Hunter DeVocelle is a guy I’ve known indirectly for around a year, with us both being in a close-knit Facebook ‘community’ together. He regularly posts, on a weekly basis, “Mutilation Monday” along with a blood smeared page depicting that week’s image.
Hunter creates pieces of artwork using his own blood as his painting material.
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Hey man, it’s awesome to speak to you and congratulations on the baby!
Thank you for making an effort to speak to me. And thanks!
So it’s safe to say you have quite an unusual talent, wouldn’t you say?
It’s fairly unusual, but there are more blood artists than people would like to think there are.
It’s quite a taboo thing to many people. Could you explain in your own words what it is you do?
To me it’s an escape. The cutting involved offers some relief via the endorphin rush and the limited amount of time to apply the blood requires a lot of focus. So when I’m going at it, I’m in my own world. It’s very therapeutic!
You mentioned cutting, is this how you obtain the blood?
Yes. I usually cut my thighs and sort of use them as a pallet whilst I work. I try to cut places that aren’t easily noticeable because people tend to frown upon self harm and I like to avoid the negative comments as much as possible.
I was about to say…Obviously this would raise a lot of questions with those close to you. To what level do you extract the blood safely? What precautions, if any, do you take?
Before I begin, I make sure I use a clean cup to fill with water. I use hand sanitizer on my brushes, and then I use it on my upper thigh or wherever I will be cutting. When I’m done, I rub the sanitizer into the cuts. There are probably better ways to go about it but that’s what I had on hand when I started and it has never failed me, so I stuck with it.
That’s good to hear, at least! What do those close to you actually think of it, assuming they know?
My mother never liked it, but she can be discouraging about a lot of things. My dad doesn’t mind, he actually helped me look for my razor blades when I lost them once [laughs]. My partner, Amber, came around (to understanding the act) when she realised it’s what made me happy. Other than that and random people who admire, or hate, my art, no-one knows.
You sound like you have a support circle around this activity.
I would say so. Every week, on Monday, I post in a couple of groups and let everyone get involved by commenting what they would like me to do. We call it ‘Mutilation Monday’ and I paint whatever the most liked suggestion is. There are a few negative comments here and there but overall, I get overwhelming compliments and support that keeps me going.
That’s where I first came across you, nearly a year ago! When did you first discover this passion?
When I first began doing this, I was 14. I cut (self harmed) a lot back then and didn’t want to ‘waste’ the blood and decided to use it to literally be one with my artwork. Back then, I didn’t share what I made, but as time went on, I found other artists who used blood and the people I did share it with loved it. So around the age of 17, I really got into blood art. It was a year later I started getting involved in the group I’m in with you and started having my friends in there get involved in what I do.
If it’s not too personal to note, I assume you suffer some form of mental illness? Does this activity act as a kind of therapy to that?
It’s not too personal, I only talk about it when I’m asked. I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from a traumatic memory received during childhood, Bipolar Disorder and Clinical Depression. I didn’t talk to a doctor or therapist until I had already accepted what had happened to me and the issues I faced. Doctors would prescribe various medications but those didn’t help. They muted my emotions, and as an artist, I needed that drive. So I’m not actually on any medication. My blood art helps me more than the medication ever did, so I guess you could say my art is my medicine and my therapy.
Do you have any final message about the type of activity you do?
Yes. I would like to say to those observing art to please have an open mind. Rather than being disgusted and finding the negative in things that aren’t considered ‘normal’, try to find the poetic meaning.
Thanks for speaking, Hunter.
Thank you, it has made my day having someone want to interview me!
If you have been affected by any of the content of this article and would like a professional to speak to, please visit The Samaritans or seek your nearest local helpline. Help is always available, always.
-Benjamin John Wareing