i visit a brain bank

Much of my research comes via anatomy books and the internet. I make the occasional trip (2 weeks ago in fact) to the Science Center. And I will admit to appreciating the Body World exhibit (as well as Gunther von Hagen’s dissection videos).  I have toured a number of labs, including Barrow’s some years ago. This week I visit a brain bank with new work in mind.

Driving to Sun City where Banner Sun Health Research Institute is located, I think about Kathleen Bartolomei (UrbanLab LLC) who connects me to Maribeth Gallagher (Hospice of the Valley), who directs me to Jan Dougherty (Special Projects Consultant at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute), whom introduces me to Dr. Thomas Beach and his research center -so that I might better appreciate the human brain in full, in part, and under the microscope.

I could title this post No Woman is an Island.

I arrive and meet Geidy, a Neuroanatomist. She will take me through the facility until Dr. Beach, who is in a meeting, becomes available.

She points out workstations each with a dry ice pad and scale, among other things.

Lab workstations

This particular lab is unique in that it requires rapid autopsy (within 3-hours postmortem) to ensure the highest quality tissue. Geidy explains, there is always an on call team to do the work. I assume donors have to live in the area. They do and she emphasizes the need for controlled brains, including enrolling a potential donor and meeting with them. She clarifies the work here is to study the aging process.

A good idea, I think to myself, because we are living longer.

The first area we enter includes a high-powered microscope and large computer screen. I don’t photograph the space because we plan to return after walking the lab. We never do come back.

Geidy announces we’ll make stops in various rooms on our way to the morgue. I’ve avoided morgues my whole life, is all that comes to mind.

I believe she identifies these refrigerators as -80°C lab freezers, which I understand now are ultra-low freezers.

Freezers

We walk through several rooms with rows and rows of tissue samples.

Brain tissue samples

Heart tissue samples

Organ tissue storage

With over 3000 people enrolled as donors, this lab has performed 1400 autopsies since 1987.

We make our way to the morgue.

I ask a particular question and Geidy says … because I am a Scientist, I would not say that. What I will say is…etc. I am aware of her ability for careful listening and mindful answering. Naturally I’m compelled to try to do the same.

Before she brings brain tissue out for me to see, she ends a part of our conversation by noting she believes they are finding better ways of diagnosing insults to the brain.

The brain appears so delicate and so beautiful. She notes pathology in the sample she holds. We talk about gray (not really gray) and white matter. 

Coronal section of the brain

When I later show my husband these 2 photos, he reacts by saying it looks like highly conductive material. Yes it is. I pose a (philosophical) question but he has no response for me.

Cerebellum

Taken aback by the cerebellum (the little brain), I know my renderings are on point.

Below is the left hemisphere of the brain. Knowing my artwork will include the normal brain and the brain with dementia, I ask Do you have diseased tissue samples?  No, she does not.

External structure – left hemisphere of the brain

Geidy points out the Corpus Callosum and notes the area is where the 2 hemispheres connect (center flat horizontal area in image below). I don’t say it out loud but I recall corpus callosum is Latin for tough body.

Midsaggital Plane – left hemisphere of the brain

Surprised that she brings out a heart (below), I see it is unusually large with (too much) visible fat. This prompts a conversation about age, aging, weight gain and weight loss.

Heart

As we exit the morgue I photograph a curtain rack sitting in the hallway. It has an image of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man. I recall the da Vinci book my father gives me that is currently sitting on my drawing table at the Tempe Center for the Arts. Finding the particular visual here represents for me a nod to timing and all that is right.

Walking back down the hallway, I hope to return to the area where the microscope sets up. I am eager to look at neurohistology. We meet Dr. Beach at the entrance to his lab and introductions take place. I also say goodbye to Geidi and thank her. She tells me she’ll go to the exhibit and she’ll invite her colleagues. It’s the sort of thing they’d all enjoy.

Dr. Beach and I have a very different interaction. He is curious to know what I am doing. I share a few drawings with him and one of his colleagues. I tell him about the artist residency and my father. He shares books and images with me. He explains particulars about dementia and Alzheimer’s. We look over some scans I bring along and he talks anatomy (CAT scan) and chemistry (PET scan). He tells me about glucose and synaptic connection.

We discuss the hippocampus and at one point he explains it is involved in only a small part of dementia (Alzheimer’s). He states dementia is a global loss of thinking. It’s not just about memory, it is about language (input and output), it is about losing ones understanding of abstraction…losing metaphor…and losing mathematics. He emphasizes…the whole of the cerebral cortex…is affected.

I ask about people who specifically use their intellect. I realize quickly everyone uses their intellect but I want to understand how an avid reader and thinker might be affected by dementia.  How (I really want to say why) does it take them (anyone)? Perhaps the root of my question is more emotional than logical. His general response is simple – the more one does with their brain (their mind) the longer it will take for it (the disease) to bring them down (I paraphrase).

Can you see a cure happening in your life time? He pauses before answering and I imagine it is because he is a scientist and wants to answer in a factual way. I suppose he can’t know the duration of his life. His response is firm – Yes. We will find a cure.

In your life time?  He may have answered – within 20 years – and then maybe changed his answer to 10 years. I can’t say for sure. I am listening intently though I forget to write this detail.

I never make it to the microscope to look at histology. It’s after lunch now and we’re both ready for a break. He extends an invitation for me to observe an autopsy. My name would  be put on a call list. I don’t jump at the opportunity. I’m good here and now.

As I make the drive home, I know the brain to be a most extraordinary organ. It is not like a computer. It is not a machine. It is a living thing – enfolding life.

In my artist statement I write about my interest in both the physical body and the subtle body. Perhaps I should use the words gross (what is visible to the eye) and subtle (what is not visible to the eye). Right in this moment I understand the brain to be the best example of this.

Thank you to everyone who helped direct me to the Banner Sun Health Research Center. Thank you Geidy Serrano for the tour. And thank you Dr. Thomas Beach (Senior Scientist and Lab Head) for the opportunity to meet with you.


draw: the art of curiosity and innovation is now open and continues through Sept 1, 2018. I am 1of 3 Artists-in-Residence through Aug 3, 2018. You can find me there every Tuesday, and depending on the week, either Thursday or Saturday.
More info → Gallery at TCA


 

draw, the art of curiosity and innovation

Artist-in-Residence studio spaces

One of three artist-in-residence, I will spend a couple of days, for the next 12 weeks, at the Tempe Center for the Arts (researching dementia and Alzheimer’s). They (we) set up our 3 studio spaces ↑. Mine includes a desk that resembles the one I have in my home studio. ↓

My studio area, and the beautiful braincase

Now to get used to working in a public space…

Arriving early, I decide to organize a blog post. My computer is not picking up wi-fi. Ahhh… I forgot the USB cable to connect my camera and computer. But hey, my camera works!

I enjoy looking closely at the work as I shoot details.

Ryan Carey

Beth Shook

Carolyn Lavender

Laura Tanner Graham

Christopher Jagmin

Mary Shindell

Matthew Dickson

Hyewon Yoon

Bobby Zokaites (Artist-in-Residence)

Kyllan Maney (Artist-in-Residence)

The gallery includes several art maker ↓ spaces.

Before the afternoon is over these women ↑ (who before entering the gallery were out enjoying Tempe Town Lake) walk over to my table. They want to talk about my work – the drawing of my father in particular. I gather they’re related: mother, daughter and grand-daughter. We talk about their family, aging and dementia. I also talk to a couple of other people including a friend who is an artist.

I drive home knowing we are all in this together. The connector is art.


We’re working things out. Hours subject to change until they’re not…
I’ll be in studio on Tuesday and possibly Thursday
Kyllan Maney considers Tuesday and Thursday or Saturday.
Bobby Zokaites plans for Wednesday and Saturday.

TCA has a drawing workshops scheduled almost every Saturday for the duration of the summer. More info →  draw: the art of curiosity and innovation
 

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.

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.


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

az exhibition opportunity – arizona biennial 2015

The Tucson Museum of Art released their prospectus for Arizona Biennial 2015. Here is general information and photos from the last biennial. 
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All Arizona artists over 18 years of age working in any media and theme can submit their work to be considered for Arizona Biennial 2015. This exhibition will be on view at the Tucson Museum of Art July 25 – October 11, 2015. The work juried into the exhibition will be selected entirely from digital images or video submissions by noted guest curator Irene Hofmann, Phillips Director and Chief Curator, SITE Santa Fe.

All works must be original and completed within the last two years

Deadline: All entry forms, fees, and images must be received at the Museum by 4:00 pm, March 13, 2015

Entry Fee: $30 for up to three art works.

Click to download → Prospectus

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state of the art – discovering american art now

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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 ).

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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
WHAT: STATE OF THE ART – DISCOVERING AMERICAN ART NOW
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.