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



spike protein / chief rank

While I want only to draw and paint, I will share a few things (that I sort of understand) about the spike protein.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is martinez_spikeprotein1.jpg

The most obvious identifying feature, and for me it’s the pull to draw the coronavirus again (and again), is the spike protein (S protein). By now everyone is familiar with this proteinscape (yes, I made the word up) along the outer edge of the virus which forms the identifying crown that it is named after.

Visually, I appreciate layout, structure and textural qualities.

I purchase new materials and enjoy the freedom archival marking pens bring me (I do not let go of paint and brush). The pens allow for a tighter and narrower clean line that holds its fluidity.

I look up the word protein to find it comes from the Greek proteios defined as chief rank or first place. Interesting, though I can’t say this helps me get any clearer on S proteins. (…or perhaps it does…)

There are many proteins involved in the coronavirus assembly, including M protein (membrane protein) and E protein (envelope protein).

I understand S proteins are glycoproteins meaning they contain a carbohydrate (a slippery sugar molecule) which helps disguise the virus so as not to be detected by host cells.
#penetrating #fusing

Without the S protein, viruses like the (novel) SARS-CoV-2 would not be able to interact with the cells of its potential host and cause infection. It also neutralizes antibodies after infection. Consequently, the S protein was/is ideal target for vaccine and antiviral research.
→ #ChiefRank

Are some proteins programmed to be so sneaky? #SurvivalOfTheMostAdaptable

This subject is more complicated than I can say…so it’s wise for me to return to the studio. I’m keeping this simple. (Cuz I don’t know a virologists and if I did I wouldn’t interrupt them right now cuz they’re probably very busy.)

Spike protein, I wish I’d never heard of you. Go away.


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

third eye / pituitary gland

Curious of the mystical right now, I go in search of the Third Eye.

I start at the forehead, between the eyebrows, draw back and make my way to…the optic chiasm (but of course!). Here, I locate the pituitary gland (master gland of the endocrine system), traditionally associated with the third eye (Ajna Chakra). I also find the hypothalamus.

There is some kind of vital activity compacted into this central area of the brain!
#guardians of health #homeostasis
#nervoussystem #endocrinesystem

The pituitary gland is lower form. Hypothalamus is upper forms.
I love the whole shape.

Until now, I don’t know the pituitary gland is also called hypophysis.

Hypophysis: from the Greek, hypo means below or under, and relates to its position. Physis, means growth and/or in Latin, connects to natura or nature.. The gland secretes hormones that affect growth, blood pressure, protein synthesis and digestion. The hypophysis works in tandem with the hypothalamus, Greek, hypo, below [the thalamus] and thalamus, Latin for inner chamber (the latter is excellent description of the space). The hypothalamus controls temperature, food intake (appetite, weight control, digestive juices), thirst and water intake, sleep and wake cycles, child birth, blood pressure and heart rate, emotional behavior and memory.
#hormones #emotions #drives

The light-hearted quality of the small study surprises me (serious stuff goes on in there). #ChildsPose #AUM

Back to the mystical…
The third eye implies perception beyond ordinary sight. People who awaken the center are called seers. It is related to discernment, intuition, telepathy, clairvoyance, imagination and visualization.
#controlcenter #wherecreationoccurs

Do you see connections between the physical and the energetic systems?


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

homage to the pigeons at los olivos

Hola Palomitas! I see you regularly. Do you recognize my face? I’ve thought to paint you for a good while. Time is now. #SpringBreak

I indulge in painting your textured Cadmium Orange legs and feet! I take delight in working the textured, cool and lighter Payne’s Grey, feathered skirt just above them. Your round form, I outline a darker Payne’s Grey.

You store food at the end of your esophagus in something called a crop. You produce crop milk to feed your young. You don’t have teeth so your gizzard helps you grind food. And you have lots of air sacs…ahh…evolution!

I detail a brain to note your intelligence. I’m surprised to learn the surface is smooth. It has no gyri and sulci! Rumor has it you have an internal compass. Is this true? An internal map allows you to make your way back home from far away locations?

I add and detail your (relatively) large heart that has to meet high metabolic demands for flight. No wonder they say you represent a feeling of safety and confidence in challenging situations. Tradition also has it that you arrive with love, kindness and peace. You connect to home and security. I most appreciate learning you are a spirit messenger, carrying messages between the living and dead. I’ll trust to use your service.

Casein, Egg Tempera, Gesso, Gouache, Graphite, Ink, Micaceous Iron Oxide, Pencil color

#pigeonbody and #pigeonspirit

Paloma, Mm collage on Birch Panel, 14″ x 11″

#freedom


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

it rains, it pours…i draw

One year ago,  I couldn’t have imagined where we’d be today…

Deaths in US 532,355
Cases in US 29,269,590
Vaccines administered 109,081,860

Today is the first day of Spring break. It’s not raining, though it is cold outside
and I am in studio drawing.

In the Art Department, at my college, we are teaching Hybrid studio classes. We have downsized the number of students allowed in each class. When we meet on campus and can work outdoors, we do, and everyone is masked.

Reposting March 15, 2020 ↓

Monica Aissa Martinez

Teri, my friend who is an emergency nurse, upon seeing my virus study in social media, writes:
What did you do during the pandemic Monica?
Responding to herself she continues…I sketched it.


Enjoying the first part of Spring Break, I spend a couple of long days outdoors before the rains come. By end of week, I receive word school break is extended another week, to the 20th. News of COVID-19 fill the airwaves.

It rains. It pours. I draw.

Coronavirus: Internal structure. Note Spikes (glycoproteins) and single strand RNA

Fascinated by viruses, I note the coronavirus described as aesthetically pleasing. I agree.

In the studio the latter part of the week, I draw while listening to science podcasts, in general, on the subject of viruses, in particular on COVID-19. I learn about amplifier hosts and reservoir hosts. I learn words like retrovirus and zoonosis.

COVID-19 stands for coronavirus…

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no woman is an island

Portrait of Täis

It’s January when Alex contacts me:  I was wondering if you’d be interested and if you have the time to talk about a small painting for Taïs? Her birthday is coming up in March. I want to gift her something really unique that she has a relation to.

Vienna and Croatia. #Map

He tells me about Täis’s work in behavioral health and he shares a few of her interests. I also learn about Alex and how he experiences her and their family.

He notes:

Helping children and teenagers overcome depression and anxiety.
Her role is to lead families through the process of dealing with insurance, and admitting their child to the several treatment centers in different states. Often the families are under much emotional pressure and the children have been going through very hard times, and she is great at helping.
Has undergone a very powerful professional growth in the last two years.
Developing into being a good team leader, integrator, and is valued by her team members.

He continues..

Very organized and conscientious.
Always striving to do the right thing.
Bonds with her families through her personality, honesty, and openness.
Driven by, and is great at setting up systems and processes for herself and for others.

And her interests:

The science of the human brain. (Alex, You’ve come to the right person!)
(Inter)Connection of neurotransmitters/hormones and moods
Gestalt psychotherapy.
Listening to podcasts and audio books about personal and professional development, psychology, therapy.

Alex continues, Before she started working and while we were still in Vienna, the best description of her was that of a “social butterfly”. She had many good friends and was always there for everyone.
The “being there” part of her personality has not changed, but she has gone through many personal and professional changes – becoming a wonderful and emotionally involved mom, establishing herself as a professional in her field and being really successful at it in a short time, and managing the two big parts of her life very effectively. 

Alex, would you be interested in a brain study of Taïs? I explain details, size and materials. He likes the idea!

And more about Tais…

…Great and emphatic listener
Clear communicator
Positive nature, Optimistic, Outgoing
Patient
Organized…

Wonderful mom, very loving, family oriented, and emotionally invested
Loves spending time with us, and loves our son Adrian

Alex shares more personal details: Adrian’s name works and sounds the same in all three languages of our family: German, English, and Croatian. It’s also a direct reference to the Adriatic Sea, where I grew up and Taïs and I spent a lot of time together

Collage includes Vienna (where I know Tais lived), Croatia (where Alex lived) and their Adriatic Sea.

One more note…
Her name, Taïs, comes from Greek and means beautiful or goddess. Even more interesting is the fact that Thaïs was a famous Greek companion/concubine who accompanied Alexander the Great on his campaigns. 

Täis, Happy Birthday to you, smart, conscientious and beautiful woman!

Then and Now

Thank you again, Alex! #thoughtful #luckyman


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

matter and memory

“He who installs himself in becoming sees in duration the very life of things, the fundamental reality.”


I begin this study of my father in 2015. The work first exhibits in 2017, at the University of Arizona, School of Medicine, in downtown Phoenix. And it shows again in the summer of 2018, for an art exhibition/summer artist residency, at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

This week I find myself adding 3 new details to the composition. Next time it shows, it will be a little different. #NothingInStasis

When I start this work, dad is experiencing changes in his health. He takes a fall and because he describes how he tucks and rolls, I don’t worry too much. (Apparently he learned to tuck and roll while playing high-school football. I had no idea dad played football!)

Another fall causes my father to stop his daily swimming practice. Something feels different after this one. (In my childhood, dad was a summer lifeguard. He enjoyed swimming for as long as I can remember. My siblings and I still share memories of our summers at the pool.) Dad never returns to swimming.

Today, I better understand how changes in one’s health can signal changes in one’s brain. As covered in previous posts, dad is eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Detail of some organs of balance in the composition.

Considering my father didn’t care to be photographed, he was open and easy with all the prep work necessary for this artwork. Frankly, he was much more comfortable than I, with the whole process. I remember him smiling for all the shots. If you knew my dad, he didn’t usually smile for photographs (he made faces). I sensed his respect for my work and I suspect he enjoyed being a part of it.

I add a coronavirus to the composition. Dad tested positive though remained asymptomatic until he tested negative.

So…
Dad left the planet last August. The medical examiner determined cause of death as Alzheimer’s Disease. And while there is truth to this, I think the death certificate should also note some complications ↑ due to Covid-19.

This week I found a book my father gifted me, titled Matter and Memory, by Henri Bergson.  Dad, always the avid reader, was a thinker and true educator. He particularly enjoyed talking philosophy. (It’s a complicated read. I have yet to finish it.)

Looking back, I recall the look on dad’s face when he saw the title of my first solo exhibit, in 1998, was élan vital (a phrase coined by Bergson in 1907). He was pleasantly surprised and though I should not have been, I was surprised he knew Bergson’s writing (Of course he did!). We enjoyed conversation that weekend of the opening, breaking down impulse, current, vital force, vital impetus…etc.

One of my last memories includes time with my father last Christmas (pre-pandemic). I bought him a small puzzle of the United States (For a short time in his life, he taught history).

Dad, where is Texas?
He points, Right here.
Put it in its place.
What’s to the west of Texas?
New Mexico! You lived there!
Yes, I did! Where’s New Mexico? He picks up the piece.
Where does it go? He points.
Fit it in dad. 

We move through the puzzle, one state at a time, both of us enjoying the process. When we are done, he’s happy and tired.

And 2 more additions to the study:
During my summer residency (back in 2018), I learn mitochondrial dysfunction appears to be a trigger for AD. I consider adding one. Yesterday, I paint this powerhouse of the cell into the composition.

These days, I’m learning about neurotransmitters. I learn about acetylcholine and cholinergic neurons ↓ and their connection to AD and add what I believe will be the final detail.

…My father left the planet in early August, ten days before my birthday. He lived a full and happy life. He was curious, thoughtful.

Dad, you are one cool guy! #UrBeautifulBrain

Still and curious. Continuing to learn.

#ProcessPhilosophy #NothingInStasis
#Motion #Change #Evolution
#VitalForce #CreativePrinciple


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

medulla oblongata / subtle and physical

The first time I hear anyone say the words medulla oblongata, it’s Lester describing the place where spirit enters the body. Now, all these many years later, I know where the energy center is located.

The medulla oblongata sits at the back of the neck, where the skull meets the spine. I could not have imagined, back in the day, I’d draw and detail such an anatomical study. Here is a cross section of the space / the place where your spirit enters your body.

Recently I hear it called the Mouth of God. #LifeForce #Prana

cross section of medulla oblongata

Subtle
Base of brain
Seat of life
Where soul enters body
Medulla, the marrow
core of all cores
center of all centers
Aum

Cross section of Medulla Oblongata,  Mixed media on paper.

Physical
Medulla, Latin for the marrow
medius,
middle
central substance, core
Oblongata defined as rather long
long stem structure
at the lower part of the brainstem.
Your breath, Your heart, and Your sleeping and waking.

One more note.
The next time you vomit or sneeze, know your medulla oblongata is involved too.


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ