inskin

Whether I realized it or not as a developing artist and designer, the spark for this collection of artwork had been flickering in my subconscious since I was a young boy. My father is a dermatologist and he would often leave books and journals lying around the house with photographs of skin conditions and microscopic images of tissue. When I worked up the nerve, I would flip through the journals to see pictures of people with skin infections and diseases, just to give myself a little scare. I bypassed the microscopic images, however, as these were abstractions I could not connect with or identify. Little did I realize they would resurface in my adulthood through methods of direct observation and digital reconstruction.


A series of artwork titled, the Thread Paintings, had dominated my creative output for over a decade. The diversity in style and medium sustained my interest, but I felt a change was forthcoming. I was designing websites for multiple businesses when I was commissioned to paint a cross-section of skin for a client’s practice. Like my father, the client is a dermatologist who is fascinated by the complexity of the cross-section. I gathered examples from medical books, online imagery, and a low-relief sculpture from my client’s office. This style of direct observation allowed me to experiment with color and shape while referencing the original designs. I was rendering a living thing that cannot be seen with the naked eye, but whose components embody Abstract Art. (This experience has produced additional renderings of microscopic imagery and continues to serve as a bridge between observation and reconstruction.)


During one of my parents’ visits, my father suggested I look into the study of histopathology. He described these microscopic images that, while they depict anatomical changes in diseased tissue, are quite extraordinary in color, pattern, and shape. Through online research, I collected multiple images related to histopathology. But the more I studied the abstract forms and intricate designs, the more I wanted to physically integrate them into a style of painting.


I began by downloading the images and altering their color and composition. To transfer the design, I either had the image digitally printed onto canvas or I used a printmaking technique to transfer the ink from printed paper. Layers of acrylic paint were then applied to distort and manipulate the repurposed images. Areas of the canvas-print were stained with thin layers of paint, divided up with bold, organic lines, and mimicked with repetitive colors and shapes. I altered the print by adding and subtracting forms, but I always tried to establish a balance between exploration and collaboration. The digital print became an open-ended blueprint that preserved the integrity of the design.


To this effect, I selected hues that would either integrate themselves into the color palette or stand out to push the design to the background. I paid special attention to the original patterns to replicate or accentuate their presence within the composition. I even drew inspiration from the written diagnosis associated with each image. I transformed the medical terminology into short descriptions of each artwork by researching the Greek origins of the words and replacing them with synonyms.  


In this respect, inskin represents a marriage of form and content. Whether the artwork is original or reconstructed, my father’s profession is the foundation for the series. My sensibilities as a painter establish the overall style and composition as a new form of personal expression arises from something once unseen, or microscopic.
 

Nick Franco [July 24, 2017]

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