Have you ever just looked at skin? Your skin, your partner’s skin, that gorgeous person on the bus or the homeless person you pass on the way to work everyday…everyone’s skin is different, and whether we like to admit it or not, it often affects the way we view and treat people. I’m not just talking about color either, but also textures, lines, markings, scars. Those things that are completely and totally unique only to us, displayed on the largest organ of our body.
Skin is really pretty amazing when you think about it. It takes a lot of abuse, just by virtue of being the “crust” in the pot pie that makes up our body. And much of that abuse is inflicted by us, of course. We tend to take it for granted, much like our other organs, and we don’t always treat it as well as we should. Still, it’s very resilient stuff, regenerating cells year after year, sloughing off the old to make room for the new. It can even be taken from one part of the body and grafted onto another, and stretched to grow more for medical procedures that require it.
Seriously. That is amazing, don’t you think?
Since the beginning of time, skin has been used as a canvas for art. Parchment and vellum were/are dried animal skins, of course, and even now we make all sorts of artwork out of leather, the tanned skins of animals. We tend to decoration our own skin while it’s still attached and alive with tattoos, piercings, and even stretching sections into long loops. We consider body art both a form of self-expression and something that makes us unique.
Have you ever wondered about what human skin would be like as a bona fide canvas? As in, not actually attached to a human any longer, but dried and stretched over a frame, ready to paint or tool or carve just like any other leather product? I’d imagine it would be pretty similar to cow hide, but I really have no idea, since I’m not sure what the difference is in the composition of cow and human skin.
Last year I wrote a story about a woman – an artist – who used human skin exclusively for her canvas. She…ah…harvested and preserved the skin herself, creating beautiful artwork that she then either kept or donated or gave away as rare gifts. In doing the research for that story, I came across a creepy little site that no longer exists called Human Leather. People could donate their bodies to the company, who would in turn create all sorts of different things with your skin once you…ah…no longer needed it.
If you can get past the whole “desecrating-the-body” thing, it actually kind of makes sense in a recycling sort of way. Moreso if the human who previously wore the skin donated it specifically for that purpose. Leather is tough and durable, and I suppose a keepsake parchment made of a portion of a loved one’s tattooed skin might make for a nice conversation starter to hang on your wall:
Guest: That is a striking piece…it looks old. Is that parchment?
You: It is, actually. Poor Uncle Evan. He had a heart attack, you know.
Guest, looking puzzled: Is he the one who made this for you?
You: In a manner of speaking…
Yes, I know. My sense of humor is a bit…off sometimes. Keeps ’em guessing. 😉
This post was inspired by the aforementioned story, titled Canvas. Interested? You can get the ebook as a single story for just 99 cents at your favorite online retailers, or you can get it in a three-pack of stories (the other two are by my alter-egos) called The Holiday Pact for $2.99, if you’re so inclined…