Dermatographia

Ariana Page Russell, “Index”, C-print, 2005. Courtesy www.arianapagerussell.com

Ariana Page Russell, “Index,” C-print, 2005. Courtesy www.arianapagerussell.com

Hello Art:21 interweb world! I hope to do you justice with my musings and bits and pieces of contemporary art knick-knacks. I think as an artist and designer working today, it is imperative to give the art object more consideration than in the days of yore. Is it our preoccupation with being somehow truer to our practice? Our wanting to make a smaller and smaller footprint with each step? To reflect the confused state of our environment in any meaningful gesture thrust out into existence? Maybe… A struggle exists between the artist floundering to retain value of the crafted final “piece” of exhibition material and her trying to speak with less residue. I am thinking that the Art:21 Season 4 episode Ecology is a perfect demonstration of this, as artists struggle to reflect the needs of the environment while having to use materials such as wood and move trees around. What I notice, though, is that as practicioners of contemporary art making/doing, we are still desperately searching for an avenue of release from heavy use of materials, postmodernist references, the cords and motors of technological possibilities, and grand gestures of sweeping gallery galas…Perhaps it is a quest for sincerity?

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So I wonder, could it be that the new “environmental” art is that which is sinfully crafted in private? Just…you know, for the love of it? Can we win back the love for ourselves and the practice (the grotesque and the sublime of it), or has the market killed it all? What happens with a lot of younger contemporary artists, as I see it, is a quiet revolution of smaller gestures, alternate materials, a kind of closing off in favor of exploring the self, the dream, the body and traditional ways of “making.” The artist above is named Ariana Page Russell and she has a skin condition known as dermatographia (the immune system exhibits hypersensitivity, via skin, that releases excessive amounts of histamine, causing capillaries to dilate and welts to appear, lasting about thirty minutes when the skin’s surface is lightly scratched). Her process of making involves manipulating her body as a form of self-exploration and that of coping with her condition, which became obvious to her as she was often teased for blushing excessively. She does consider herself to be as much of a photographer as a performance artist, IF one chooses to use the word performance here. What intrigues me most is the privacy of the act of manipulating skin yourself. Of experimenting with your body and only exhibiting a piece of paper as a document of the act.


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