state of the art – discovering american art now


I am excited to let you know my work will be a part of the State of the Art exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of America.

This is certain to be a one-of-a-kind exhibition experience – for artists and visitors both – as curators travelled 10,000 miles across the United Sates to visit with nearly 1000 artists. My studio was in that mix of visits as were a handful of AZ artists. I recall the initial phone call and email I received – I really couldn’t believe it ( for the record – I do believe it now ).


Photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

About the exhibit:
State of the Art features 102 artists from across the country selected for inclusion as a result of Crystal Bridges president Don Bacigalupi and assistant curator Chad Alligood’s travels and visits (mostly in person, some via Skype) with artists from every region of the U.S.

About the art works:
· Works in the exhibition include photography, video, ceramics, action/interaction, glass, fiber, installation, paper, painting, and sculpture.

· There are more than 200 total works in the exhibition

· The exhibition will reach beyond the boundaries of the Museum’s temporary exhibition spaces, extending into the permanent collection galleries and activating public and community areas indoors and out. Gallery spaces will total 19,000 square feet.

There is no charge to view the exhibition.

WHO: Crystal Bridges, Museum of American Art
WHERE: Bentonville, AK
WHEN: September 13, 2014 – January 19, 2015

 For more details click ↓image005

Visit the press page here on my blog and see the YouTube studio visit and/or read about the show and my work.

There is more to share but this is a good start.
Did I say I am excited? Yes I did. I am.

I could have titled this post No Woman is an Island.

6 zygotes


The word zygote comes from the Greek and means joined or yoked.  On a quick tangent – this makes me think of the Sanskrit word yoga which means to yoke, to join or to unite. Here I think physical process, development and growth. And I think mother – my mother.

You recall I am doing an anatomy study of my mother and I want to reference in the composition the 6 children she raised. Initially I think to include 6 embryos. But as I look at resource material and compositional space I choose to set up 6 eggs becoming fertilized by sperm. I also think design: movement, color and line.

The bottom part / the ground of the drawing ( a 12″ x 44″ area ) is where I refer to the developmental phase after fertilization and the resulting one-celled organism called a zygote. The zygote stage lasts about 4 days – ironically equivalent to the amount of time this area takes to draw out and paint – 4 full days of steady, intricate progress.

Here are the stages of the 6 zygotes.


IMG_6289 IMG_6290

Hot summers in Phoenix – I draw all day. This mixed media composition is bright and intense – more so than most of my other work on paper.

I need to start thinking about the title of the work and I wonder if it’s still part of the series called Nothing in Stasis. It is, I decide.

the spongy, tube shaped pancreas

IMG_6268Finally I draw a complete pancreas. It’s hidden behind the stomach and in all my studies I’ve included only a hint of it. The pancreas assists in digestion, it breaks down carbohydrates, proteins and lipids.

The reason I isolate it in this particular drawing is because It also supports the endocrine system and produces several hormones including insulin and glucagon, that regulate blood sugar levels.

The pancreas sits in the upper region of the solar plexus. The area is the brain of our instinctual animal nature and is closely concerned with mobilization of energy for physical and mental purposes. 

Energetically it is an organ of stability and connects to the sweetness of life.


pancreas and spleen

My work is not literal interpretation of the body, it’s abstracted and symbolic. Because I’ve not drawn this particular organ prior to this, I feel excited as I read and work. For me it’s a new shape, new information and new discovery. I am once again impressed by the intricacy of our physical form.

a symbol of peace on the earth walk – studying a tortoise

She carries the world on her back, and her home is where ever she happens to be. She knows what’s really important, and what can be left behind. 

turtleskullI’ve wanted to study and paint tortoise / turtle anatomy ever since I saw its structure which included small blades, a rib cage and pelvis. Unlike the insect studies, this anatomy is dense and crowded into the strong shell – a shield of sorts.

These reptiles are crepuscular, meaning they are often most active at twilight. They are generally reclusive animals. When the limbs and head are withdrawn into the shell, the animal is completely closed off.

I get a feeling of dissection as I work this composition. Oddly enough as I move through the body I also sense the creatures vulnerability.

All of my anatomy artwork, human and animal both, represents vitality. The physical form itself continues to show intricate complexity – balanced and so uniquely beautiful. Treat it well so it can do its job which includes steadily and gracefully carrying you along the earth as you live a full life.


Depending on the culture there are many symbolic associations connected to both the tortoise and the turtle, Here is a list of a few of my favorites:

  •  the oldest symbol for planet Earth
  •  goddess energy
  •  endurance
  • peace on the earth walk
  • links between heaven and earth
  • healer and protector
  • grants long life wisdom and good health
  • a lunar creature


una campamocha, a praying mantis

From whence arrived the praying mantis?
From outer space, or lost Atlantis?
I glimpse the grim, green metal mug
That masks this pseudo-saintly bug,
Orthopterous, also carnivorous,
And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us.

~Ogden Nash~

Campamocha is Spanish for Praying Mantis. I like the word.


La Campamocha, 12 x 12″, collage on panel

After researching this insect, I feel facts and symbolic connections are a bit out of synch. It may be that the symbolic associations are purely visual. I must say though it’s one odd-looking bug. It’s a cousin to the termite and maybe a prototype of the cockroach.

A little more…

  • mantises have compound eyes that give them a binocular field of vision
  • their one ear is on the underside of the belly (similar to a cricket if I recall correctly)
  • its neck is flexible and rotates 180 degrees
  • life span is about 10-12 months
  • spiked forelegs help them hold prey securely
  • it’s considered a predator
  • it’s a carnivore
  • they can fly (they can?!)

In terms of symbology …

  • mantises blend with their environment and becomes invisible to enemies
  • they teach us how to still the outer mind and go within
  • the word Mantis is Greek for prophet or seer
  • it is the oldest symbol of God.

…. could this be why we found this one staring at us from a bottle of wine….


Since I began working on this insect series I have received emails that include photos of exotic bugs, names and web sites of artists who depict bugs and many interesting reads. I know many of your favorite bugs : cute and ugly. I’ve been visited by a number of insects whom I’m sure wish their presence known (la campamocha en la botella de vino). All the bugs I drew made some personal connect via a friend or were direct. I appreciate it all. If we could learn to respect the smallest of life it would certainly be a better thing all the way around.

The most recent link I received reminded me of the Insect People from the Navajo Creation Myth: Insects in Art and Religion of the American Southwest. 

… enjoy…the bugs.


My current and in process anatomy work is a life-size study of my mother’s body. Though still in the Nothing In Stasis series, I also see it as a tangent. As you recall my last painting was of my niece. I consider this work and the last as studies of anatomy, studies of the female form, and maybe studies of inheritance.

While there is bone and muscle structure, they are not primary in this composition as much as they’ve been in earlier art works. I’m thinking more in terms of organs and tissues. I sketch and outline for a long time before I decide how to approach things.

IMG_6177I like the shape of particular organs especially the ones of the immune system, which I am so curious about. I spend time researching the thyroid and the thymus. The butterfly shaped thyroid is found in the lower part of the neck.and affects every cell in the body. The thymus sits below the breast bone and is larger in a child than it is an adult. I find it contradicting  that it begins to shrink at puberty. I look at various tissue including adipose tissue. It’s lovely under a microscope.

Each organ takes a few days to complete because the work is compact – I want it dense and colorful.

morgan1 morgans

My mother had her gallbladder removed. I include it early on because again I like the shape. It reminds me of how a leaf looks growing off the stem of a plant. Eventually I remove it and place it into the background of the composition. The gallbladder is the first form that fills the lower space behind the physical body – it will appear as if growing out of the earth. I leave a trace of it where it once sat just under the liver. While the physical shape is gone, the energy of the organ remains.


It’s interesting doing this particular work. The fact that this is my mother and the body of a woman who is 20 some years older than I am makes it familiar and yet unfamiliar at the same time –  difficult and fascinating.

I consider this work a meditation for sure.

artist / sheep shearer = educator

After moving through her living and work space I ask Aimee León how she sees herself – as artist or shepherd. Both, she replies. Aimee is also an educator – the community (me and you) is her target audience. I spend an afternoon speaking with her about animals, humans, sheep shearing, wool, sustainability, art making and community engagement.

Below is an earlier artwork shot and a detail. I find it elegant.

Aimee León
Follicle Series #1
wet-felted wool, steel stake



Aimee takes me through her home and introduces me to her animals – 2 dogs, a parrot named Lucy, numerous cats and 2 foster kitties. I look around and note sheep stuff. Lots of it.





Aimee’s weaving.

There are lots of fleece: bagged, boxed, raw, hand and machine spun, balled, strung, loose, and bundled. I hold the various forms – feel, smell, admire it all.




IMG_6130I admit to her the culture of sheep, felting and wool is foreign to me – particularly understanding where and how wool and yarn is processed. She understands. She tells about the work and intensity of shearing, it’s physical and dirty. We discuss how various communities of people are affected by our general lack of knowledge and appreciation for the material and work – in Arizona this directly affects the Navajo.


labeled boxes and bags of fleece from all over the world

She’s traveled the state, the country and the world, and sheared many a sheep.  You’ll find bags and boxes of fleece labeled Churro Ram, Faroese 2013, Shetland 2013, Alpaca, Llama, Lamb fleece …. etc.  I’m trying to hold the information, it’s much and it’s new. Right now I wish I had more photos to share with you but the act of moving through her work space and listening to her – has my full attention. Mostly I forget the camera until I remember it. I see 3 ram horns and pick two dark, textured, brown ones up. I find them heavier than I imagine them to be. Right now I wish I’d photographed them, they’re beautiful.

Aimee León is an artist and Sheep Shearer. I call her Shepard at the beginning of this post because I think her work is about the care of sheep – in a bigger way.

Did I mention Aimee is also a graduate student in the art department at ASU,  who will be completing her thesis this Fall. Her area of emphasis is Intermedia. By now you know she works with wool. And her projects involve community engagement.

About the ART work/the project → {re}collectingtheheardbeast

I ask Aimee what the work will be – a sculpture? a weaving? She says it will be all at once a sculpture, weaving, and installation. She envisions it 10 ft high, by 50 ft long, and suspended in a clockwise spiral 2 ft off the ground. The length and the way it suspends will allow people to walk within the spiral to the center and back out, and will allow them to view the weaving as they walk through it. She finishes by explaining the weft (the horizontal yarns) will guide you as you walk through the spiral.

As I indicated the project includes and calls for participation of community. Things have already been put into motion as she placed a call for yarn and is receiving it from around the country. If you have yarn to donate, contact her.

What: {re}collectingtheheardbeast  (MFA Thesis exhibition)
When: the public weaving begins August 15th
Where: She is scouting locations in downtown Phoenix. If you know of any, contact her – it’s community engagement.

One more time, in a nut shell:
Aimee León is collecting, hand spinning, and steam setting wool, about 100 lbs of it – in preparation for her MFA Thesis show. She will start to construct/weave a sculpture that hangs in space from roof to floor on August 15 – with the help of the community (that’s you). The public activity of weaving will continue for a month and will be completed by September.

If you are interested in weaving and/or working on the sculpture or donating yarn, or you want to read more about her work and project contact her via → {re}collectingtheheard beast.

I thank Aimee for the afternoon, we exit out the back door and she shows me freshly cleaned and now drying yarn. She explains how she soaked it in a tub, in a mix of water and vinegar, and then hangs it out to dry, in the sun.


Bye Aimee. Thanks for the afternoon. I learned so much.


Aimee León will complete an MFA  in Intermedia at Arizona State University.
Consider contributing to her yarn gathering, to the weaving, or buy – on the needed occasion – some real wool instead of synthetic fabric. I understand the ball is in our hands.

I suggest you look at all of Aimee’s sites, the photography is absolutely wonderful and her writing is eloquent -access through Aimee León’s → artist website and her thesis website →{re}collectingtheheardbeast

sheep is life