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

By Rachel Cernansky
Apr 15, 2009 8:36 PMNov 5, 2019 8:50 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

It 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. Related Content: Discoblog: Beware Playstation-itis! Video Gaming Results in Rare, Nasty Rash

Image: Flickr / emily abigail

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.