art school in med school – we workshop

Arriving to the University of Arizona College of Medicine with a plan to meet with first year medical and health professional students, I take a moment to look out over a cloudy downtown Phoenix…noting lots of change in the last 12 months.

I’ve not seen Cindi, Director of Art in Medicine, since my solo-exhibition last Winter. We connect in the Health Science Education Building, catching up in the elevator as we head to a classroom.

She fills me in on the art supplies and she’s not kidding – good stuff awaits.

I’m pleased to see Rebecca, the director of the Clinical Anatomy Lab. Participating in the workshop a second time. She shares the idea she considers as well as the personal experience behind it.

I feel the excitement as students walk in and see the art supplies. An independent bunch, they pick out some things and begin to set up at a desk.

I make a quick introduction and give them general direction as I show samples of my work. We have a few hours together this afternoon, prepared and confident, there is no hesitation to begin drawing.

Students are near the end of their Clinical Anatomy Block and are preparing for the program’s annual Ceremony of Appreciation. The February evening will celebrate and honor their cadaver donors with a night of art, prose and music.

Those interested in visual art-making are here today.

Participants  use color-copies, computers and medical models to support their drawing. Most important they bring to the table a personal experience.

One by one everyone begins to draw. I move through the room to connect with them – they each share a thoughtful characteristic about their particular donor.

One student describes her donor’s hands. The drawing will hold the experience as well as  allow her to share it.

Another talks to me about the vertebrae of the neck. The top 2 bones are different from the others, she notes. Her composition is high contrast and I see her line work is fluid.  You like to draw, don’t you?  She nods her head and says yes.

I gather from conversation everyone is busy with a full schedule. They appreciate this time and place to focus on making art.

Soon the afternoon comes to an end. While no one completely finishes, everyone is well on their way.

I learn some new things….among which are the papillary muscles ↑ and the  chordae tendineae. Yes, we really do have heart-strings!

The last few months I start to consider everyone’s anatomy must differ. In particular, I consider the liver and wonder how its form varies from person to person.

One student confirms the uniqueness of every individual human body. We are different inside and out. She details the liver and the lungs and shares a general impression noting the human body’s truly organic nature.  Her peers confirm. It’s a wonder – what they describe.


On a side note:
I  continue to find connection between individuals interested in the arts and in the sciences. We share a quality of discipline and have careful observation skills, among other things.

As I walk around the room I find a model of the eye that’s been left on the shelf. It’s the  perfect connecting symbol for this art school in med school afternoon workshop.

Best to all of you – and to the dignity and honoring of each of your donors.


The evening before the workshop, in my studio I listen to Fresh-Air. An interview begins which honors another type of donor:
A Surgeon Reflects On Death, Life And The ‘Incredible Gift” of Organ Transplant

laying out the body human

I carefully outline Carolyn’s form. The first internal organ to come on to the picture plane is the liver. The organ’s communication feels strongest when I set up to paint.

About the liver…
Consider it has over 500 functions! You could not survive without it. The busy organ aids in digestion and metabolism. It filters your blood (1.5 quarts every minute). It breaks down fat (by producing bile) to release it as energy. It also breaks down meds, drugs, alcohol, caffeine…etc. It takes the heat for you every single day! And it stores vitamins, iron and glucose (sorting and hoarding) for a rainy day.

In Chinese medicine the liver is yin (gallbladder is yang). It is like the general of an army. It opens into the eyes, directs the tendons, reflects in the nails, governs anger and houses the ethereal soul. Do you crave sour food? Your liver might be telling you it needs an extra boost.

The Nahuatl understand it to hold one of three vital forces. Ihiyotl governs ones passion, sentiment and vigor. The Ancient Egyptians also believe it seats the emotions. Necessary in the after-life, they preserve it upon death, for safe travel.

I set the notable liver and then I place the heart. Another time I’ll tell you about the Tonalli, another of the vital forces to the Nahuatl.

liver, heart, stomach

I draw the stomach followed by the large intestine, small intestine and colon…

large and small intestines

I detail left breast tissue and right, move to clavicles, arm and hand bones, pelvis, legs and feet bones.

mammary glands

Thyroid (upper blue area in neck) and thymus (lower blue area above heart)

I place the thyroid. The butterfly shaped gland always speaks to me in turquoise blue. At this point I make the heart bigger, overlay it with the thymus gland (also in turquoise) and as is usual when drawing the thymus, I tap mine in acknowledgment.

Spleen

Finally, I introduce the blood vessels and the beautiful lymphatic system into the composition. The latter directs me to outline and color in the spleen. While the spleen associates with the liver – as I paint, it is the most quiet of the organs.

I like the container-like quality about the form. Let’s see if I can keep it.

Detail – Liver

#WorkInProgress #YourOneSacredLiver


Side note:
Tucson Museum of Art’s Chief Curator, Julie Sasse, is bringing the TMA’s Latin American Art Patrons to the Phoenix Art Museum’s Teotihuacan exhibition next week. While they’re in town I’ll be hosting a studio visit for them.

A good way to begin the new year…

i draw beautiful whipworms (note to self – these are parasites)

What a nice surprise to hear from María Adelaida. I’m pleased to learn she keeps an eye on my work as she notes my recent activity on microorganisms.

I know María from years back (2008-09). She is a biologist originally from Colombia, she’s in the valley working for the Mayo Clinic when I meet her at a friends party. She attends one of my art openings before moving to Germany to continue her education.

These days she lives in the UK and works at the Sanger Institute. Her current research is intestinal parasitic worms that cause neglected tropical diseases with a huge impact on children.

She has an idea for collaboration that includes a public engagement project.  Does she know how often I think about opportunity to engage with the public? It’s on my mind a lot especially after my summer artist residency at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Maria Adelaida’s research is the Whipworm and Trichuriasis.

We talk about art as a form of communication. She talks about her work reaching a new audience. I enjoy the idea of my work reaching a different audience as well. She speaks STEM, I bring the A in and speak STEAM.

I’m intrigued. Can you send photos of these whipworms?

She sends a series of electron microscope images. Oooooh! The first ones, in black and white, defined and beautiful, show the marking and pattern of the male worm. He appears to float in stillness (I don’t imagine the intestines are a quiet place. Are they?)

Soon I receive a Powerpoint of larvae that is out of the eggs, she says, in the presence of bacteria. (I can’t identify the bacteria.) And then more photos patterned and stained bright show the internal structure of an adult female whipworm infecting the cecum of a mouse. A transversal section shows the eggs.

I make time to get to my drawing table. I want to better understand what I see.

Cecum, Eggs and my imagination.

I spend a day drawing the cecum, a pouch connecting the small and large intestine. I imagine the area with little light (dark) so I take my drawing into a filter and play with it ↑.

Cecum is from the Latin caecus and means blind – blind intestine, blind gut or cul de sac.
Maria identifies the super beautiful cecum epithelia and explains it is only a single layer of cells, that is folded in ‘crypts’ to maximize the area. 

I note the eggs. I wonder how long they take to hatch. (Is this the correct language? Do they hatch?)

I spend a few days looking at photos and drawing worms. Yes, they do resemble a whip.

The female is larger than the male. I’m surprised to know the thinner narrower end of the worm is where the mouth is located while the wider end is its rear.

I take the image into a filter and again imagine the inside of the large intestine.

I get lost in the drawing.  I have to remind myself these are parasites that cause serious problems to the host. #DrawingInProcess #2sided


I learn from Dr María A Duque-Correa whipworm infection causes Trichuriasis, which affects millions of children around the world. Her goal is to more fully understand the initial stages of the epithelia infection by the larvae, a crucial step that determines whether the worms are expelled or remain in the gut causing chronic disease. In the long term, this knowledge will help to develop vaccines and discover drugs to fight whipworm infections.

Here is one of her public engagement programs → Worm Hunters.

Crossing my fingers that we will work together in the future.

to marilyn from larry

Larry wanders into the drawing studio in October. My class is outside working on a landscape assignment. He asks about art and the studios in general. He knows the building, he says he works the air-conditioning and heating in the Fine Arts department.

My students are working outside this week. If you have anything you need to do in here, feel free. He comments about art and says he doesn’t know a lot about it. I sense he has a question.

Larry explains his sister has lung cancer. She lives in Pennsylvania and he would like to send her something special…maybe art. I don’t hesitate to tell him art is especially thoughtful.

What are you thinking? Do you have something in mind?

Marilyn, rescues dogs. I listen to him tell about the many senior dogs she rescues. She cares for them until the end. He describes a graveyard she has for them, where each dog has its own headstone. 

Your sister Marilyn sounds pretty special.

Larry would like a drawing made for his sister. He has an idea and shows me. Do you know anyone who can do this for me?

I happen to know the perfect student for the job. Maw, in his second semester with me, and a Fischl Scholar, agrees to do the work. Within a few days him and Larry are in communication.

Maw spends time researching in the library and returns to the classroom to begin working out details which include Marilyn’s home and her many dogs. We discuss material including charcoal, color pencil, graphite, pastel and BFK rag paper.

Maw organizes a general layout and invites Larry to come and see.

Maw and Larry holding the now titled To Marilyn, Dogs on Duffy

All along I talk to the class about what Maw is doing. I invite them to ask questions. It’s valuable knowledge.

Larry returns one more time to okay the final composition before we spray and fix the work.

We carefully tube the drawing Larry will send to his sisters in Pennsylvania, for framing. We hope Marilyn will have it by Christmas.

Before Larry leaves Maw gifts him a fine art print he made while visiting the Grand Canyon with his father.

Maw, you rock!

Marilyn, we wish you the very best. You have a great brother!

To Marilyn – Dogs on Duffy

#yougottahaveart


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

anatomy of arousal

“I didn’t hear words that were accurate, much less prideful. For example, I never once heard the word clitoris. It would be years before I learned that females possessed the only organ in the human body with no function than to feel pleasure. (If such an organ were unique to the male body, can you imagine how much we would hear about it—and what it would be used to justify?)”
― Gloria Steinem, The Vagina Monologues

 

“The clitoris is pure in purpose. It is the only organ in the body designed purely for pleasure.”
Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues


Christine, based in London, is completing a training (here in the states) to become a Fertility Awareness Educator. Interested in using my artwork (the reproduction system) as teaching material, she contacts me.

While the work is grounded in scientific medical illustration, it is also abstracted. I use symbolic color and line suggesting the subtle energy of the human body. As it turns out she is also a Massage and Craniosacral Therapy practitioner and understands why I explain – it may or may not work as traditional teaching material.

We share some goals, in this particular case, to educate and empower women.

I admit since beginning our correspondence, I’ve learned what (almost) feels like a new language! Christine asks if you were to draw something up from scratch for us – for example the internal anatomy showing the full anatomy of arousal, what is your rates? I respond in a practical way giving general information for a commission and prices.

Though all the while I’m wondering…what exactly is the full anatomy of arousal?

Eventually while speaking with her (where are my notes!) I realize I think sensual as she clarifies sexual anatomy. She explains more and I really do feel like I am hearing a foreign language.

She emphasizes the clitoris, crura (2 legs extending 9 cm into the pelvis), and bulbs of the vestibule (two – one laying to either side of the vaginal opening). She directs me to reference material, including images and books.

I respond to the information Christine sends. The plexus of veins and the arteries (like a hammock), and the nerves among all the forms also catch my attention. I know they will make for added (and beautiful) detail, shape and texture.

I am further educated by my friend Tara, a Pelvic Floor Specialist. I say to her, I don’t like pink, I don’t want to paint anything pink. She explains color indicates health (pink it is). Once again she lends me her medical pelvis model with ↓bladder, uterus and colon (I plan to include). And she too, provides me with reading material.

I start to organize a composition and I can’t help but recall The Dinner Party and the work of Judy Chicago ↓. I am further reminded of the politics of the female body as I continue to research other artist’s work.

Judy Chicago, test plate, 1978 National Museum of Women in the Arts (photo by C. Lavender)

Right now the study sits on my drawing table. I might add one more element. And then I’ll consider the title of the small painting on mylar.

I leave you with a few interesting facts…

  • The clitoris has at least 8000 nerve endings (a man’s penis has about 4000).
  • The clitoris and the crura are referred to as the wish bone because their structure resembles one.
  • One single gene on a Y chromosome and a clitoris (female) becomes…you guessed it…a penis (male).
  • Clitoris is Greek for key. It has only one job.

I plan to ask Christine if she wants to say anything about the anatomy of arousal. If she agrees, look for a future post.

There is so much to our body – take care to know it.

the female reproductive system

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I look at the structure of the female reproductive system for a long time. Draw, erase, re-draw, erase again – parts come and go as I place the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix and vagina into the pelvic bowl. I can’t help but wonder if the body is truly as symmetrical as medical illustration would suggest. Are things evenly balanced? It’s just a thought.

It surprises me to learn the uterus, in general, has not been studied separate from its role in child-bearing. The uterus is seen as someone else’s potential home and valued when it can potentially play that role, says Christine Northrup MD, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s WisdomAfter the uterus’s childbearing function has been completed or when a woman chooses not to have a child, modern medicine considers the uterus to have no inherent value. The Ovaries are viewed in the same way.

In truth the uterus supports hormonal regulation, sexual satisfaction, and bowel and bladder function. Removal is not advisable unless absolutely necessary. 

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The uterus is held in place by endopelvic fascia or ligaments.

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aligning the pelvis and the muscles

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ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vaginal canal

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blood supply – arteries

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blood supply – veins

The system is remarkable: life-giving, life-enhancing, curvilinear, expansive, contractive, cyclical, beautifully active.

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added muscle and lymphatic system

Energetically speaking the uterus sits in the area of the Hara (lower belly body center) which holds power, passion and creativity. It is also known as the Dantian or the gate of origin, the Ren Mai, translating to Conception Vessel. It is the space where life begins. Even after a hysterectomy (partial or full) the space holds energy.

Caroline Myss, PhD, in Anatomy of the Spirit, writes about the area and its energetic connection to the power of choice. Choice is born out of opposites, she notes, duality is forever challenging us to make choices in a world of opposing sides. Managing the power of choice, with all its creative and spiritual implications is the essence of human experience. Choice is the process of creation itself.

Every woman can and should ask and answer for themselves – What am I giving birth to? What life am I creating?


I begin the post noting how carefully I look at the female reproductive system. Naturally I consider the energy of current culture. It’s no coincidence that the first week of the new year I choose to focus on the female reproductive system.

Support Planned Parenthood (and other organizations like it). It offers sexual and reproductive health services including health care and sex education, to millions of women, men and young people world-wide.
Other services they provide :

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Work to make health care and education accessible and affordable.