You don’t draw hair because you don’t see them, and they have to be drawn on the skin. And the skin that you put on the hair is the part that should be alive, the part where the animal would be. You draw hair on an animal with a needle, because if you didn’t draw it this way, and I never even asked this question, it wouldn’t be hair. And then one day when I was working with the skin artists, they’d tell me these other processes, what they did to the skin itself. And to this day, I still find that I was drawing on a very dead body. I’ve never ever seen this stuff before.
In the course of that research project, did any of you get to meet the artist that you had been investigating?
I did get a chance to meet him, and he said, “Oh yeah, that was us.” I don’t remember what his name was. I remember that he said we both came from “the world, your world.” In a way, this artist was very much like a kind of spiritual guide, like a guru or some kind of prophet, and I just said, “Oh, my God!” [Laughs.]
I did that interview with him, and we talked about how the skin artists were all different from one another, because every artist had different abilities and they all were working together. It was a very different kind of experience from what they were used to, and also a very different perspective on the process of drawing. But we spoke for so long, I didn’t remember all of the details.
What happened with the skin art? What happened as you investigated that side of the subject?
After the project I published all of those interviews—the interviews with the artists, the interviews with the skin artists, where they lived in a house, where they lived—but I didn’t really finish until three years after, which was when I was contacted by an artist that had worked with a skin painter, a woman named Jane Bensimon. So she was the artist I had been investigating who was actually drawing on this dead body. I met her. I gave her all of the art stuff, and we had a long conversation about her—she came from New Jersey—about the skin artists’ practice.
You don’t know what was going on inside a body until they are dead, not until it’s on the table and you start drawing. [Laughs.] And then I finally got
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