A body is an index of passing time. Skin protects us as it shows shifting bones, bruising, muscles loosening and tightening, and freckles and wrinkles forming. I think of this as a transient fashion of skin, including the revealing way a blush decorates one’s cheek, freckles form constellations on an arm, or hair creates sheen on skin’s matte surface.
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.
I also make wallpaper and collage with photographs of my skin cut into decorative designs, then attached to the wall or onto board. Sometimes I use these collages to decorate my skin by scanning the patterns and turning them into temporary tattoos. Then I place the tattoos back on my body as an additional layer for the fashion of skin. The tattoos are red and pink shades of sensitivity so I can adorn myself with a longer lasting, intentional welt or blush. Rather than being frustrated by my skin’s transparency, I claim it by dressing up in the crimson hues that reveal my vulnerability. Some of the tattoos also go on the wall or window after they’ve made contact with my body, leaving traces of cells and hair, and holding a record of skin’s map.
For Save Face: Living in a city with millions of people, I'm used to seeing a lot of faces in a day. They all blur together, but a few stand out. Some subtle interaction, a glance or expression, catches my attention and there’s eye contact. These fleeting moments reveal something deeper than the persona.
In Chinese language there are 98 different concepts of “face”. They believe the face is a mask with incarnate spirit—a totem—and we are saving or losing it to stay members of society. In some American Indian cultures people use face paint to describe an emotion, augment one’s appearance and power, or prepare for battle.
To some degree we have control over how we portray ourselves and what’s revealed, but we still leak emotions and aspects of our being. This makes us human. Using temporary tattoos made from photographs of my flushing skin, I wear this vulnerability as war paint, playing with the idea of face.