This project is a call to action – for all of us – to pay attention to the artists among us, in all our communities, big and small. – Don Bacigalupi
Friday, November 14th
I sit on the stage with a group of 4 practiced artists. We are in the Great Hall, at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art. This is the first day of a 2-day symposium and the house is full.
The panel discussion circles around connection between humanity and the natural world through the lens of art and science.
The 5 State of the Art artists included in this afternoon’s mix of scientific study within artistic form are Dornith Doherty’s seed bank study of biodiversity (TX); Flora C. Mace’s three-dimensional botanical specimens (WA); Isabella Kirkland’s homage to species recently revealed to science (CA); Susan Goethel Campbell’s merging of nature and consumerism (MI), and (myself) Monica Aissa Martinez’s holistic and spiritual study of human anatomy (AZ). The panel is moderated by University of Arkansas’ Art History Professor Alissa Walls. The opening lecturer is Curator Chad Aligood. Sara Segerlin, in charge of public programs, makes introductions.
To give you some sense of the range of work the audience sees – here is one image from each artist – linked in to the State of the Art website.
Dorinth Doherty, Millennium Seed Bank Research Seedlings and Lochner-Stuppy Test Garden No.2, Digital Chromogenic Lenticular Photograph, 79 x 36″
Flora C Mace, Big Violet (detail) Botanical glass, compost, and shell stand, 16.5 x 14 x 6″
Monica Aissa Martinez, Male Torso – Anterior View MM on canvas, 45 x 35.5″
Isabella Kirkland, Emergent, Oil and alkyd on polyester over panel, 60 x 48″
Susan Goethel Campbell, “Clod” series, dirt and dried grass cast in packaging molds
Excited and nervous, I stand at the podium to speak. My sense of being an artist has broadened. I now have a more expanded sense of community as well as new responsibility. I am not completely settled into these new feelings. I know I won’t say everything I want to say, but I hope I can at least keep things organized in my mind. Ironically, I discuss connecting mind and body – clearly a skill I am learning.
After the panel discussion artists continue into the galleries to connect with visitors in smaller, more intimate groups.
One person I sit and talk with notes a common trait among each panel member. She says we each carry a strong sense of commitment to our work. That is true of all 102 artists in the exhibition, I say. The conversation ends with commentary about how everyone appears to deconstruct their subject in order to reconstruct again – and represent it.
I speak to a mother and daughter about hereditary and environmental health issues. Her daughter is Latina, she tells me. Two works I show and (very) quickly run through in the lecture, allow for this conversation to take place. They relate, and I am more than pleased.
This is how it goes for the evening and some of the next day.
About my presentation:
Here are my slides and notations about some work.
Note: Because I am visual I would have done well to organize this image and sentence blog post before the symposium. Hindsight is 20/20. I will do it next time.
I begin with informing the audience about the questions I bring to the studio and to my work:
Who am I?
What am I?
What is this world?
What is my relationship to it?
Image #1 Male Torso – Anterior View (this work hangs in the exhibition and seen above).
Image #2 its counterpart ↓ – Female Torso – Anterior View.
My work is fed by my 2 practices of running and Yoga. I want to understand both the physical body and the subtle body. All my current work is influenced by scientific anatomy study (medical texts and illustrations) and Yogic philosophy.
My work expresses ideas of the masculine and feminine. I focus on balance of the two principles. These energies show up in many ways: literally as male and female, or symbolically as linear/organic. I consider associations of logic/emotion, rational/intuitive, technological/artistic.
Image #3 – single organ renderings ↑
I’ve studied and drawn out all the organs of the body, one by one. I used to understand my organs as parts that made up the whole. That’s changed now – I see the whole within each organ, and everything is connected.
How we experience ourselves determines how we experience the world.
We are whole and interconnected.
Dependent and interdependent.
Image #4 – Map of Phoenix
Cell as city, living organism / living organism.
A complex living organism.
The legend helps clarify connections and unbeknownst to me at that point, will lay out the foundation for the course that I take now.
Image #5 – City as cell. State as organ. USA as system of organs. Planet as whole body.
Image #6 – Self Portrait ↓
Balances masculine (the brain/logic) in upper area, and the feminine (the pelvis: the enteric nervous system, immune system and genetic networks / gut, instinct, creativity) in lower are of composition.
Whole view of self – in balance.
Image #7 and # 9 – A study of my niece Sara, and a study of my mother↓.
Mapping out areas of the body with consideration to hereditary traits and environmental factors (in health), as well as life-style choices.
In the drawing below I make a literal connection between the brain and the gut with the mapping out of the Vagus Nerve (upper right area).
Image #10 – detail of intestinal tract
I look closer and closer at the life within – to understand what activates it all.
Where is the source of this life?
detail of small intestines
A mapping of my mother (energy) ↓ depicts the work she did (speech and hearing clinician – in upper left area).
Includes organs and parts affected by Diabetes and RA.
Included is that she birthed 6 children (ground). I’ve added skin and bone tissue in the lower layers.
Image # 12 detail of my mother’s torso ↓
The more I look for the life source – the denser the forms become.
Living organism within living organism … and it continues.
I bring in and comment on an anatomy series based on pollinators (bee, Monarch butterfly, bat) and possibility of their extinction.
Anatomy Study of a Bee
Anatomy Study of a Butterfly
Anatomy Study of a Bat
We travel into art history – Egyptian, Aztec, and Mayan world’s and see depictions of these creatures. I hope generations to come will continue to observe them directly. They are being effected by pesticide and genetically modified crops, among other things.
A disconnect between the mind and the body is not conducive to life.
A disconnect between the thinking brain and the feeling brain create vulnerability and may lead to destruction.
I hope to inspire you to experience yourself fully, enter the body/mind, connect and consider who you are. Locate balance.
I leave the audience with these words:
I am a complex living and creative organism.
Who are you?
What are you?
What is this world?
And what is your relationship to it?
The evening ends with Michael Moore speaking about his experience as an artist and as a farmer. I am unable to attend day 2 of the symposium because I teach a workshop on Saturday.
I am honored to be a part of this art exhibition – one that takes in creative energy from across our country. While I already have a strong connection to my community – that sense is broadened (coast to coast) – and with that my work will continue to expand and grow. And so will I.