Ariana Page Russell


Each body becomes an index of passing time. Bones shift, muscles loosen, freckles and wrinkles form, bruises appear; skin is the forum for these transitions. It may also evidence sensitivity, embarrassment, discomfort, fear, excitement, infection, health, attraction, and energy expended—reflecting vulnerability and conditions we’ve inhabited.

My own skin frequently blushes and swells. I have dermatographia, a condition in which one’s immune system exhibits hypersensitivity, via skin, that releases excessive amounts of histamine, causing capillaries to dilate and welts to appear (lasting about thirty minutes) when the skin’s surface is lightly scratched. This allows me to painlessly draw patterns and words on my skin, which I then photograph.
I also make wallpaper with photographs of my skin cut into various designs. The patterns I use range from adaptations of Greek and Etruscan vases, Medieval wall coverings, and Renaissance pottery to contemporary clothing and wallpaper found in domestic spaces. Attached to the wall or onto board, these skin designs form shifting crimson patterns embellishing the surfaces. Recently I’ve turned some of the patterns made from photographs of skin into temporary tattoos, adorning my skin with the translucent designs. These tattoo designs cover me like clothing, an intimate fashion. They also go on the wall or window after they’ve made contact with my skin, leaving traces of cells and hair, and holding a record of skin’s map. I share these designs with my surroundings.

I am investigating where one surface ends and another begins, the bloom of adornment, and how shifting exteriors reveal as they conceal.


9 thoughts on “Ariana Page Russell

  1. this is so great. my boyfriend has the same skin condition and i have always imagined scratching patterns and words into his skin. i’m glad that someone has thought the same thing. your website is very nice; i like what you are doing with these patterns. the comparison of them being on the wall and your skin comments on decoration and (like you said) modern tattoos.
    great work.

  2. The cropping of the legs right before the vagina is brilliant, it leaves a dissatisfaction as much as the texture of the skin would if you ran you fingers over it.

  3. A work like this, in my opinion, is as unique as they come. It’s also a testament to optimism. The skin condition that you have may be taken as a negative, yet you choose to portray it in a positive light. Having a skin condition myself (icthyosis vulgaris), I find comfort in this photograph.

  4. This picture is captivating. It is such a strong photograph, the depth of field, and the clarity of the words inscribed on the skin and the main elements. I love that this incorporates who you are, and the condition of skin you have. It makes it very personal, and it is a striking photo. I also enjoyed your web page, the work is great!

  5. this is amazing. at first I was so puzzled by the image, and I didn’t understand how you could possibly create this, but when I started reading, I was so amazed. You were given a blessing in disguise. This is a very interesting way to create art, that not many are able to do, and its captivating. I am just so interested, there are so many incredible things you can do with that gift. explore, explore, explore!

  6. what a great way to turn a potentially negative condition into a positive, unique vessel of expression. this work is very delicate and beautiful, but somewhat grotesque at the same time. i think it’s because of this combination that i can’t seem to look away. i am also drawn to this because it’s so intimate. in a way, skin in general is intimate, because while everyone can see it we don’t usually invite people to look just at our skin this closely.

  7. I am struck by how highly personal this image is. I know that for myself, and I assume most other women, displaying my nude legs through photograph is not high on my list of desires; to include a medical condition goes even deeper.

    The point of view of the photographer is what makes this photo so real to me. We have all seen our own bodies from the same angle and are familiar with what we look like from this unique vantage point; nobody else sees us with the exact same view. It made me feel as though I was seeing the artist through her own eyes, that I was sharing a very personal moment of hers. The image left me feeling vulnerable, as if I were the one who was in the photograph.

  8. Even though this is a medical condition, the act reminds me of something ritualistic. Yet, the colors and light give off a sense of calm and feminine. It’s definitely not a scary images, even though lines in skin can be unsettling. Great job on making this about self internal expression, because it could have easily gone the path of self mutilation.

  9. The initial shock was that I thought her legs were scared. After reading her story, it inspired me that she took a seemingly uncomfortable situation, and made beautiful art from it. The textures that the “welts” create, even though unusual, are very artistic. Personally I would probably be self conscious if this was me, yet she takes it in stride, and embraces it.

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