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 the drawings enable me to direct this ephemeral response, the reaction is involuntary, much like the uncontrollable nature of a blush. I’m externalizing internal functions, adding to the fashion of skin with patterned dermatographic welts.
In my latest series, Bloom Back, my skin blooms back at the plant pressed against it, offering some reflection and appreciation. Bodies can mirror their surroundings, and because of the global pandemic I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors surrounded by the Southern California flora. I collect it, learn about it, feel it on my skin. It’s a relief to be pressed up against something so beautiful when most things are currently so dreary.
I also make wallpaper and collage with photographs of my skin cut into decorative designs, then attached to the wall or onto board. I use these collages to decorate my skin by scanning the patterns and making 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. Some of the tattoos also go on a wall, mirror, 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 some of the work in Broad Channels I used inkjet transfer paper to print my photographs on a different surface. I use water to get the transfer to stick to a sheet of paper, and when the ink runs off in the process it resembles a watercolor painting, translucent yet still retaining some of the image I began with.
The sensitivity of my skin is transparency too—what shows up on the surface reflects what’s going on inside. All of my work has been about this capacity of skin to reveal internal happenings, and how permeable that makes us.
Rather than being frustrated by my skin’s transparency, I claim it by making art in the crimson hues that reveal my vulnerability.