Women Crush Wednesday: Ariana Page Russell
Currently based in Los Angles, Ariana Page Russell is a visual artist and coach using her work to spread awareness and the beauty found in dermatographia. Russell who graduated from the University of Nevada in 2003 with a BFA in photography and BA in Psychology went on to receive her MFA in Photography from the University of Washington, Seattle. For the past 12 years Russell has been embracing her dermatographia and using the platform of art and photography to help spread awareness and the beauty behind the condition. Russell’s work has been displayed in countless solo exhibitions from the west to east coast as well as featured in selected group exhibitions and publications around the globe. To view more of Russell’s work, click here.
Interview by Thomas Battistelli
When did you realize that you could make such a huge opportunity artistically with your skin, what sort of complications did you overcome when you first started to create your work?
I first revealed my skin work back in 2004 when I was in graduate school at the University of Washington, Seattle. Some people hated it. They thought it was gross (specifically the dermatographia images) and/or too personal--like that makes it irrelevant or something. Luckily, I had and still have strong supporters who appreciate the vulnerable, raw qualities of the work. Turns out the personal nature of my work is what's attracted a community of people who also have dermatographia and/or other skin conditions. I'm glad I stuck to it!
What challenges have you faced creating new work that evolves but keeps a consistent theme throughout different series?
I'm always informed by the experience of living in my skin, so constantly find inspiration that way. But now my skin condition is starting to fade so I can't make those intense dermatographia drawings like I used to. Also, I was recently pregnant so couldn't use the temporary tattoos (there's a warning against using them while pregnant). Now I'm breastfeeding so still can't use them. It's definitely a challenge to find other ways of portraying skin and my experience in it without doing what I'm used to. I like to experiment and play around with different ideas/materials that help me evolve. Skin will always inspire me.
Looking at your website you show the dimensions at which they were printed out in your gallery, how do you think the contrast between the large prints and polaroids works together to engage the audience?
The polaroids make people get in close and feel the intimacy of peering at my skin. They're like mini portraits, or reading a small book. The larger prints show the details of skin and texture. The viewer can get a different experience looking at the large images close up vs. farther away to see the whole picture.
In your work wallpaper and now broad channels, you used other mediums of art other than photography, in wallpaper the designs and broad channels the sculptures. What inspired you to combine these mediums with your photography?
It's all about skin. I use whatever materials and methods I need to in order to explore the experience and ideas of skin and the body.
What do you think has been your greatest success from creating these photographic series?
My greatest success is the community that has formed around dermatographia, and the people I've reached all over the world. I love getting emails from others with dermatographia, hearing their stories and seeing photos of their skin drawings.
How would you describe your creative process in one word?
If you could teach one, one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
Ways to access creativity by exploring your own experience
What was the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
What is your most played song in your music library?
Alice Coltrane Journey in Satchidananda
How do you take your coffee?
with coconut oil blended in or else black