mark making – on the fly

Mid-June: I drive through the streets of El Paso, TX, my home-town, with my brother. He takes me through the warehouse district to look at murals and graffiti walls. Returning to Phoenix, I regret not taking photos.

End of July:  For years I noted street art. El Paso nudges me. I’m curious enough to mess with it now.

Though not complicated, I admit, I don’t know what I’m doing. I cut out
stencils and pick up black aerosol spray paint. I cover my mouth and nose with a light-weight face mask. Quickly I learn I love (love) the graphic image. No delay of gratification with this medium. The experience is intoxicating to say the least.

And it’s toxic. It doesn’t help that it’s summer in Phoenix. I am just about done with it when someone gives me color aerosol spray paint. Before the weekend is over I pull out a high-quality mask with mouth, nose and eye protection and I wear long sleeves and gloves.

And so it goes…

I don’t have the language down. Is it a tag? A stencil? Because I am a printmaker at heart, my preference connects to mark-making.

No title, no signature, no sense of permanence, less is more.

Marking space, on the fly.

Perhaps things begin with wanting to take the jaguar I am painting in studio, out of studio. One early morning, a few weeks ago, I go outside to photograph the painting. The shadow of the tree animates the composition in such a way, I naturally want to see the big cat outdoors.

He roams.

Today: back to painting in the studio with the plan to finish my jaguar in August.  I feel  satisfaction with last week’s roll.

Though I feel I should give it one more try…and play with the political. It’s crazy out there…

be the rage and be the light

Vanessa: I’m going to be in Phoenix … could I come visit with you?
Me: Yes! 

Thursday morning I drive to the Tempe Center for the Arts to pick up artist Vanessa German. The plan – bring her to Phoenix for lunch (Barrio Cafe) and then to my studio.

I find her in the atrium, sitting outside the theater. After greeting each other she tells me she’s walked out of a production. She reacts to what she hears and sees. I listen as she pulls words together in an organic and real way.

Her sentences are visual and visceral. She draws me into the body with her language. Because I connect to anatomy and its symbolism, I see and feel her right away. I recognize honesty. I like Vanessa, she won’t hold back.

We talk about truth, about honesty, vulnerability, courage, curiosity, compassion, and the value of questioning. We talk about history and education. I am aware, in the background of our conversation, hovers a new president-elect.

We also talk epigenetics, cells, and DNA, ancestors and magic. The woman knows the sacred.


White Naptha Soap or, Contemporary Lessons in Shapeshifting Mixed media assemblages

While we eat, we talk about The State of the Art. We agree the opportunity was/is unique and important, fun and fabulous. Above is my photo ↑ of her sculpture (at the opening), which I sat with for a good amount of time. We catch up with how art and life have played out since then. She’s out there.

In my studio I learn Vanessa is also a photographer. She brings out her i-Pad and shares photos and stories about a recent stay at Standing Rock. My husband I listen intently as she tells us about the people, the water and trees. We are both moved. I need to get Vanessa back to Tempe where she is scheduled to teach a workshop.

I get on the highway back home and think about the fullness of our conversation this afternoon.

Vanessa is a multi-disciplinary artist based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is self-taught.  Her narrative will only expand as she continues to show her work, speak and perform.  She learns, she educates.

Below are her 2 photos and her own written words about them.


artist photo – installation

this was part of my emerging artist of the year exhibition at pca. it was scary sometimes, i didn’t understand that curators helped to shape a show. I’d been use to doing everything myself, hustling, asking friends with ladders to join in a late night install; calling all graffiti artists, paying people outta my own shallow pockets and hugging out an exhausted embrace of gratitude. i truly didn’t get it. one of the most recent installs we did at a museum, and they moved most everything with museum staff; if I touched a sculpture the registrar would take photos of my hands moving over a piece. i am learning a lot about putting exhibitions up at larger and larger scale. I am learning about insurance, shipping, and communicating my ideas to all of the different people at the museum who make exhibitions work. today i am doing a teach-in with the docents at the everson museum of art in syracuse. i will tale you of any interesting bits later.


Do The Whole Thing and Do It.With Your Whole Entire Soul. stand up inside of the rage and be the light.move with it all as though a mountain wit the spirit of excellence lengthening yo spine. write yo own name on a piece of paper three times. three consecutive lists of yo very own syllables and then to kiss your hands.then to hold yo fingers up in the light of the day– splay them and then let them reach upwards to the sky to recognize the face of yo own soul in that there glory: All of the things that you are before the constructed world cobbled itself together, You Have Always Been and Will Always Be. Your Glory is Brighter Today– you have been sharpened. Hold that clarity on yo tongue and gleam with it. Love With It. You have been Sharpened. Let yourself feel good about this sharpening, what will you go to cut? Who will require you to scissor away at their bonds? There iz no thing that can hold you down. We Are The Mighty Ones.

German is an artist who communicates in broad, eloquent form. The powerful force she holds is grounded in love, vulnerability, courage, history (her ancestor’s, my ancestor’s and yours),  truth and magic. Did I say magic? Plenty of magic…


Vanessa German in my studio.

State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now shown in 2 smaller exhibitions than the original (for practical reasons) currently travels the country. The work has recently left Savannah, Georgia and will open January of 2017, at Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee, Following that stop the exhibition travels to The Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina in April of 2017.

I hope to visit one, if not both showings.


Cards from the catalogue showing each of our work.

career day, every artist is a piece of the continent

Let’s just say that I think any person who aspires, presumes, or feels the calling to be an artist has a built-in sense of duty.    Patti Smith

Michelle Dock, Gallery Coordinator at Tempe Center for the Arts, invited me to speak at Career day. Friends of TCA, and one woman in particular (whom I met that morning) Robin Trick, sponsored and organized the morning event.  Approximately 100 students from Tempe Union High School District attended the “visual arts” themed talks.

Tempe Center for the Arts

My take on participating in Career Day for the Arts goes like this…

I have a continuing series of blog posts titled No Woman is an Island*;  the posts are about the people and/or organizations that purchase and/or support my work. After my experience today I can also add-on… Every Artist is a piece of the Continent*.   Creative endeavors depend on a whole chain of people, each of them specialized, creative, and willing to move energy… ideas, material, money… etc.  That larger, more complex picture and its process, is as valuable as the solo artists studio process.

This morning we learn about one particular big picture: The Tempe Center for the Arts. Today I get a view of the variety of ideas, work, and workers that had to come together to create this building. Their purpose was clear, because the buildings purpose was clear.  I can simply say that without architects, engineers, contractors and specialized construction crews … my work might not be hanging here today. And without Robin Trick, owner of restaurant House of Tricks, we would not be gathering together this fine morning, to share our work with this group of young people. Without vision, great ideas, and a working and organized structure…life could be pretty dull and slow to move.

The keynote speaker, John Kane, an architect from Tempe’s Architekton begins the event. He  addresses the students in the main theater of the TCA. I listen to Mr. Kane as he talks about how the great building we are sitting in came to be. He talks about the designers, engineers, contractors, various construction crews, and the artists who contributed their skills. There are many wonderful details in this space, and he expresses that all of them have a purpose.  He makes it clear that there was an idea that sprung everything forward.

And we learn that within those ideas there was always a challenge to meet. He explains how those challenges affected the design process and outcome. For example, the TCA sits right under the flight path of airplanes leaving Sky Harbor. No one wants random noise as part of any arts event, unless of course, it’s deliberate. I learn about… attenuation, a related specialty concerning sound. Fascinating. Mr. Kane noted three forms that  influence the final designs of the building: One is the Stealth Bomber (sound bounces off edges and angles differently than it does other forms apparently), and the other is a Conquistador Helmet. I forget the third, because the visual connections of these two is so very clear as they come up on the screen (so sorry I didn’t get photos).

wondering if the students are appreciating this opportunity to be hearing all of this ….

Afterwards the students are taken in three separate groups (guided by FTCA volunteers) to listen to 3 separate short talks by local artists and administrators that included: myself in the gallery (in front of my work – which is currently on exhibition), artist Laurie Lundquist, who was part of the team of people who designed the bridge outside the TCA, Public Art Coordinator Maja Aurora, and Gallery Coordinator Michelle Dock.

Michelle Dock as I mentioned, is the Gallery Coordinator.  She’s also an NMSU alumni (as am I). During the introduction lecture I ask her how long she’s been at TCA. A year before it opened, she replies.

Maja Aurora, the Public Arts Coordinator (City of Tempe) whom I know from the Dam Art Movement  “DAM-IT” (a bladder burst…long story…artists were given pieces of the rubber to…be creative with. I have 2 pieces).  Maja pulls out her cell phone to share the Tempe Public Art website with us. She explains…you have to click on “Public art self-tour” And she shares a Public Art Archive Website (enter “Tempe” to see the photos she’s included)

…and artist Laurie Lundquist. I had a moment to connect with Laurie, whom I didn’t know.  She’s the artist on the team that designed the Pedestrian Bridge that sits right in front of TCA. She shares a bit of the public art process with me. Are you the designer of that bridge? What is your role as artist?  (I don’t have a lot of experience with public art but I’m curious.)  I am one member of a large team. I am an artist, but the process includes a whole bunch of people.  I come in with ideas and sketches, and others have input into what will and will not work. We have lots and lots of meetings.
Click here for info about the construction and some of the bridges facts.

I won’t get to listen to their talks, I head to the gallery, where I’m due to speak, in front of my work.

I enter the space, and…well…sort of forget I’m supposed to be talking about my career. I see my paintings, and I decide to talk about them. Artist as career seems awkward, it’s really my life. Fortunately  I always give a little background when I talk about my work so I do mention my education, and why I continue to stay in Arizona. Arizona has supported me in my work as an artist, I explain.

I share with the students that as an undergrad student I studied metalsmithing and ceramics. And as a graduate student, my areas of emphasis were drawing and printmaking.  I didn’t actually start painting until I left the academic setting. Painting is now my primary concentration. I ask if they want to hear about the work on the wall.  I share content, form, and process.

Because I’m  process oriented I appreciate their curiosity in this area.  I discuss the mediums: Casein and Egg Tempera.  The egg tempera gets them…well…the yolk does actually. What kind of yolk? Chicken? Duck? How does one separate the egg yolk from the egg white? (funny they should ask, click here) Is that all it takes, pigment, water and egg yolk? I do talk about stretching and framing, the work my framer does for me. He does his work and I do mine, I explain. I discuss materials and a bit of the cost. In particular, the cost of the egg tempera itself…which is hardly anything…the egg part that is. One female student comments that sounds like a great profit margin! …there’s lots more involved, I say with a grin, I do all-right.

I mention influences, and give some personal background… they ask great questions. Before it’s all over I’d speak to three different groups and briefly connect with a separate group of visitors from Canada….the gallery is a full house today, and Michelle Dock…is looking calm and collected.

The morning ends with lunch in the Lakeside Room.  Turkey or Vegetarian sandwiches are the choice.  A student invites me to sit at his table, so I do. Everyone at the table ranges in their interests: engineering, photography, architecture and graphic design. Did they realize how much they’d just experienced? Yes. Our conversation starts with architecture, followed by graphic design, moves into western theology vs. eastern philosophy and ends with them showing interest in the arts ability to pique curiosity and thoughts about their future…. excellent.

When all is done I recall the last thing I’d heard John Kain say as we left the theater to move to our individual areas. He said that the Tempe Center for the Arts was designed to last at least 300 years. That’s a long time.  While talking to the students about my work, I noted how long-lasting egg tempera and casein both are. When I make something I think about it being here for 100 – 200 years….maybe longer should I be so lucky.

Examples of the mediums I use go way back to the 1st century, in the case of egg tempera. We also know casein was used in ancient Egypt. Something as solid as cement, steel. stone, and wood, and something as fluid as egg tempera and casein.. can have lasting impact if put together with intention. Buildings, Art,…and the people who make the stuff…and have the ideas….push the boundaries and connect generations.

Current exhibit: Mixing It Up: Building an Identity  closes on Jan.28.  That means you have one more week to see it.

*No Man Is An Island-John Donne

a map of phoenix

Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context — a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.”Eliel Saarinen

We are all cells in the same body of humanity.  Peace Pilgrim 

I’m enjoying this project so much, I’ll be doing a series of maps one day. My Phoenix map is not yet complete but it’s getting there. Then I’ll have to figure out the hanging system….frame…foamboard…laminate…string…

You Are Here, A Collection of Maps of Phoenix will be on view at Regular Gallery with an opening on Friday, October 21.

Hosted by Jackalope Ranch and Regular Gallery.

6 senses = 1 spirit

traditional milagros

I think I’m almost at the end of this series. I never was looking to understand each body part so much as I was trying to understand, trying to locate what makes the body tick, what makes the mind tick.  What makes me tick. With this last collage, representing a grouping of  body organs depicting the six senses, I find myself searching deeper within the nooks and crannies.

You may already know some of my influences for this work: Mexican Milagros, Yogic and Tibetan philosophy, and lots of anatomy study. I find the body, its structure and its capabilities, exciting. I respect it fully, but maybe it contrasts what I am most interested in knowing.

I’m finishing up four small collages depicting various organs of the body. The one below is in the midst of being composed. It starts out based on the 5 senses, until I decide to add the sixth. I hope to show the completed composition (along with the three others) next Fall in an exhibition about identity.

I’ve always been interested in the subject of identity. I’m sure I’ve shared this before, maybe not…I’ve investigated self as female,  self within relationship (to male counterpart), self as Mexican-American, and as American of Mexican descent, self as (noisy) mind, and self as body.
Now, with more clarity, I’m looking to understand spirit. My spirit, your spirit or more simply, just Spirit.

I hear spirit is easy, simple, playful, never-changing, pointed. Or it’s none of that.  I’m investigating and be sure I will continue to express, in some form or other.  Cause  in some way, I’m just getting started.

writers life workshop at modified arts

I met Crista Cloutier in 2000 when the Hispanic Research Center  of ASU commissioned me to create a lithograph.  At the time, Crista was the director of Segura Publishing where I showed up everyday for one very productive and exciting week plus, to work with their crew and with master printer Joe Segura.  She also directed their gallery. I admired her  ease and professionalism.

Crista, actively involved in the contemporary art world throughout her career, is also internationally recognized as a writer, curator, and artist. She’s collaborated in the creation of artwork with some of the most significant artists working today. Much of the work exists in major collections throughout the US.

In the last few years I’ve connected with Crista via Facebook because today she moves between England, France, and the U.S and contributes to publications such as Huffington Post, The Guardian UK, and You Magazine.

…and guess what…Crista will be at Modified Arts, just after the new year. She’ll be teaching The Writer’s Life Workshop.

The Writer’s Life is a two-day workshop for both established and aspiring writers. This unique class will help participants find their voice, hone their craft, and create meaning in their life and work. Students will learn how to connect to their imagination as well as identify personal vision and attain their professional writing goals.

If you like to write, and you’ve been looking to:

  • Identify your purpose and motives as a writer
  • Create professional goals and find the steps necessary to achieve them
  • Commit yourself to writing as an artistic practice
  • Understand the remarkable power of your muse and engage more deeply with your imagination
  • Learn to melt creative blocks

…then the workshop is for you!

Who: Crista Cloutier

What: The Writer’s Life Workshop

When: Tuesday & Thursday, January 4th & 6th, 2011
from 7:00-9:30 PM each night

Contact: Kim Larkin
Modified Arts

Where: Modified Arts
407 E. Roosevelt
Phoenix, AZ 85004

*Discount registration if you sign up by January 1st or bring a friend!

Learn more about Crista and her workshop…

what goes on and what takes place…my turn

The artist Monica Aissa Martinez (that would be me…)

Awkward. Doing it anyway.

←In my hand is a jar of cadmium red dry pigment.  I’ve had it since grad school.  Good quality pigments go a long way. I mix dry pigment with egg yolk, and make my own egg tempera. I give the how to, plus a bit of history, both mine and its, in an early post. I write about my framer who once gave me a duck egg, and an ostrich egg (gag) to try out.  And I tell you about my other favorite medium, Casein, yes…the protein. For more about my choice materials click → a little egg, a little milk.

And even though I use paint, brushes and canvas, I identify myself as someone who draws.  It may have something to do with the fact that I never took a painting class. And I teach drawing. Or it may have to do with the fact that I use line, and connect the ends to make shapes. Then I fill in with more line. I wrote about this too → Notes on Drawing and Painting.

My other materials are drawing supplies…pencil color, artist crayon, graphite and large rolls of Arches paper, along with smooth sheets of BFK rag (drawing and printing paper).

The Studio

Well come in…

My messy bookshelf…I bought it at least 20 years ago, from an estate sale in El Paso, for all of $12.00.  It’s crossed 3 state borders, it holds books and special stuff. Best investment I ever made. Books…reading…influence my daily work.  I get an idea from an event: personal or social…react, research, paint. Curiosity. Why do we/people/society/I do the things we/I do?  Who? What? and Why?…read, write, draw…reread, rewrite, redraw. Realize.

Current reading material Rollo May’s, The Courage to Create. So I’m interested in creativity.  I do wonder if there is any originality anymore?  Does something mean anything?  Is anything sacred? The media would have you think not.  I beg to differ.

The Work
I’ve written about my current work as it presents itself, take a quick view if you’re inclined. If you’re not…no fret, see the work in its completed stage next February.

The idea presents itself.

It continues.

Grounding down.

More grounding.

The trunk.

If you did look…fyi…it’s all completely different now.  No, the whole design is not resolved. It’s being finessed. And retitled. I’ll hold that info for a later date.
One of the things that I do most of the time, is make more than one of everything. I work things just a bit different in each instance, I want to know my options before I commit. This is probably how one new work evolves into a series, in my case.

Back to What Goes On and What Takes Place. ↓

In some larger way this is all about where we stand as creative creatures (and/or destructive).  In this case, we choose to create for the good of all of us. The creativity is in the form of a visual, an evolving idea, community, slow but steady progress, a process, a give and take that’s natural, mutually respectful, and consists of continual interaction. Given the political culture these days, I’m sure there’s a societal lesson in here somewhere.

4 different woman…

Mary, who works with our dessert landscape, organic matter, and new media.  →Myself, who draws and paints the human figure with egg and milk. →Carolyn, who connects to (and connects us to) animals thru her graphite.  And →Sue, who takes all these subjects and more, and freely and deliberately abstracts them

…step out of their comfort zone, to work and share, and create a new experience for themselves and for you, the audience.





We’ll continue to share process and progress here, as it feels right to do so.

I don’t want to forget the various other creative forcesinvolved: →Kim Larkin and →Adam Murray, who offer the exhibition venue, →Modified.
And The →Ted Decker Catalyst Fund. The Catalyst Fund will support documentation and marketing materials. (Take a moment to click on the link, and look at the faces of all variety of creative people the fund has supported.)

To see a quick listing of the all the posts connected to this exhibit, go to → Modified’ upcoming exhibition page.

You can catch more of my work…
Now, at the Mesa Art Center, The Store (prints).

August, An Invitational group exhibition titled, →Converging Trajectories: Crossing Borders to Build Bridges, curator: Ted G. Decker.
Fall 2010, a solo titled, Works. Central Arizona College, in the Visual Arts Gallery.

↓if you missed them, continue on to the previous 3 posts…to see each artists studio, materials and workings↓ or click on their names above↑