Whether just a photograph in a wallet or a strand of hair in a locket, most of us carry a part of our loved ones around with us. Artist David Rodríguez does a lot more than that, though: he turns these mementos into stigmata by sewing the likenesses of his loved ones with thread right into his skin.
Rodríguez’s project is called A Flor De Piel, or “Overexposed Emotions” and it’s an ongoing series that involves taking photographs of friends, family, teachers, girlfriends, even acquaintances, and embroidering them into his palm.
“I choose people based on the depth of emotion I feel for them,” Rodríguez tells me. “There are people in my life who are important, but they won’t ever be a part of the project.” Picking a subject for his embroidery isn’t just a matter of affections, says Rodríguez: some people just get under your skin more than others.
Once he has identified a subject, Rodríguez uses a snapshot as a guide, which he holds in his palm and carefully punctures through using colored thread, until he has eventually sewn the person’s likeness into his own hand. Each entry in this embroidered diary takes around four hours, but according to Rodríguez, it doesn’t hurt very much.
“Even if it looks painful, these are very superficial wounds, and there’s almost no pain,” he says, insisting that he has no interest in harming itself. What Rodríguez is doing here is similar to the way you can use a needle to puncture the upper top layer of skin on a finger without hurting yourself: it may look gross, but it is safe to do.
According to Rodríguez, he considers his work in A Flor De Piel to be a diary of sorts. While it might seem ghoulish, the artist believes that his flesh is a natural canvas for expressing his ideas about the threads that connect people.
“I think using my flesh as a canvas is necessary to get across the statement I’m trying to make,” says Rodríguez. “In my work, I attempt to talk about the links we establish with people in our lives, how they leave their print and mark on us. By sewing these likenesses into my body, I’m making these figurative links literal.”
You can see more of David Rodríguez’s work on his official website here.