metamorphosis noun
: a major change in the appearance or character of someone or something

biology : a major change in the form or structure of some animals or insects that happens as the animal or insect becomes an adult

I learn more about the Palo Verde Beetle than I ever intend. Many people appreciate it and its particular clumsiness.  When it surfaces – only to mate and then die – you can assume it’s 3 weeks before our first monsoon storm.

I have come across it both at its larvae stage and in its full mature stage. For the most part my images are meant to be internal anatomy studies. But in this case the  external form is provocative – dark, opaque and hard – like a suit of armor – I can’t ignore it. So the anatomy is in there, but the external presence of the bug remains primary.

I am glad to be done with it. The painting itself is more startling than these photos.





palo verde beetle

I received an invitation to take part in – of all things – a Bugs in Art themed show.  I wouldn’t naturally do this sort of examination, but because it is so out of my comfort zone - why not. I enjoy studying life and maybe I enjoy overcoming fears.


This Palo Verde Root Borer has been one interesting challenge. A friend gave me the creäture. I know it’s not alive but I am nervous the entire time I paint.

IMG_5930It is oddly beautiful in its larva stage – it is large, yellow with bright red dots – and can live for 3 years before emerging from the ground. The adult on the other hand – is black or brown in color, has long antenna’s, and spines on the thorax which form a collar around the “neck” of the beetle. They have wings and can fly. The mature beetle emerges in the humid summer months to mate and dies soon afterward; adult lifespan is about one month.

Derobrachus geminatus – this longhorn beetle is native to the American Southwest and northern Mexico. It derives its name from the Palo Verde tree. It is one of the largest beetles in North America and can reach up to three and a half inches in length. I met my first one soon after moving to Phoenix. I might never have come here if I’d known about this bug.


Palo Verde Study – mixed media collage – 10″ x 10″

I’m not complete with the composition. After laying it out I decide to show the wings.  I photograph  and post at this stage only because I know the work is going to change again. This is an anatomy study, as best I can figure out the bugs insides, I take liberty especially with color. I add green because it should be verde even if only in my imagination. I will darken things up a bit more soon. Maybe.

After spending several days looking at it under a magnifying glass I decide the creepiest  thing about the bug are the antenna’s. Next bug I paint will be something less intimidating – I need the break.


2014 governor’s arts awards


In early March I was contacted by Jessica Rajko, Artist Services Coordinator at the Arizona Commission on the Arts. The commission was interested in purchasing one of my artworks to be awarded to an honoree at the 2014 Governor’s Arts Awards.

Since 1981, distinguished Arizona artists, arts organizations, businesses, educators and individuals have been recognized for their passion, creativity, and devotion to furthering the excellence and diversity of Arizona’s arts and cultural community. Each year, six awards are presented in six categories. Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts, with support from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, selects and invites six Arizona artists to provide a work that will be presented as an award.

I sent several available works. They made the final choice – a limited edition lithograph titled Alchemical Action. I would be presenting the award along with previous recipient David Ira Goldstein.


David Ira Goldstein, Monica Aissa Martinez, and honoree Daniel Buckley

I had the pleasure of handing my artwork to Tucson artist and performance art pioneer Daniel Buckley, who spent 22 years with the Tucson Citizen before creating a documentary film series about the political and social evolution of Tucson’s Mexican-American population. He was awarded Artist of the Year. After photos we took a moment to remember mutual friend and arts advocate Ruben Hernandez, who recently passed away.

1959283_10152408718036929_1368868076_nCongratulations to Daniel and all the other honorees. For more information about the Governor’s Arts Awards and a list of all the winners – visit the website here:

The ceremony was held on March 25th at the Mesa Arts Center. The program was filled with dance, music, creative people with great words of community and thanks. I note it was preceded by one of our Arizona haboobs – all of it memorable for sure.

About the lithograph:

The Limited Edition Lithograph Al Chemical Action is based on a drawing titled Al-Chemical Reaction. Commissioned in 2000, by the Hispanic Research Center at Arizona State University. I worked with master printer Joe Segura at Segura Publishing to complete the work which is published in Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art, Volume l.

And because we discussed Ruben Hernandez, here is the article he wrote about my work in March of 2009 → ” Lantino Perspectives titled “Mind Matters”.

no woman is an island – continues

One show is the riotously antic, articulate show of paintings by Monica Aissa Martinez. This colorful, well-designed art seems to cavort through paper and canvas, with two humanoid abstractions (of assorted and combined cocktail glasses, beakers, squiggly lines) showing the convolutions of humans’ pairing-game. While whimsical, Martinez’s show is beautifully designed and painted, with a message built in – partnering may look hilarious, but it has serious, even threatening dimensions. - Roberta Burnett in a Special for the AZ Republic


Casein on Linen
12 x 12″

Veronica and Greg drop into my studio on a Friday evening, in March. Veronica walks along the walls looking at work. She appears to be searching for something in particular. She explains she is interested in buying a wedding gift.

I recall a series I made a few years back that expresses the nature of relationship – the balance/imbalance of masculine and feminine energies. I open my flat file drawers and we look through work. I pull out a few small paintings. She likes two of them. Last week she decides which one she’ll take.

When is the wedding? I ask Veronica.
March 29th.
What a generous gift.

We want to give them something important and symbolic – something special. Art.

Thank you Greg and Veronica. The gesture is thoughtful and I appreciate my work being part of a grand day.

And to Heather and Andy – Happy Nuptials to the both of you.

synchronous – syn – “together,” – chronos – “time.”
– at the same time or frequency: simultaneous, in synch, in step

The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.


This small painting is part of a large series of works on paper and canvas titled → Relationships – the ebb and flow. I completed the body of work in 2007. One might say in the bigger picture I was questioning and studying relationship, while in the smaller picture I was trying to understand basic electronics.


no woman is an island – continues

Monica we are visiting Phoenix and just had a yoga class at Desert Song … and fell in love with your work. Especially the ‘Subtle Female Back Body’. Anita said she loved another work, ‘Handstand’? Could we make an appointment to view your work or give you a call this morning?

Marti and her husband John are in my studio by noon, and when they leave they take 4 artworks (technically 3) with them. In between we talk about their children, dogs, cats, quilt-making, wool, yarn, travel, fishing and of course – Yoga.

They spend time looking at the various large figure studies I am painting. They respond to them and I appreciate the dialogue. As we move through the studio they see and like my recent animal anatomy compositions. In particular they like the 2-sided hanging works on paper (this is why I consider this one work two). They choose the cat and bird – titled Earth and Air.

I talk about the hanging system and how I am playing with ideas for larger work. John explains another type of hook/hardware to me. He wonders if I have any fish images. I do not. They are heading to a fishing store after our studio visit.

Did I mention Marti and John live in Portland, Oregon.


12″ x 12″
Casein, Graphite, on Paper
Print on plexi

This work is collage (with architectural renderings), painted, sanded and varnished. The cat is egg tempera, the bird is casein. I mention the durability of casein. I tell them about it’s earliest known use in Egyptian work. Casein is a binder. Consequently with all that layering they are stiff works of paper and designed to hang in space, as opposed to being framed and on the wall.


12″ x 12″
Egg Tempera, Graphite, on Paper

They also choose 2 reproductions – images I had printed on plexiglass. The originals are  casein (bee) and egg tempera (cat).  Marti likes The Cat and John likes The Bee. I explain the reproductions are also experimental ways of finishing and hanging an image. While all of it can hang traditionally, it can also hang uniquely without framing.


Cat Study
12″ x 12″
Print on plexiglass


Bee Study 
12″ x 12″
Print on plexiglass

My animals will be residing in Portland. Thank you Marti and John. It was good to meet you. John enjoy your fishing and Marti, quilt-making is great work – get into that studio.

The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.


… and then there were 2

observing structure and texture

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. –  Aristotle


We return from Spring break to a class critique. Students have spent two weeks looking closely at natural objects that have complex structure and texture. The assignment requires a magnifying glass, I want them to see all the variety of lines on their shells of choice. I suggest they run their fingers across the form and feel – is the surface smooth or textured? They balance positive and negative space. The work is challenging.

The class as a whole does well. As usual in this assignment – they don’t know what they are in for until they actually start working. They pick 3 or 4 shells and set a composition. I do allow a few of them to change out shells as they progress. Below are some examples of their excellent work. Note the variety of shapes and marks,  and especially see the sensitivity they have acquired. 

This class talks a lot about how intricate nature is – they had no clue for example - how much texture fills a leaf. I decide by the end of class every person on the planet should be required to draw some bit of nature in this manner – no doubt we’d respect its grandness more.


Roman’s shells, feather and leaf.


Detail of leaf.


Silvia’s Starfish.


Giovanna’s leaves.


Three skulls by Roger.


Detail of upper palette and teeth.


Roger’s shells and bone.


Detail of shell.


Daniel’s Two Shells.


Detail of shell.


Alex’s 4 Shells.


Toshad’s shells.


Detail of spiral shell.


Norma’s homework.



The last work below is an advanced student who works with color on scratchboard, for this assignment.


Vicki’s Lavender on Scratchboard.

no woman is an island – continues


Study of a Butterfly
MM collage on panel
8 x 8″

I received an email from Jocelyn Hanson, the Executive Director of the Shemer Art Center and Museum.

We could have sold your butterfly twice today - do you have another similar piece?

I didn’t understand. I wondered why didn’t they sell the one they had. I clarified the work was in fact available for purchase.

One has sold – was wondering if you had anything similar to sell to the other interested buyer?

Oh, Study of a Butterfly found a home! Thanks Jocelyn.

The exhibit MicroArt coincides with MicroDwell 2014 and continues to March 23.

more → Shemer Art Center and Museum

The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.

Study of a Butterfly is one of 4 in a series called AZ Pollinators, designed specifically for this exhibit.


a virtual artist residency

Back in June of 2013, Tempe Center for the Art’s Michelle Dock approached me with this project:

The Gallery at TCA is getting ready to collaborate with several local high school art teachers and ASU professor Dr. Mary Erickson to conduct an innovative art education project. We are calling the project a “virtual artist residency.”

She explained it would entail artists making themselves available via email to a small group of high school students during a 2-week period.

All of the participating students will be given a TCA workbook. The workbook will help them research the assigned artist, develop interview questions and ultimately lead to the making of their own artwork inspired by the residency. Each artist will be assigned to one specific art teacher and that teacher will assign the students to each artist.

Having worked with both Michelle and Mary before, I trusted it would be a worthwhile experience. Though I had no idea what to expect, I accepted. Art teacher Kathy David coordinated the email correspondence and we completed things the first week of December 2013.

Two months later I am pleased to introduce you to the work of Neilly, an IB Visual Arts student. Her list of questions to me were thoughtful and well-prepared. I had to step away from the computer regularly as I carefully considered my responses to her. I won’t give you all the details of the Q and A (because it really is 2 weeks worth of emails!) but I will share a few topics we covered and show you pages from Neilly’s journal.

Martinez Page 1b

Neilly began by asking about my Latino background, childhood experiences, and any traditions I might still uphold.  Who might be the audience for your work? she wanted to know. What is it like living in both American and Hispanic cultures? Neilly is Filipino-American.


We discussed some works at length. A drawing titled Gluttony (2008) caught her attention and she questioned how the image reflected American and Latino culture. In addition she wanted to know the media. At her request we covered artistic influences and media specifically in relation to Mexican culture.

Martinez Page 4b

She was curious about a community workshop I designed called  the “Who Am I?” project. The questions I ask participants to consider are: Who am I?, What am I?, What is this world and what is my relationship to it? What are ‘your’ answers? she inquired. Eventually I would learn her answers.

Martinez Page 2b

We discuss my current body of work titled Nothing in Stasis. She made associations to the work of Gustav Klimt. She watched one of my process videos on YouTube and asked about the background music which I’d composed with another artist.

Clearly Neilly had done a lot of research about my work. I had to wonder if given the opportunity to communicate with an artist, at her age would I have been so astute? 

Martinez Page 3b

Finally I ask about her work.

I’m thinking of painting a figure surrounded by persimmons, pomegranates, roses, and grapes – but I will be using a vintage television as my canvas.

We move into a conversation about humanity and technology and the nature of relating in this way. Interestingly enough at this point she brought up a painting titled The World Stage, a play in finite acts - and the phrase Summum bonum. I explain summun bonum is Latin and translates to the highest good.

Martinez critique 3

Here are parts of Neilly’s planning and completion of her artwork. I learn how I influence the final composition. She says it’s with the hands. Hands are powerful symbols.

Planning Pageb Process Pagesb Reflectionsb

Before we end the residency Nelly asks about my thoughts on religion and spirituality. She shared her thoughts with me too. The conversation included qualities about humanity as well as the animal world. She shares with me a Japanese symbol called the Red String of Fate and her personal take on it after our residency. It was wonderful insight into what she might have gathered from our interaction.

Neilly and I had the opportunity to discuss general and personal things – that’s what art allows us to do. I am impressed with her ability to communicate and with her curiosity about the ebb and flow of life.

Critique Martinezb

As you may know I teach drawing at Phoenix College and I teach the occasional art workshop to art students throughout the valley. This experience was a very unique and rewarding one.

Neilly came to me very directed and well prepared. I thought we were going to be discussing materials and compositional elements and while we did do that, we covered so much more. It ended on my end as quickly as it began. I didn’t know what to think. I could not have imagined that a few months later I would receive these wonderful images and a video based on the outcome of the experience for her.

I am pleased to note Neilly has been accepted to the Brown University / Rhode Island School of Design dual degree program. Best to you Neilly. I trust you will do well. Bravo!


today in the new york times


Photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

PHOENIX — Two men stepped out of a rental car here recently and walked up to a modest ranch-style house with a cat and a grapefruit tree in the yard, worried that the homeowner might mistake them for missionaries or salesmen.

They were neither. They were representatives of one of the world’s wealthiest art patrons, Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress and founder of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. And they had come all the way from there to the door of Monica Aissa Martinez …

Click here for full article

MicroArt – a group exhibition

Micro Art for Micro Spaces

The Microdwelling Movement is growing!  People are shrinking their living quarters to decrease their carbon footprint, getting rid of clutter, and living smarter.  In that spirit the Shemer Art Center is hosting MicroDwell and MicroArt in February & March of 2014.

MicroArt is an exhibit of small works, nothing larger that 12″ in any dimension. Thinking big / working small - the 18 Valley artists invited include: Victoria Altepeter, Michael Anderson, John Armstrong, Donna Atwood, Ron Berman, Ron Bimrose, Sandy Blain, Sam Chung, Tom Eckert, Jane Kelsey-Mapel,  Becky Frehse, Sandra Luehrsen, Monica Aissa Martinez, Ann Morton, Cynthia Peterson, Tom Ortega, Helen Norsigian Rowles, Polly Smith, and Clare Verstegen.

The work is varied and wonderful and here is a very small (micro) preview.


Victoria Altepeter
Nebulae (2)
Copper, nickel, silver, shibuichi, bronze, stalactite slices


Sandy Blain
Dot Sphere #4”

Eckert  Eccentric Transcendence

Tom Eckert
Eccentric Transcendence
Wood, Lacquer


John Armstrong
Fly By
MM on Aluminum


Sam Chung
Ewer (orange, black lines)
Porcelain, Glaze, China paint




Luehrsen - Tree of Life a

Sandra Luehrsen
Tree of Life
Earthenware, glazes, nichrome wire, gold metallic luster

Smith_Desert Nest

Polly Smith
Desert Nest
copper, bronze, glass enamel


Tom Ortega
Wood and pain


Clare Verstegen
Currents 2
Wool felt, pigments, wood


Monica Aissa Martinez
Bee Study
MM on Panel

WHO:       Shemer Art Center and Museum
     MicroArt – a group exhibition
WHERE:  5005 East Camelback Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85018
Tel: (602) 262-4727
WHEN:     Thursday, February 137:00 – 9:00 pm.  Opening Reception for MicroArt ( is free and open to the public).
February 13 – March 23, 2014 – MicroArt exhibition be open to the public on Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Note: Saturday and Sunday February  2/15 – 16  does include a $5 admission fee to see both MicroDwell and MicroArt – and include wineries and breweries.

 More → Shemer Art Center and Museum

pseudo science – a group exhibition

Pseudo Science highlights the work of artists fascinated by science and technology, and whose work has a scientific or technological bent – but is not scientifically accurate.  The work of the artists invited reflects, mimics, or implies a scientific or technological exploration, but in reality is not an absolute scientific rendering, conclusion or explanation.

The exhibit  includes painting/drawing, sculpture, mixed media and performance. Pseudo Science will coincide with the annual Arizona SciTech Festival.

Artists include Christopher Caulfield, Timothy Chapman, Bill Dambrova, Casey Farina, Steve Gompf, Hilary Harp and Barry Moon, Mary Lucking, Monica Aissa Martinez and performance by Babs A’Delic.

Dambrova_Bill_Just passing Through_web-12

©Bill Dambrova
Just Passing Through
Scientific skeleton model, pom
poms, mirror, polychromed wood, and glitter


Hilary Harp & Barry Moon
Thermal Image
Wood, thermochromic film, motors, music boxes etc.


Timothy Chapman
The Darrsman Effect in Hymenoptera
Acrylic on panel

frontal lobe pseudo science chris table with bones sculptures

Chris Caulfield
Tiny animal skull and bone sculptures
on recycled hardwood bases


Steve Gompf’

Monica Aissa Martinez Male Front Body (detail) MM on Paper 96" x 60"

Monica Aissa Martinez
Male Front Body (detail)
MM on Paper
96″ x 60″

WHAT:     Pseudo Science – a group exhibition
WHERE:  Frontal Lobe Community Space and Gallery
in Bragg’s Pie Factory
1301 Grand Avenue
Phoenix, AZ
WHEN:     February 7th (1st Friday)
February  21st (3rd Friday)
By appointment (602.391.4016) – the month of February 2014

Curated by Beatrice Moore.

→ Map
RSVP →  Facebook invite. Take a look at this invite and see the artist studio visits and installation shots Beatrice Moore included.

This exhibit is free and open to the public.
Join us next week.

days in the studio


Days in the studio …

This last weekend while I prepared a 72″ x 44″ paper,  New York Times photographer Ruth Fremson looked on. She took studio shots as I worked the surface.

The next day I spent carefully setting a contour study into the picture plane. The subject is my niece Sara. I don’t have children. I’m not used to looking closely at a younger generation and seeing anything so like mine. Today in my niece’s feet, I recognize my toes.


no woman is an island – continues

Justice is
… absolute good in itself.
… the boundary that defines all the other virtues.
… Cuique suum – to each his own.
… the virtue which enables man to give each one what is his due.


Graphite, Casein on Paper
23″ x 8″

Alisa Gray contacts me on the first day of the new year. She’s interested in this study of Justice. It’s part of a large series that depicts virtues and sins. I give her a bit of history about the drawing and identify influences.


“The balance I depict comes from Egyptian mythology.  Upon death, one must weigh their heart with the feather of truth. If the heart is lighter you move on in the journey to the afterlife. If the heart is heavier, you are escorted into the underworld.”


Traditional Lady Justice is blind-folded, representing objectivity. In my composition, the eyes are not prominent. I include the infinity symbol. Summun Bonum, the writing on the floating banner “… is Latin for the highest good.” The phrase is meaningful to me, it’s not about good or bad, right or wrong – but about the highest good for all concerned. As I write this I recall my father providing me with thought to go along with most any action - If anyone or everyone did what you want to do now, would this be a better world? If the answer is yes, continue.

Alisa tells me her daughter ” … is a self-taught 17-year-old Egyptian ‘expert’ and she’s taught me so much about Egyptian myths and culture,” (did I mention Alisa is a lawyer) and adds ” … the whole legal thing is compelling.”

I am intrigued because I’ve never heard summum bonum. After 21 plus years as an attorney, I thought I knew most Latin terms that we use. So I looked it up. It’s more of a philosophical term meaning the “highest good.” Too bad, we don’t use it more in the legal world!”

Alisa has a personal connection to the spiral, which is in the design of the dress the figure wears. We discuss the design color – “… no situation is completely black and white.” Alisa’s last name is Gray.

“Yes, I am interested!”  And with that - Justice finds a home.

Alisa is an attorney. She is also a Yogi. She completed her Yoga Teacher’s Training in 2010, and currently teaches Yoga to attorneys. Talk about highest good …

Thanks Alisa. Keep up the good work.

The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do. No one continues alone, much less the artist. I enjoy and appreciate the full circle experiences.

Justice is from the series:  The World Stage, a play in finite acts.


The World Stage, a play in finite acts
casein on canvas
36″ x 36″

sheep count

Drawing is the discipline by which I constantly rediscover the world. I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, a sheer miracle.”     Frederick Franck - The Zen of Seeing

I’d gotten back to human body studies when artist Aimee León invited me to participate in her project, Into The Fold. I found the subject of sheep, and her intent to remind and reintroduce them to us - moving. So I take one more break from the human body to consider sheep, in particular, a ewe and her lamb (in utero).

Sheep are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. A male sheep is called a ram and a female sheep is called a ewe, their small offspring is the lamb. I could tell you about their senses because I find the information fascinating. Aimee’s final project will include essays, poetry, 2D art, music, theory, philosophy, scientific writings and children’s work – so we can wait for that to learn more.

I know right away how I will approach the subject. Here are progression shots. If I didn’t have this record, I wouldn’t remember the layers that form the final composition. Time is key to my anatomy studies, so I never wait long to get going.

Locate Aimee’s project link at the bottom of this post.

IMG_5532 IMG_5533  I like this stage below best. But once it’s gone, I can’t bring it back. IMG_5534I wanted (bone) structure. Why didn’t I lay it in first?


Of course, I wanted marks based on the sheep’s hair. IMG_5538  I like this stage below, it glows. I want more depth.IMG_5542Too much. Everything flattens. Though It does take on a weaving quality I enjoy.IMG_5543

IMG_5555 IMG_5565


I take it back and forth a few times. I varnish and brighten when complete.


Ewe and Her Lamb
MM on canvas
18″ x 26″

Though I never planned to exhibit the work, an opportunity arrives. I’ll show the Study of a Ewe and Her Lamb, and a few other small animal studies, next month at the Frontal Lobe Gallery and Community Space.

Did I mention Aimee León is a trained Sheep Shearer? Do take a look at Aimee’s project site, Into the Fold, the photos are spectacular.

in the studio – a practice

Studio - derives from the Italian: studio,
from Latin: studium, from studere,
meaning to study or zeal, 
Practice - repeated performance of an activity in order to learn or perfect a skill.

My drawings, paintings and prints will be on display at Desert Song Healing Arts Center for the months of February and March. I will organize newer work and include a few pieces from  a number of series I completed in the last decade – after my Yoga Teacher’s Training at Desert Song.


WHO: Desert Song Healing Arts Center
WHAT: In Studio – A Practice
Drawings Paints and Prints by Monica Aissa Martinez
WHERE: 3232 North 20th Street
WHEN: February 1st, 2014

During the run of the exhibit, on Sunday February 16th from 1-3 will be an
Art, Music and Yoga community event. Yoga instructor Meg Byerlein will lead the practice as we listen to live sounds from musician Mary Petrich (and friends). Save the date.


Desert Song Healing Arts Center has been in business for 30 years. I’ve known Mary Beth Marcus since the late 90′s when I began studying yoga. In 2003 I completed my Yoga Teacher’s Training with her.

I learned many things during that intense time. Including that I could complete 21 Sun Salutations in the morning and/or in the evening, at a moments call. I’m kidding about that –  sort of.

We studied the history and philosophy of Yoga. I loved learning each of the 8 limbs. You’ll certainly see the influence in my work. I also learned about taking the Teacher’s Seat. I know this framework prepared me for what I do now – teach drawing at Phoenix College. It still provides me with guide lines as I continue setting up a classroom each semester.

Mary Beth has a new studio and a new location. The grounds are beautiful. Join them on Facebook or visit the Desert Song website.


Note: February’s theme is the Heart and March is Community …. they work for me.