image is all that remains after the drawing/mark is made and disappears.