a practice of art-making…with the medical students

Cynthia Standley, Director of Art in Medicine, reaches out to see if I am interested in facilitating another Art and Anatomy Workshop for first-year students at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine.

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I am. Yes!


Day 1: Thursday
I arrive to a classroom that includes a variety of art supplies (traditional and non-traditional) as well as a selection of medical models available for reference. Medical students enter the classroom and I can feel their excitement.

I introduce myself and speak about the general purpose of the workshop. Many students are here to make an artwork for their Ceremony of Appreciation, in honor of their willed body donors. Others are here only because they want to make art. Everyone is welcome.

Supplies have been chosen and almost immediately, I see some students begin to put something down on drawing paper. They’ve arrived, eager and prepared.

We have a thoughtful, creative and fun-filled afternoon. Below, I share process shots as well as completed artworks.

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There’s a little fashion mixing it up with the optic chiasm.

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The bronchial tree.

I move from student to student, discussing each composition, including materials, form and content. I get a good sense of their ideas as well as their observation skills. I also appreciate and enjoy their imagination. 

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Day 1 comes to an end with a photo of a few of the participants and their art.

Day2: Friday
On this second day, a larger group arrives. I’m please to see some students from the day before.

The workshop begins with introductions, followed by another afternoon of art-making.

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In each eye is a galaxy…

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I see a labyrinth…

 

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Happy Digestive System

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Carefully representing areas of the brain.

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Wonderful work is completed!

I hope each of you had fun and learned something that you didn’t know before.

Here is what I learned:
Tea bags (of all shapes) can be used as a collage element! #VeryCool
I now know, the smallest bone in the body is called the stapes. It was pointed out to me by a student and discussed with the group at the table. #HelpingMeToRemember
I better understand how students learn from their body donor. I got a sense of the subtle way in which human connection is formed. #Honor

Thanks to everyone who participated. Thank you Cindi, for inviting me back.
My best to each of you.
#Appreciation #Creativity #Observation #Fun #ArtAndMedicine


©2022 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

no woman is an island

It’s early December when I receive this email from Julie:
By any chance do you have any small works of just the brain? My sister is looking for a present for her son (my nephew) who is a neuro surgeon and I wanted to tell her about your work. If you had a small drawing of a brain, send me an image and the price and I’ll forward it on to her. Thanks!  Happy holidays! -Julie

You could guess things played out well. As I prepare to write, I ask Julie for story.

The way it came down, Julie explains, was that my sister asked in passing, Do you know by any chance an artist who paints or draws images of the brain? We want to give our son (Steven) and his wife Mary (also a surgeon) a gift that would be near to his practice (a neurosurgeon). 

Julie’s reply: Boy do I have an artist for you, and I just so happen to be organizing a solo exhibition of her work at TMA! Her work is wonderful and I think I saw a few brain images when I visited there recently. 

Julie Sasse is Chief Curator at Tucson Museum of Art. She’d made a studio visit in early November. We were going over the artwork for my upcoming September exhibition, in the museum’s → Kasser Family Wing of Latin American Art.  Wendy Carr, is Julie’s sister.

Julie continues, I really like my nephew (and his wife!). He and I went on a three-week trip to Chile the summer before he entered med school so we have a special bond—went to Easter Island as well. What a great trip that was. He is so smart and I love to hear about the lives he has saved. 

Friday, I send 4 images, along with the information she’s requested. Monday, Julie tells me to hold one particular study. Tuesday I speak with Wendy.

I enjoy hearing about her son, Dr. Steven Carr, MD., an Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. Wendy notes Steven’s creative side, He enjoys working with his hands, wood in particular. He made a toy box and a rocking horse for his son as well as a train set and a trolley car.

I tell her about an exhibition of my work at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. I recall how I especially appreciated the medical students and faculty talk about my work and point out the details. I didn’t say much, mostly I listened (and learned!).

Here ↓ is the small brain study Julie asked me to hold. I paid extra attention to details with this image. And I was using mylar for the first time. I discovered both graphite and casein paint love a mylar surface! It’s a favorite material and I continue to use it.

 Sagittal View of the Brain
Casein, Graphite Ink on Mylar
10×13″

The brain and its cells have become the focal point of many of my works since my father’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. I’ve had time and opportunity to learn about the brain, including visiting the brain bank, in Sun City, AZ.

This artwork showed with phICA, in a container space in downtown Phoenix as well as the University of Arizona Medical School, also in downtown Phoenix.

Now it’s yours, Steven and Mary! This gift of art is in recognition of becoming a Board Certified Neurosurgeon, Steven. Congratulations to you.

Wendy and David, thank you so much. I’d like to extend a personal invitation to all of you. Should you be in Tucson, come and join us for the opening of my solo exhibition, on September 1st! Amongst other things, I plan to have a wall of brain anatomy, including microanatomy study, on display.
#UrBeautifulBrain

Thanks again, Julie!


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

©2022 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ



the all that is

I call this post The All That Is, but I could call it We Are Not Separate. Or maybe, I could call it What is Microchimerism? #Art #Philosophy #Science


The holiday puts a pause on my studio work.  Away, visiting family for a week, I catch an NPR segment* on fetal cells and placentas. It begins with two people (or three or maybe four) sharing one body (the maternal body).

I recall learning about microchimerism**, which is the presence of cells from one individual in another genetically distinct individual. While there are different ways to consider the phenomenon,  pregnancy might be the main cause of natural microchimerism.

The NPR episode paints a distinct picture for me. Think (like a fetus): You have mom’s cells in you (just as your cells are in hers) and if you have an older brother and/or sister, mom’s likely to have passed their cells on to you, too. And what about grandma and great grandma? Does mom also carry their cells? Consequently, do you?  You, me and we…might in fact be…the All That Is! 

Prior to listening to this show, I’d already decided to indicate generational presence in Portrait of Vanya, though I had not settled on exactly how I would do this. 

The first day back in the studio, I work into the entire ground of the painting, a large and colorfully detailed placenta. I now imagine placenta holding a family tree, of sorts. Visually speaking, the chorionic villi ↓ of the placenta do have a tree-like quality.

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Placenta, Latin for cake, related to Greek plakous, a flat cake. My glossary of medical meanings also informs me it serves as communication between fetus and mother, by way of umbilical cord.
(I’ll hope to write a future post about the placenta that might include placenta encapsulation.) 

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Something else I come across, while visiting mom over the holidays. She has a large, almost as big as her hand, butterfly she’d found and was saving. It is a stunning Swallowtail butterfly.

The butterfly, symbol of change and transformation, feels appropriate for a newborn who arrived weeks early. And it so happens, the meaning of the name Vanya is butterfly! 

Right into the painting, it goes…

When I share this detail of the study, Jeorgina, Vanya’s mom, sends this photo.

Unaware that Vanya means butterfly, she’s excited to explain she got the tattoo when she found out she was pregnant. #iWhoa! #Change!

During this holiday break, I also catch a Gloria Steinem interview where she briefly talks about symbols. For Steinem, the circle connects to the circle of life, while the triangle represents rank. I associate the triangle to stability. Thinking about it as rank, I rework the eyeball, directing gaze up ↑ and think summum bonum, the highest good.

I add and subtract many elements ↑ to this painting including mammary glands and endocrine system, fetal stem cells (which may contribute to maternal health and wound healing), microbes…etc.

Somewhere, this casein and egg tempera painting took a turn of its own. I’ll sit with it a little longer to know if it is complete. #TheAllThatIs

Portrait of Vanya may be the final work for an upcoming solo at Mesa Contemporary Art Museum. The exhibit, Nothing In Stasis, will open the first week of April and run to August.
More later…

→ * NPR Fetal Cells May Protect Mom from Disease Long After The Baby’s Born
→ ** Microchimeric mombie: Amy Boddy


©2022 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

sound + light = creation

A new work is in progress. I’m painting a newborn, more specific, a preterm baby.

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Organizing this study, I began with one focus, shifted to another, and then still another.
 Finally, I  started painting at what was supposed to be the bottom of the composition, only to eventually make it the top.

When this idea presented itself in October, I’d been spending so much of my time in my head (Pun intended, I was trying to lay out neuron structure). When I got done, I was so ready for some grounding. In this way, I guess it’s natural to land in conception (it couldn’t be that complicated, I thought. Ha!).
#It’sComplicated

At some point, I wondered if I could imply those that had come before. It felt natural to want to indicate those that protect and guide. I wanted ancestral presence. #biological #intellectual #emotional

I contacted Gila, a friend who is a Yoga and massage therapist, as well as a doula. We have a fun conversation. I returned to the studio and worked an ovum onto the bottom of my canvas. #grounding

This human reproductive cell ↓ is one of the largest single cells in the body. It’s much bigger than the sperm (about 10,000x larger). And it holds loads of mitochondria.

Ovum

Gila commented on the ovum …..as a sound/vibration she sings a song to the sperm, which is the carrier of light : sound + light = creation 👼 that’s how the universe started and we are the same ☯️🌟🙏

Sperm…carrier of light.

Meanwhile, I’m reading sperm cells are haploid (single set of unpaired chromosomes). This ↑ haploid will connect to the egg, also a haploid. (Sperm’s midsection holds lots of mitochondria too!) In humans, only their egg and sperm cells are haploid. Together, egg and sperm will form a diploid. #Sound+Light=Creation

Things get more interesting as I learn about cortical reaction, a process preventing any other sperm (other than the1) from fusing with the 1 egg. #GotAllMystical #TheCreativeProcess

1 Sperm (of about 250-280 million) meets 1 (largest cell in the human body, released once a month during ovulation) egg.

I connected with my friend Dominique who is a cancer biologist. She clarified: Sperm and ova are haploid, germinal cells. They undergo a special cell division called meiosis, that renders them haploid. As soon as fertilization takes place that egg and all the subsequent cells are diploid, as you point out in humans that means 46 chromosomes.

It’s complicated. I wanted to redirect. 

Meiosis is very important, Dominque continued, because the 4 daughter cells each have independently assorted chromosomes. Like shuffling a deck of cards. One way to ensure a random assortment of genes, the other way is recombination which also takes place during meiosis!!! 

Above the ovum and sperm cells is where I layout meiosis.
Including the 4 daughter cells!

O.k. I’m in here! What about mitosis, Dominque?

Mitosis happens when any plant or animal cell divides. It has a series of steps in which chromosomes are copied and condense as they become tightly coiled. This allows them to them to pair up and align in the center of the cell. Then there are little organelles called the centrioles, these move to opposite sides of the cell and produce the spindle. Think of them as making thin filaments like spider webs that attach to the center of the chromosomes, called centromeres. And now comes the magic trick: half of the copied chromosomes are pulled towards each centriole, exactly half. Then the cell divides and each daughter cell has a full genetic instructions for its function!!!

I like magic!

Mitosis

Well…ok. I’m rolling now…

And without anymore delay, I’d like you to meet Vañya Victoria Jacquez.

I’m here! I’m here!

Vanya made her appearance at 32 weeks. Jeorgina (mom, who happens to be a Pediatric ICU nurse) had a C-section and tells me Vanya came out screaming! Which I gathered was a good thing.

Vanya is Victor’s (my nephew) and Jeorgina’s daughter. Tomorrow she will celebrate 3 months!
Congratulations Jeorgina and Victor. Clearly, your little girl was eager and ready. #soonerratherthanlater

Let’s see where this composition takes me next…
#workinprogress


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

no woman is an island

A few years back, curious about mula bandha, I asked Tara, a neighbor, to tell me about the area I understood as an important root lock. In my many years of Yoga practice, I’d studied the 3 bandhas: jalandhara bandha (chin lock), uddiyana bandha (stomach lock) and mula bandha, in which muscles are contracted at the center of the perineum. Tara was not a Yogi but was (and still is) a pelvic floor specialist.

We had an informative conversation about the general pelvic floor as well as the center of the pelvic floor, the perineum. I had no plan to paint these compositions until the next day when she brought a medical model for me to better understand. ↑  (Ps. Since then she’s brought even more interesting models to my studio that have influenced various works.)


Fast forward to this year, late October, when Tara asks if she can drop over and see pelvic art.
Sure, I say, but I’ll have to look for the them, give me a bit.

I find the artwork and invite her over the next day.
I show her each 2-sided study. There are 2 different works, one is female and one is male.
One side of each study shows muscles and nerves while the other side includes bones of the pelvis. Hanging in space, I want the viewer to be able to walk around each piece and note the layers.

Pelvic Floor Female : Inferior View
Pelvic Floor Male : Inferior View

Tara looks at them and without hesitation says she wants them.
I’m getting a new office and I want these in it!

And because they are 2-sided, she wants to know how she might hang them.
You have choices, Tara! And quality of light matters too.

Side by side as a horizontal statement.
One above the other as vertical presentation.

When everything is said and done with the artwork, naturally Tara and I talk anatomy. I want to understand more about how male and female pelvic floor’s differ. While there are differences in the male and female pelvis, Tara notes, there are not as many as one might think. She gets excited with explaining details (I think she should always carry a dry eraser board), Females, as compared to males, have 2 extra pelvic floor muscles, the compressor urethrae and sphincter urethrovaginalis! She goes on to explain. (And I should always carry a pen and notebook) #knowyourbody

To learn more about Tara and her work (she has lots of Q and A sections on her site)
go to → pelvicfloorspecialist.com

Again, thank you Tara! This work found a perfect home!


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

©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

the prompt is ‘fly”

Like so many events during the pandemic, Bar Flies moved into a virtual space. For now, their usual live productions remain on hold. They ask participants to illustrate a true story, based on a prompt.

I’m invited, along with others, and the theme is…FLY! We can work classic comic style, in photography, embroidery or any other form of mixed media. It can run with all text or even be a collaboration with another. #SoOpenICanDoThis


It’s July, I’m in Texas visiting mom, when I receive the invite. Oddly (or maybe naturally), I go to the family encyclopedia set of my childhood (…time flies or does it fly?). I pull the F, locate fly and make a copy of it. And I carry it ↑ with me as I fly back home, a few days later.

Back in Phoenix, I go into my studio, not having been in it for a few weeks. Looking out the door, to the side yard, I see a beautiful oriole. How long has he been there? He’s so still. #FlyNot

I gather a variety of material (cuz it’s all an experiment) and begin this illustrated study.
Truly, #OnTheFly.

Oh…and here are design outtakes!
Thanks again, Amy!

There are 8 participants Go look!
For more info Bar Flies.


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

circle of willis / blood vessels of the brain

I’ve wanted to draw the Circle of Willis ever since I heard the name of this area of the brain.

Friday, I got going on what I thought was going to be a quick study. One thing led to another and I ended up with a network of the brain’s blood vessels. #lovelylinework

This weekend I painted the study.

Initially the composition was to be black and white (like an MRI). I got out my gesso, both the black and the white, 2 various shades of cadmium red, and then out came the gold ink. I brought gold in because as I drew out details and thought about the brain and it’s blood supply, I worked in wonder of life processes.

I recalled a conversation with my father, who years ago, suggested I stay away from using gold to indicate the precious or the sacred. He thought it too easy a solution. I agreed with him then and maybe sometimes, I still agree with him today.

Circle of Willis: Circle comes from the Latin circulus, diminutive of circus ( a little ring!). Latin circus relates to Greek kirkos, circle or ring. The Circle of Willis is named after Thomas Willis, father of neurology. The area, located at the base of the brain, supplies oxygenated blood to over 80% of the cerebrum. (It’s not the focal point here, but it is the starting point.)

Dear dad, about the the gold ink…It came in at the very end, after a lot of work and a lot of thought. Nothing easy about it. It’s so subtle, you could miss it if I hadn’t said anything about it.
#urbeautifulbrain #circleofwillis #life


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

remarkable presence

Suitcase made by artist Jen Urso, honoring a man who owned his own glass business and served as pastor to help recovering drug addicts. 73 yrs old.

Jen contacts me in April: Hi Monica, I’ve been meaning to write to you. First, I’m so sorry about your brother passing, and I believe your father as well? I know you and I can probably relate on all the strange feelings that come along with this loss. I believe I remember you posting that your brother’s death was related to COVID and since you mentioned he was your dad’s caretaker, I made the assumption that this is what claimed your dad as well. I mention this because the project I’m working on is about grief and COVID deaths. Although I’m focusing on Arizona, with your permission I’d like to create a suitcase for your brother and dad to give to you, as a remembrance and way to honor them. You may have seen some of my posts about this project but if not, I can share some imagery of what I’m doing. I can give the suitcases directly to you or first include them in the exhibit at Walter Art Gallery in September.

I should note Jen lost her sister Tina, to ovarian cancer, this last December of 2020.

We keep in touch. I watch as Jen shares on social media, her careful and thoughtful process of folding (with the help of family and friends) and installing over 18,000 suitcases, including a display of pop up suitcases, utilizing COVID-related obituaries.

I recall sending dad’s and Chacho’s obits to her. Not having looked at them in a while, I see new photos my brother’s friends added. I reread them and feel my sisters and I captured their individual qualities well. Jen tells me about writing her sister’s obituary. We share our individual experiences of losing a sibling and especially in this unusual time of physical distancing. I could see she related to things I was saying and vice-versa. We laughed as we shared some stories of our loved ones and cried as we shared others.

I know this was not easy for Jen, but she moved through all the various parts of this work with what felt like complete openness and care. Today she sends a ↓ photo and writes, your brother and dad, together. I’m touched as I recognize the words we wrote.

Thank you Jen, for holding space for life lost to Covid. Thank you for remembering my dad and my brother. Thanks for sharing your sister with me. I will remember her.


Public exhibition opens this Friday and your presence is welcomed.
WHO: Jen Urso
WHAT: Remarkable Presence
WHERE: Walter Art Gallery
6425 East Thomas, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
WHEN: September 17 with a collective grieving event from 6:30pm-8:30pm
Facebook Invite  Masks required!


Three more collective grieving events will be held across the valley: Sept 25, Oct, 9 and Oct 15.  For information about Jen Urso, her installation and event details/locations visit the website REMARKABLE PRESENCE


Postscript: Jen and I have talked about various rituals connected to death including the writing of the obituary and burial/recomposing rites. I want to make note we also lost my father-in-law to Covid-19. He does not have an obituary. Every family, each person, handles grief in their own way and in their own time. 
The experience of losing numerous family members is difficult, to say the very least. We manage because we know we are not alone. Across the planet, people’s lives are forever changed because of this pandemic.
#yourremarkablepresence #wemissyou 

©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

no woman is an island

I’ve known Haley, Art Specialist with the Phoenix Airport Museum, a few years now. She’s visited my studio as well as picked up and dropped off work. She’s also facilitated a couple of tours through airport exhibition spaces, which included back scene ventures with her and the art crew.

Considering Sky Harbor International Airport is one of busiest airports in the US, opportunities to associate with it and see it in a different manner are well…pretty cool!

Why am I talking about you Haley?  Because I met Tim! 

I am Haley’s fiancé. You may know her through your work together at the airport museum etc. 
Her birthday is next week and I wanted to reach out to see if I could purchase Bar Flies from you. She LOVES this piece and has spoken many times about buying it to keep and display in our own home. Is it available?
Also, this will be a surprise!
Thank you so very much.
Timothy

3 things Haley…
– Tim’s a great guy!
– I didn’t know you loved this artwork!
– Oh and hey, it’s your birthday today. This ↓ is yours! SURPRISE!!

I don’t know that I ever told you how this collage work came to be…

One of the founders of Bar Flies asked if I’d be interested in creating a sticker for them. (Shout out to Amy!)  Bar Flies is a monthly reading series that pre-pandemic, was held at the downtown Valley Bar. (BTW, it will return, hopefully sooner rather than later.)

The show, always a good, midweek night-out with the friends, featured different themes, true stories, the tellers of those stories, along with carefully curated music (shout out to Deborah!).

And speaking of truth, every-single-time my friend Veronica and I went out there, we managed to get lost. Don’t ask why (no cell phone mapping could help us).

If I was going to create a design for Bar Flies, it was going to feature a real map that I would hope, could set into my brain, the lay of the downtown Phoenix land.

I collage a map, some story and…put a fly on it.

I bring in a few more flies amongst a performing fly and add cheer.

 

Final cut: Bar Flies, Mixed media collage, 14×14″


The  work eventually makes its way  to Sky Harbor Airport  (for a map show, of course), where it crossed paths with you, Haley (or vice-versa).
In the lower right area of the composition you’ll note a glimpse of the airport. #itwasinthecards

Thanks again, Tim! I do appreciate a good surprise.
Happy Birthday to you, Haley! And many, many more!


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

©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

viendo al hipocampo

In the studio this week, I look into the complicated hippocampus.
The goal: Keep it simple.

FYI – detailed area is the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is the area in the brain where memory is stored. We have two hippocampi.

This week, my only intention is to acknowledge and appreciate learning and memory and to better know (look closely at) the hippocampus.

Note: It plays a role in spacial memory and enables navigation.

Does this imply it moves one through space and time (metaphor)? Or does this imply environment (literal)? Both, I decide!
And, it crosses paths with one’s sense of smell.

Así es! Sencillo! / That’s it! Simple.

PS. I want this week to be Hippocampus Appreciation Week. Whom do I speak with?
#IDeclareItHippocampusAppreciationWeek #AppreciateLearningAndMemory
#UrBeautifulBrain


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

mitochondria – vital principle

Interested in mitochondria, both form and function, this study broadens my understanding.

I paint them a cadmium red because up to now I’ve only associated them with the physical. They are a fundamental sign of life, in particular cellular life, including how a cell divides, ages and dies. Mitochondria produce the energy that fuels cellular function. #ATP They monitor the health of a cell and if necessary, initiate cell death. #PowerHousesOfTheCell

They influence breath, blood and energy flow in the body. It is with this clarity that I make connection to the subtle body. Think life force, prana, qi. #ElectricalActivity #Meridians

A few more notes about these life giving/taking organelles
(that in this 2D format appear much too static):
Under the microscope they are alive with movement. #fission and #fusion.
They are living organisms that communicate with each other. #dynamicsystem
We breath to bring oxygen to mitochondria. #inhale #exhale
*Essential to cell function, they are fundamental for neuronal function. #thinkaboutthis
We need their energy to be able to interact with our environment. #life #life and #life
They have there own genome. (MtDNA) #PropsToTheMother

Did I throw the words life and live in here enough? You get the picture!
#AVitalCommotion


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ