Artist Uses Her Own Skin As A Canvas, Turning A Disease Into Art

Ariana Page Russell turns her so-called "skin writing" disease into high art.

Ariana Page Russell isn’t the first artist to use her own flesh as a canvas, but she’s probably the first to do it without having to swallow a bottle of painkillers first.

Russell has an autoimmune disorder called dermatographic urticaria that, though painless, makes welts appear on her skin when it’s lightly scratched. So she takes dull implements (knitting needles, for one) and writes or draws intricate patterns on her legs, arms, stomach, and elsewhere, then documents the results. Each "skin tattoo" lasts about half an hour—just long enough to be photographed.

Creepy? I guess. But it’s also gotta be every starving artist’s dream. Just think: She’ll never have to spend money on canvases or paint.

A new exhibit of Russell’s body art is on view at Magnan Metz Gallery in New York until November 19. More info here.

Add New Comment



    very interesting but surely this condition makes some everyday tasks impossible.

  • Mel

    Google any skin disease and you're likely to end up looking at a great number of stomach turning pictures. It touches me to look at pictures of someone who's been able to transform her illness into something that's aesthetically pleasing rather than something to make people look away.

  • refresh

    I thought you were going to mention Stefan Sagmeister when you said she is not the first artist. 

  • ChiraChira Kwan

    For me, the point is about pain. It's good to know that it is painless for her creating this art.