Found today via Jay Parkinson’s blog (and incidentally, written about on this blog years before I started working here), I’m still blown away by the work of Ariana Page Russell, a Brooklyn-based artist whose skin condition, dermatographia (also known as dermatographic urticaria, or skin writing) has become the focus of much of her artwork.
Here’s her explanation of how it works, taken from her website:
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. Even though I can direct this ephemeral response by drawing on it, the reaction is involuntary, much like the uncontrollable nature of a blush.
Though her skin condition isn’t particularly devastating from a health perspective, I think it’s pretty cool that she’s owning it, instead of hiding it or feeling embarrassed by it because it’s not ‘normal’. And she’s not the only one: There’s an entire Flickr pool devoted to the skin condition, too. (Also found courtsey of Dr. Parkinson’s blog post.)
Which makes me wonder: What other health conditions have been turned into art? Please share!