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 :

  • anemia testing
  • cholesterol screening
  • diabetes screening
  • physical exams, including for employment and sports
  • flu vaccines
  • help with quitting smoking
  • high blood pressure screening
  • tetanus vaccines
  • thyroid screening

Work to make health care and education accessible and affordable.

down syndrome awareness month

Portrait of Sophie – Studying Trisomy 21 is complete. Amy, Sophie and Annabelle come to see the drawing in person. My husband, eager to meet Sophie, is also present. We gather in the studio and enjoy pizza.

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Part of me wants to write about the conversations I have with people about this study, about Sophie, and about Down syndrome. It affects more families than I can know when I begin the work.

My hairdresser, for example, has a brother-in-law with DS.  She tells me about his mother who advocated for him. He could have been institutionalized considering the era he was born into. Instead he grows up at home alongside his brothers and sisters. Now in his sixties, he lives in an apartment that he shares with a roommate. I listen, ask questions and wonder why I didn’t know this before now.

I’m in a waiting room this week and come across a magazine dedicated to Down syndrome. Has the magazine always sat here and only now do I notice it? I read an article about research and funding that reminds me…

I know someone who writes (beautiful poetry) and she also happens to research immunology. A few years ago we had a conversation about the immune system and rheumatoid arthritis (her area of study). I contact her and ask what she might know about Trisomy 21 and the immune system. Arpita responds generously.

(A note: If you follow my work, you know I only focus on details directly related to Sophie. This post is more general education about DS, in particular it is about the immune system.)

Trisomy 21. If you say these words to a complete layperson, they will find it lyrical, enchanting, exciting and even beautiful. But then you tell them what it is, and their smile fades.

Not a lot of people know that T-21 can have immunological abnormalities associated with it. As you rightly pointed out, not much info is available regarding the immune system in DS. It’s only now that we are getting an idea of what’s going on in these patients.  The immune system develops, but poorly. There is reduced numbers of cells of the lymphoid system. Those cells that do develop respond poorly to antigens and are unable to travel to site of infection or injury to do their thing. The cells divide poorly when they are activated by an infectious agent. Some cells are supposed to secrete antibodies of a particular type when they are activated and this process is also impaired. And thymus, the organ in which T lymphocytes develop, is rather small and underdeveloped in these patients, suggesting that the immune system doesn’t really get a chance to develop from the very onset. Again, the fascinating thing is that the immune system is not completely broken; it is just not strong enough to protect the poor child. 

I thought I finished the heart and lung area but with Arpita’s words, I come back to indicate the thymus gland (bright blue circles atop the heart – the lymphatic system strings throughout the body). I understand from a previous study, the typical thymus is larger when one is young and becomes smaller as one ages.

A body worker once told me it crystallizes suggesting the change a positive.

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Arpita continues…
There are other indirect causes postulated for the immunological abnormalities. These patients have poorly developed or malfunctioning digestive system, which makes it hard for them to assimilate nutrients. This could lead to deficiencies causing immune perturbations. Also, children with DS most commonly experience lung and heart infections, and many groups claim that this is because the architecture of the respiratory system is abnormal and the natural barriers which filter out infectious agents are less effective in such a setting.

What I find fascinating about DS is that despite the presence of a purportedly underdeveloped immune system, these patients are susceptible to autoimmune disorders. It actually makes me mad, you know…why would an already weak immune cell waste its resources in fighting its own body, when it should be fighting invading pathogens? Sadly no one knows why it happens. My guess is that it has something to do with the abnormal architecture of the organs where the immune cells develop early on. Events in thymus and bone marrow shape the repertoire of immune cells ensuring the survival of cells which are not only most potent, but also which will almost certainly not react against the body. If these organs have developed poorly or are missing certain vital components, this will undoubtedly affect the development of the immune system.

Are you familiar with the process by which immune cells move within the blood, within organs and across tissues? It is fascinating and beautiful documented through images and time-lapse imaging. It is an intricate dance of communication between molecules. There are bits and pieces of information that this movement and migration ability of immune cells is impaired in T-21. Again, no one knows why this happens, but lack of proper direction and mobility can significantly impair immune responses.

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Portrait of Sophie – Studying Trisomy 21, Mixed media on Paper, 80″ x  45″

So…I ask questions, research, and present what I come across and never know what’s to come next. Arpita and I end our conversation but not until she expresses something I take for my self.

…there is so much that we don’t understand about the human body, in particular how different parts communicate and intertwine with each other functionally. I think part of the reason is that because as young students we are encouraged to accept dogmas and hold on to them rigidly.

However, someone like you, an intelligent person with no dogmatic notions of the medical field, can look at the existing information with fresh, unbiased eyes, and hopefully help the rest of us to see important clues that we have missed. …good luck with your drawings.

I can hope. October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

The web of life…today I understand better everyone brings something to the table.


I want to take a minute to thank everyone who helped with the research for this work. In particular those of you that helped me gather and understand the information so I could work with it and write about it. Thank you Amber, David, Dominique, Arpita, Elisa, and Amy. And thank you Sophie, for the spirit you bring to the picture.

For information about Amy Silverman’s book visit the website→ My Heart Can’t Even Believe It

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Big sister Annabelle taking a long close look at the portrait.

the last day of drawing class

Discipline in art is a fundamental struggle to understand oneself, as much as to understand what one is drawing. Henry Moore

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We have lots of conversation this semester. We talk about art, looking, seeing, putting down what one sees, and focus. We discuss art as discipline, as practice.

Look closely, work carefully. Look closely, draw slowly. Are you drawing what you see?  Look. Look. Look again. See.

This last critique includes final charcoal studies. The group stays focused with this medium. They work to make the surface of their drawing look smooth and rich. They consider the shape and material of objects, dark darks, light lights, values in between, edges, space and illusion of depth.

Have a good break – you all deserve it!

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Susan’s knot.

 

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Aimee’s knot.

 

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Pedro’s pattern work.

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Jorge

 

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Jorge’s skull drawing.

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Leah

 

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Leah’s skull drawing.

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Aimee and Susan

 

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Aimee’s wine glass.

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Renee

 

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Renee’s bottle tops.

 

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Pedro and Charles

 

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Charles’ containers and candlestick

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Giovanni

 

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Giovanni’s metal watering can.


Below is an extra charcoal drawing Susan worked on. Susan doesn’t need any extra credit, she’s got 5 extra credit drawings in the queue – but just in case.

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science in artistic form – a symposium

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


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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.

photo1The 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. 

Millennium Seed Bank Research Seedlings and Lochner-Stuppy Test

Dorinth Doherty, Millennium Seed Bank Research Seedlings and Lochner-Stuppy Test Garden No.2, Digital Chromogenic Lenticular Photograph, 79 x 36″

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Flora C Mace, Big Violet (detail) Botanical glass, compost, and shell stand, 16.5 x 14 x 6″

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Monica Aissa Martinez, Male Torso – Anterior View MM on canvas, 45 x 35.5″


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Isabella Kirkland, Emergent, Oil and alkyd on polyester over panel, 60 x 48″

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Image #4 – Map of Phoenix
Cell as city, living organism / living organism.

A complex living organism.

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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.

IMG_1245Image #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.

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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).

sarappImage #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?

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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.

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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.

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detail

I bring in and comment on an anatomy series based on pollinators (bee, Monarch butterfly, bat) and possibility of their  extinction.

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Anatomy Study of a Bee

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Anatomy Study of a Butterfly

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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.

Conclusion:
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?

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a sketch

 

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.

drawing your body’s anatomy – a workshop

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Arriving to the museum last Saturday morning, I ride up the elevator with a young woman who appears to be jogging. Are you out … for a run? I ask her. She is. It’s colder than I thought it would be, she tells me. And you came to the museum? She nods a yes and goes on to say … to warm up and maybe look around.

In the 2 trips I have made here – between the conversation in the museum with both visitors and docents, and in the city – I get the sense that the museum is a part of regular life for the local community.

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I return to Bentonville to take part in a Symposium at Crystal Bridges. The panel I present with focuses on Science in Artistic Form (I’ll talk about this another time).  This is one event in many. I also teach an anatomy drawing workshop for teens.

After the symposium on Friday night, I meet a couple who visits the museum regularly. We have a long talk about the facility and its various activities. Their daughter hoped to take my workshop but it sold out. I suggest they contact the museum and while I can’t give her a firm invite, I tell her I am open to more participants. I like the synergy of a large group. The next morning they arrive with their daughter. She attends the workshop while her parents attend the rest of the symposium. A few others join us. When everyone signs in I learn the group comes from all the surrounding areas.

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I walk into the studio to find a few artist anatomy books. Influenced by medical illustrations, I am more than excited to see that we also have one of the museum’s rare books on hand – Medical Anatomy; Illustrations of the Relative Position and Movements of the Internal Organs , Folio Size, 1869, by Francis Sibson. Earlier when I learn the museum owns this book, I ask if we can have a special showing. I explain to the class this is a rare opportunity. Anatomy! 1869! Hand-colored lithographs!

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I talk about my work and explain how we’ll proceed with the afternoon. I show one sample of a drawing and pass out postcards of my artwork – one to each participant. I explain general process including  use of color. I note that while I do look at artist anatomy books, most of my references come from medical anatomy and Yoga study sources. I mention I have a full human skeleton which is part of the video I end my introduction with. I pass out flash cards that include skeleton and muscle diagrams – and we begin.

The next 3 hours – we work out anatomy of their choosing. Class ends just as rain begins to fall in the small lake in front of the classroom. Here are photos of the productive afternoon.

A special thanks to Lori, an art instructor at Crystal Bridges, who helped me with the workshop.

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The purpose of the museum is to educate and build community – I’m glad to be a part of it.

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To go to the State of the Art website, click on the image above.

 

state of the art – discovering american art now

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I am excited to let you know my work will be a part of the State of the Art exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of America.

This is certain to be a one-of-a-kind exhibition experience – for artists and visitors both – as curators travelled 10,000 miles across the United Sates to visit with nearly 1000 artists. My studio was in that mix of visits as were a handful of AZ artists. I recall the initial phone call and email I received – I really couldn’t believe it ( for the record – I do believe it now ).

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Photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

About the exhibit:
State of the Art features 102 artists from across the country selected for inclusion as a result of Crystal Bridges president Don Bacigalupi and assistant curator Chad Alligood’s travels and visits (mostly in person, some via Skype) with artists from every region of the U.S.

About the art works:
· Works in the exhibition include photography, video, ceramics, action/interaction, glass, fiber, installation, paper, painting, and sculpture.

· There are more than 200 total works in the exhibition

· The exhibition will reach beyond the boundaries of the Museum’s temporary exhibition spaces, extending into the permanent collection galleries and activating public and community areas indoors and out. Gallery spaces will total 19,000 square feet.

There is no charge to view the exhibition.

WHO: Crystal Bridges, Museum of American Art
WHAT: STATE OF THE ART – DISCOVERING AMERICAN ART NOW
WHERE: Bentonville, AK
WHEN: September 13, 2014 – January 19, 2015

 For more details click ↓image005

Visit the press page here on my blog and see the YouTube studio visit and/or read about the show and my work.

There is more to share but this is a good start.
Did I say I am excited? Yes I did. I am.

I could have titled this post No Woman is an Island.