no woman is an island

August 2016
Joe: I took a photo of your work last year at the Sky Harbor exhibit. May I ask your permission to use the artwork for my class on evolution and medicine at the University of New Mexico and on the blog that I use for the class: EvolutionMedicine.com?

Me: Thank you for asking. I received my MFA at NMSU…I have great affinity for New Mexico.

Portrait of Sara, Head in Profile, Arms Akimbo (detail)

February 2018
Joe: I’m in Tempe today through Saturday. I hope to visit the UofA Med school gallery while I am here. Are you available tomorrow around noon? Or Saturday?

Saturday afternoon, almost 1-1/2 years after the initial email – I meet Joe (and his mom!) at the Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix.

Joe is a practicing emergency physician and teaches at University of New Mexico Department of Emergency Medicine. He is also program chair for the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health. He wants to see my work and he wants to discuss using some of my compositions on the organization’s website. He invites me to attend their annual meeting this August in (beautiful) Park City, Utah. I appreciate the opportunity (curiosity stirred) but I cannot commit to the latter. Spending the last month working on applications for exhibition opportunities including a summer artist residency, I feel too many unknowns to set the plan in motion. He understands.

The three of us walk the exhibit and eventually come to Portrait of Sara ↑. At the time I work on the study, I explain as I point to the upper right corner of the composition, I learn about the cranial nerves. The vagus nerve, in particular, catches my attention because it is also known as the wandering nerve.

Joe’s face registers recognition and I glimpse excitement. I am in the habit of explaining the details of my work to people but perhaps in a medical education environment, I don’t need to explain so much. It is at this point that Joe brings up the microbiome. I’ve heard of the brain-gut connect, I say. He nods and clarifies gut-brain axis. I think about what I understand… It relates to the vagus nerve, yes? By the time the afternoon is over, I know the human microbiome is of great interest to him.

We talk about a few things including evolution medicine. But what stands out is when Joe connects body and environment.  I don’t write them down so I can’t quote his words, basically he brings up the construction happening across the valley.  What is occurring here, apartment building on top of apartment building – not a good thing for our microbiome. Being in nature and with animals, including living with our pets (the natural world) – supports the human microbiome.

We are a system of connecting parts.

Notes on the Complexity of the Brain, Mixed media and collage on paper, 8×8″

We sit at a table across from two of my small mixed-media portraits (studies of the brain). Joe says… I want that one. You do?!  He appreciates the techie quality. I nod…those are motherboard elements.


To know more about what Joe Alcock teaches visit→ EvolutionMedicine.com.
And → @JoeAlcockMD #tweets #microbiome and #evolution. And #phage.
When they refer to it (phage) on Science Friday (like they did this last week) – I enjoy knowing what it means! Information takes hold in small ways. 

Thank you so much Joe.


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

On a side note:
Did you know today is Day 3 of Brain Awareness Week. It is!
Notified that I did receive the artist residency, this summer I will spend 12 weeks at the Tempe Center for the Arts. I plan to study and draw the human brain.


2×2 more bones of the cranium

Your skull, the most complex part of your skeletal system, includes 29 bones grouped into 2 sections – your neurocranium and your facial bones. The last 3 months I’ve spent most afternoons studying and drawing the 8 cranial bones that hold and protect your brain. I may have already said this – think brain helmet!

The word cranium derives from the Greek kranion (skull) and relates to kara (head). Also known as braincase (favorite) and brainpan (least favorite) among other names. This is my first time looking at the top of the skull and connecting the parts. I don’t know how engaging each of these 8 bones are until after I begin my study. The decision to draw them all out is organic – one visually appealing bone leads to another.

I’ve shared the 4 unpaired bones and now I study and complete the 2 paired bones that sit on either side of (and above and below) your skull/head.

Parietal bone, exterior surface.

The Parietal bones form the roof and sides of your skull and head. Their name comes from the Latin paries, meaning wall. If I understand correctly this bone articulates with the other parietal bone, with the temporal, sphenoid and occipital bones – all but the ethmoid bone!

Parietal bone, interior surface.

I enjoy painting the edges (the sutures) of all the various cranial bones. This elegant form  below is the temporal bone – the other paired bone. They sit on either side (your temples) and base of your skull.

Temporal bone, outer surface.

Temporal bone, internal surface.

The temporal bones are a wonderfully complex design serving clear purpose (How can this stuff be random?! Who designed it?!!). I won’t get into it too much even though I want to – I’m an artist not a scientist. Lol. These bones house the structures of your ears (They house the structures of your ears!!!!).  I could probably break down the parts of this bone and even be willing to draw each of them separately because interesting shape and interesting name (wow stuff) always calls my attention.

I am complete with the 8 bones of the cranium. Early on I completed the ethmoid bone – for me that wild and beautiful bone ushered all the other cranial bones into the studio.


And on a side note:
Last week was my artist reception at the BioMedical campus in downtown Phoenix.  I completely enjoy the evening.

Photo by Christy Vezolles.

During this time that I’ve had my work in a medical school – one question pops up regularly with the various events. People want to know where my interest in anatomy comes from. While I have alway participated in sports (still run, practice Yoga), I explain my appreciation for the body and anatomy came from my anatomy studies in art school. It’s odd to me that it is not common knowledge that artists study anatomy. I loved drawing and learning the names of all the major bones and muscles of the human body.

anatomical drawing workshop with med students

I teach an anatomy drawing workshop at the college of Medicine on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus. Participants come from several programs (including a couple of faculty) though the majority are Northern Arizona University (NAU) students in Occupational Therapy (OT).

They introduce themselves and I enjoy hearing why they signed up to come to the drawing workshop.

One young woman tells us she saw a kidney and thought it beautiful and wants to learn to draw it. I understand completely. Another speaks about the piriformis muscle – she explains, it’s from the Latin and means pear (shaped). She wants to see and know this. I don’t know piriformis means pear-shaped, I want to see this too! Someone else explains she would like to learn to draw the human body when needing to explain something – instead of the usual stick figure. I smile and note if I had a patient and needed to be efficient – that stick figure would come in handy.

I move around the room and learn every participant has a personal reason for being here, including an appreciation of anatomy. Someone tells me she likes my artwork and thinks this could be fun. Thank you. Yes, it will be! I tell her.

I want to say a lot of things to them. I want to talk about science and art and their connection, and I want to talk about Leonardo (I never do!). We have 3 hours together – they’ll start something today but will probably finish up on their own.

They arrive ready with organ (subject-matter) references. And medical models are available. We talk about a contour study and I quickly explain the value of working organically. While Cindi (Director of Art in Medicine) provides a variety of papers (surfaces) and materials – the majority of the group chooses to work on black paper (I’m excited to see the black paper – I know what color does on it). A couple of the participants pick out beautiful rice papers and after some conversation – they work in parts and layers – bringing a more sculptural sensibility to their work.

Here are some captured moments of the afternoon. Note everyone begins with a careful contour study and then loosens up (with some prodding) to bring in color and texture. The nervousness steps aside and the afternoon brings a little science and a little art together. Ahhh…creativity!

On a side note: I particularly enjoy the overall conversation. It’s an unusual experience being around medical (health and wellness) people. They’re familiar and comfortable with the body in a way that the average person is not.

The afternoon is coming to an end and  I hear comments like … Oh! I love your kidney! Oh…look at your brain!! 

I learn some new things. I don’t take notes but I probably could (should) have.
Thanks everyone. And a special thanks to Cindi and Rebecca.


My drawings and paintings are on display right now at UA College of Medicine in downtown Phoenix until March of 2018. You can see the exhibit M-F, 9 to 5.
An Artist Reception is in the planning for February 2, 2018 – First Friday, 6-8 pm.

the front and the back bones holding your brilliance

They are elegant and living organs – the bones of your skull.  Each one of the cranial bones is unique in architecture. I appreciate the contour of the frontal bone, most especially the sutures (fibrous joints).

Cranial bones are the hard mineral matrix supporting (fixing) the structure of your face (Including your sensory structures). The cranial bones provide protection for the brain (aka: braincase). In the case of the frontal bone – it protects the frontal lobe of the brain.

Your frontal bone forms your beautiful forehead and shapes the top edge of your orbits – look at that brow ridge!

Front bone (anterior)

Front bone (posterior)

The Occipital bone ↓ forms your posterior skull, your cranial cavity. It has a large opening, the foramen magnum (Latin for great hole), where your spinal cord exits your skull.

All the while I draw – I consider the energetics of this area…where the spinal cord exits the skull…It must be a sacred space!

Occipital bone – external surface

Occipital bone, inner surface

Studying the 8 cranial bones for a good while, I am not yet done. I look at the 2-paired bones next.  I could not have known how intricate and wonderful the upper skull is (what to me so long!).

Today I know better these bones that protect our brain, and protect our brilliance!  Out on an early bike ride this a.m. – I appreciate my bicycle helmet just a little bit more…

pugmark

A pugmark refers to the mark, track or footprint of an animal on the ground.

Invited to exhibit my jaguar at the i.d.e.a. Museum in February, they ask if I have touchable and tactile art samples for visitors to interact with. I don’t. But knowing I’d like the design, I create jaguar pugmarks. The sample also holds the smaller prints of another Sonoran desert cat – the mountain lion. The exhibits focus – the Sonoran Desert.

In our Arizona desert you can come across a mountain lion, but chances are you will never see a jaguar. But in the Dos Cabezas Mountains (about 60 miles north of the U.S. – Mexico border) you can (if luck and the stars are with you) wander across a jaguar pugmark.

The jaguar has a large pad with toes that fan out. Notice the oval-shaped toes taper, and one comes forward more than the others. The wide based pad is ‘M’ shaped. ( The smaller mountain lion prints appear similar).  The big cat walks with claws retracted so you will not see them in the footprint.

Front pad is larger (left), while hind pad is smaller (right).

Conservationists and researchers use footprints to study large animals in the wild, like the jaguar. Footprint size helps to identify individuals, but it is not an exact science.


i.d.e.a. museum
Sonoran Safari
Opens Friday, February 9  and runs through Sunday, May 27, 2018
Opening Reception: Thursday, February 8, 2018, 5-7 p.m.


gateway into the mind – the beautiful sphenoid bone

The sphenoid bone, from the Greek sphenoeides meaning wedge-shaped, is one of 8 cranial bones – the top portion of the skull that encloses and protects the brain.

One bone leads to another. I draw the ethmoid bone and that study leads into this one. I admire the shape, location, and the symbolic aspects of the sphenoid bone.

The beautiful Sphenoid Bone – Superior View

When I complete the superior view of the cranial bone and post it, people note its resemblance to a moth and a butterfly. You might also imagine a bat with its wings extended. This makes sense when you consider it is a body paired with –  yes – greater and lesser wings and two pterygoid processes that project from below.

This bone sits at the anterior base of the skull, in the very center of the head. It is here where the nerves leave the brain to connect with the spinal column and the lower spine.
Within it you find the sella turcica ( a saddle shape mass) which houses the pituitary gland (that hangs from the base of the brain by a stalk). It helps to form the septum of the nose and the nerves of the eyes pass through it.

Superior View of Sphenoid Bone (in blue) and Ethnoid Bone (in black).

Inferior View of the Sphenoid Bone (blue wash)

… the nerves of the eyes pass through it. As a visual artist I can’t help but take note of this. And it is this detail that might explain why sphenoid bone is known as the gateway into the mind.

Cranial-Sacral therapy recognizes the bone as a keystone of the cranial floor. There is a cranial pulse, a subtle pulsing (and flexing) of this particular bone signifying health – making the wings that much more magical for me. And I can’t help but think of the Caduceus, the medical symbol showing two snakes  winding around a winged staff (life-force rising from the base of the spine). Could the winged crown be the wings of the sphenoid?

The sphenoid considered a sacred bone at the top of the spine, equally as powerful as the sacrum at the bottom.

Inferior aspect of the Sphenoid bone.

Meditate on the beautiful sphenoid bone – breath deep and fly.

art in medicine – nothing in stasis

I spend the day with the crew at the University of Arizona’s medical school. I am in downtown Phoenix, at the Health Sciences Education Building, installing Nothing In Stasis, my most recent (years of work actually) drawings and paintings.

Walking in this morning, I see a group of students looking closely at my largest canvas that at the moment leans against a wall. I hear someone call out the name of a muscle. Someone else points out the thyroid.  I smile as I approach them and someone asks,  Are you the artist?  This is so accurate, she says. I hope so, I respond. I identify the figures in the painting and we talk about the content.

In between classes I catch students looking at artwork.  Either I am introduced by someone or I introduce myself. I completely enjoy it.

I shoot a series of photos ↓ while sitting in the corner working out a hanging system. Again, students are between classes. One young woman looks at one drawing and then another. She calls a friend over and says something to her as she points. I decide to walk over and introduce myself (all the while feeling like John Quiñones on What Would You Do).

The one female asks me if the surrounding organs signify something about the people depicted.

Yes! You’re correct!
Are they people you know?
My niece, my father and my mother. 

We discuss the compositions of my parents.  They clearly recognize and appreciate the details.

I don’t know how many students I connect with on this busy afternoon but each conversation brings insight.  Are you a medical doctor? My not so scientific response – No, but maybe in another life I was.

Before the afternoon is over I gather how meaningful the usual art works are  to the students, faculty, and staff. They have rotating exhibitions here. And for some reason this last month there has been no art on their walls. I am, in fact, putting my work up 2 weeks ahead of schedule. I clearly hear and see the art element is missed by most everyone.

I speak with Cynthia Standley,  who among other things organizes the Art in Medicine programming. We discuss the value of art in this particular educational setting. We talk about the connection between art and medicine (science) in terms of skill building: observation, critical thinking and communication. She notes how the skills enhance patient care. I note these are the very same skills I teach my drawing students.

I learn they have a partnership with the Phoenix Arts Museum as does our Department of Art at Phoenix College.

At the end of a long day, I sit and watch the natural light flood the now quiet area.

On a side note: When I agree to have a solo at the medical school, I am unaware they have a room with glass walls ↑ and they don’t know I have 2-sided translucent drawings. A medical school with glass walls…perfect!

My studio is empty. I have 60-plus drawings and paintings hanging in the Health Sciences Education Building at the Phoenix Bio-Medical Campus located a few blocks South of the Roosevelt Row Arts District.

The exhibition titled Nothing In Stasis will be showing to April of 2018. The area is open to the public and allows for visitors. An artist reception is in the planning for February’s First Friday. More info to come.


Health Sciences Education Building
Phoenix Biomedical Campus (PBC)
435 N. 5th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004-2230
Map (PDF)
Parking Information