When Art Gets Personal: Woman with Skin Disorder Makes Her Body a Canvas

By Rachel Cernansky | April 15, 2009 11:36 am

ariana.jpgIt appears body art has hit a whole new level: A woman with a rare skin condition known as dermatographia has been using a blunt knitting needle to etch designs into her skin—and selling them for up to $4,500.

As a symptom of her condition, Ariana Page Russell’s skin swells up into welts at the slightest scratch. Dermatographia, which affects only five percent of the population, is apparently caused by the release of histamines by mast cells near the surface of the skin, once any pressure is applied. Within five minutes, the skin swells in a reaction similar to hives—but it doesn’t hurt, it just “feels a little warm.”

So Russell, an artist who lives in New York, started taking a needle to her skin to draw words and intricate patterns on her legs, arms, and torso. The designs disappear in about half an hour, so during that time she photographs the results, producing images that have been displayed and sold in art galleries, for respectable prices.

Apparently that’s what it takes to make it in the New York art world these days.

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Image: Flickr / emily abigail

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