no woman is an island

I receive a card a few weeks ago from Margaret:
Thank you for my new milagro. I plan on sharing it with my sisters Elizabeth and Kathryn. It will travel between my home in West Virginia and their homes in New York. My sister Kathryn and I make these needle felted things we call talismans, small, discrete lovely things about the size of your milagros. It will hang with these among other things at my altar for my mother, Elena, and her spirit will continue on vibrant as ever, only from a different plane.

Continue your work, it serves the world and graces what we think of ourselves. 

This note – so thoughtful.  And reading the last sentence a few times, I can’t help but wish for every woman, every mother, sister and daughter, to hear, to know words like this too.

Margaret writes in January of 2019:
I didn’t know what to picture when I learned my mom had colon cancer. Scans don’t show anything. Doctors draw diagrams and talk in the abstract. One doctor showed me his pinky and said my mother’s colon was like the diameter of a pencil. I said ok but what does that mean? I forgot to say what does it look like? Soon the vision wasn’t pretty in my head. But your artworks helped me see something beautiful and lively, chromatic. Epic and often exuberant, full of lines overlapping with pattern and movement. The organs in my mother’s body that were filling with cancer look different to me because of your artwork. I saw energy, I saw her perseverance, vivaciousness.

I can’t remember if I ever told her about your artwork. I think I was afraid to be implying she should love her cancer or love her colon, liver, lungs and linings which is where it all went. Instead I loved her as much as I could and I loved your drawings privately for myself in a way to make peace with the situation. Thank you for that. I wish you a happy new year. Thank you for doing what the doctors couldn’t do. You gave me a beautiful visual through which I upheld my mom the best I could.

I’ve had interaction with Margaret about her relationship with her mother and how my work affects her, since 2016. In that time I’ve sent along images (a couple below) as she requested. And I aways sent my best wishes for her and her mother.

I tell Margaret my interest is in both the physical body and in the subtle body. I feel she responds to both but most especially she picks up on the subtle (the unconfined and the constant). Margaret will always share connection with her mother. I appreciate knowing my drawings remind her of this.

Contacting me this summer, she looks for a work, something small, intimate and feminine in quality. I love the request and pull a few small, 2-sided, translucent studies. I call these pieces milagros, Spanish for miracle. The votive offering itself is connected to altars and/or shrines. I also call these small artworks holders of light because they do hang in space,  taking in and reflecting out on both sides. I photograph and send her a number of them, including the breast/mammary gland, which is the one she chooses.

Thank you Margaret for sharing the beautiful spirit of your mother with me. I wish you and your sister the very best. #Motherline #HolderOfLight

Milagro photo courtesy of Margaret Bruning #life

This post is dedicated to Elena Lisbeth Sette Bruning, beloved mother, who passed on Dec 13th, 2018. #nowomanisanisland


The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.

©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

no woman is an island

Early October I receive an email from Julie Sasse, Chief Curator of Modern, Contemporary and Latin American Art for the Tucson Museum of Art.

I hope you will remember me from your participation in some of our Arizona Biennials. A group (anywhere from 20-45 people) from our Latin American Art Patrons are planning a trip up to Phoenix on Wednesday, January 9, with a first stop to see the Teotihuacan exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum, followed by a lunch. I’m not sure if your studio can accommodate a group, but I’m checking to see if that would be of interest to you and if your studio is located in the downtown Phoenix area. If you would be up for a visit sometime soon after 1:30 that day, our group would enjoy seeing your work.

Of course I remember Julie! I recall her support of my work. I will thank her in person. Yes.

All 45 members! of the LAAP arrive to the studio Wednesday afternoon. I share my art process and content with the thoughtful group. My husband, who is present, enjoys meeting members so much, he forgets he’s supposed to take photos! I understand completely.

I do have one photo. It catches a moment when I respond to a question about the portrait of my mother.

Soon after the photo is shot, I meet Nancy.

She approaches holding a small print. She wants to know about it. Is it available for purchase? The limited edition intaglio print titled Her Diagnosis – A Windy Liver is numbered 1/1 (1 of 1) because while it is a printed edition of 15 and is the first of the hand-colored series – each print is original. It holds a memory I have with my friend Maria. The border-lined text that makes its way into the composition as fragmented Spanish sentences comes from a song by the group Maná. The album plays in the studio the day I carve the words into the copper plate. And yes, the print is available.

Nancy, did I tell you the print along with 4 other hand-colored works, hung at the Phoenix Art Museum? The group exhibition called Local’s Only celebrated the art of 12 Chicano and Latino artists based here in the city. It feels right that you own it – in some way it is a full-circle experience. Enjoy the work and thank you so much.

As everyone returns to their bus, one woman stays behind taking a moment to share her thoughts about my work in general and she mentions her daughter, who is in medical school. She speaks to me in Spanish. I appreciate hearing what she says and how she says it – because she’s right.

One fun way to kick off this new year! A special thanks to Julie Sasse and the entire group of Latin American Art Patrons, for taking the time to visit my studio.


The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.

no woman is an island

I know you said your studio is empty but I’m wondering how exact that is 🙂 I’d love to buy a piece of yours as an anniversary gift for Ray.

Yes, the walls really are empty. All the humans are gone!  I do have some critters….

Setting up a date and time for a studio visit I ask Amy – Will you be bringing Ray? Or will this be a surprise?


I lay paintings of insects, a hummingbird, and a tortoise out on a drawing table. As I turn a spot light on them, I feel certain Amy will choose a bug.  But fairly quickly she picks the tortoise. It reminds her of a road trip her and Ray take in their first year of marriage. 

Being turtles…
Cold, November and fairly newlywed (10 months) they drive along the Southwest. Traveling Southern Arizona to New Mexico and into El Paso, she notes they make their way across the border to Juarez and they get lost.  A pizza delivery person had to lead us out!  Upon return they make their way to Hueco Tanks and then head back up New Mexico to Santa Fé and Taos.

we are outside at a café somewhere in New Mexico — I can picture the scene perfectly and we were both wearing black turtlenecks and freezing and looked up and realized we were both pulling them up over our faces, to just below our eyes. And “being turtles” was born

I smile with the visual.

Is she female? Amy asks.
I don’t know. Let’s look at her sexual organs, I say half-joking.
Is this her spleen?

Study of a Tortoise – Casein, Gesso, Prisma Pencil, Micaceous Iron Oxide, Ink, Collage on Panel – 10×10″

Amy drops me a text later that evening… I just realized Rays grandpa used to tell a story about a tortoise named Gilbert! (the map)
Meant to be yours – She is!

Surprise Ray! And a very Happy 20th Anniversary to both of you!

Thank you so much Amy!


The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.


no woman is an island

Hi. I love your Torso images. Do you have similar work available? Dennis

This simple note arrives on September 13, 2014. Chosen for the State of the Art, Discovering American Art Now exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum, my studio visit makes the cover of the arts section in the NYT.  I receive email from across the country.
It still makes me smile. I am overwhelmed in the best possible way.

Eventually Dennis inquires about a commission. He let me know he’d prefer a male, anterior view anatomy study. He’s a cardiologist, the connection to the heart is the draw. Willing to wait as long as needed (his words), I decide he’s a patient man. In our correspondence I also gather he’s thoughtful. He describes how he works with artists to foster both creativity and opportunity. He writes that he rarely buys paintings, though he loves and collects glass sculpture.

Fast forward to September 2017

Hi Monica – I contacted you a few years ago … I had discussed a piece in your torso series. Do you have any completed works in line with that body of work you might have for sale at present?  Dennis

I have work and send him images. It doesn’t take him long to decide on a painting titled  Front Body, Male.

Front Body, Male,  Casein and Gesso on Canvas,  34 x 13″

I now know his full name is Dr. Dennis Chugh.  I very much appreciate his reconnecting after all this time.

Front Body, Male will be on display at the University of Arizona medical school opening in a few short weeks.  I am happy to note the painting is his. I will borrow it for the exhibit, Nothing In Stasis. The show will run to March.

Dennis will have to wait a little longer for the work. His response: I’m in no hurry. I’m so glad your work is being seen (and sold).

Thank you Dennis, for reaching out and for the support of my work.


Dennis Chugh is a cardiologist who appreciates the arts and is also a maker of beautiful objects. He has blown glass for several years.

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

You can see more of his colorful Aviary Cilinders at → dennischugh.com


The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.


no woman is an island

Maria sends an email… I will be back in town next week and was wondering if you have any of your work on exhibit right now. We have friends coming into town for a few days and I’m thinking of things for us to do. So if you were showing somewhere I would love to take our friends. One of them is an artist herself.

I invite Maria, Susan and Laura to come to my studio.

As you might expect  anatomy study surrounds us. We talk the body for a good while. Laura personally relates to the newest kidney drawing sitting on my table. Susan wants to know about materials – the paint and paper.  I understand she has worked in woodcut and now does linocut.

Do you have any prints, she wonders. This question always confuses me. Do people mean a reproduction like a giclée or poster? Or do they mean an original print? I’m a printmaker. I stumble with the words … I have real prints, I say.

Maria wants to know about one particular small print. I’ve only thought about anatomy lately so I have to stop, change focus and think … considering the content of the work, I find it amusing. I can tell Susan and Laura do too.

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Self-Sustaining Confusion, MM – Collage and hand-painted print, 12 x 10″

Here it is, in a nutshell:
The title – Self-Sustaining Confusion – I find in physicist David Bohm’s book On Creativity. I write the phrase on a piece of paper and leave it on my work table. Weeks pass and one day the rest of the composition formulates while I listen to NPR.  A scientist talks about the brain chemistry at various stages of awareness (or lack of) and I hear things like 69 unfolded proteins and limited real-estate in the brain. And that’s that, I pull out a piece of copper and start drawing.

We talk printmaking and intaglio. This is a dry point.  I use a sharp-pointed tool to  scratch the image directly on a copper-plate (I love copper!). Can you see it? ↓ The process of both printmaking and collage tend to free me up, work flows more stream of consciousness.

About this print in particular – If I recall correctly I pull 15 prints, only 7 of them are worth saving. In general the drypoint technique won’t allow for too many pulls, the marks are too irregular.

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copper plate with drawing on it

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a few pulls of the print

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Each image varies slightly. This one is the first image I collage and paint in the series of 7.

We talk about California (where they are from), the ocean, and the desert. We discuss raising chickens (I learn some things) and having fresh eggs (Susan does).  Of course I bring up making  egg tempera paint. They leave my home with plans to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s (Taliesin West).

Ladies, I appreciate our morning together. Thank you Susan for wanting to take home Self-Sustaining Confusion. It’s the last one of that series. Enjoy it!

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The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.

no woman is an island

6and7Martinez_Hers and His

I meet Vlada and Matthew in June, while making center pieces for the wedding party tables. We all sit cutting and organizing flowers. My sister is getting married and they have come from New York City to El Paso, Texas, to attend the wedding.

I learn Vlada is from Sofia, Bulgaria. Her husband Matthew is from the United States. They are both musicians. And before the wedding is over the next day, they sit at the piano together and play for everyone. Their performance is physical and captivating.

Vlada contacts me mid-November while I am at Crystal Bridges.  They are interested in buying an artwork. I am surprised and pleased. We have a number of interactions to narrow down what will work for them.

Today I learn they want to buy two paintings, a set Hers and His.  The compositions are small female and male pelvis studies representing primordial energy. They both are from the series Nothing In Stasis. Here are a couple of posts about the artwork: Primordial Energy and Hers, Nothing in Stasis  and His

Vlada  lives and teaches in New York. Matthew is completing his teaching license. They  perform throughout the United States and Europe (far and wide). In our correspondence I learn Vlada is also a body worker.

Thank you Vlada and Matthew! Enjoy the paintings. I do believe the purchasing of these two works is creatively symbolic.

 

www.Masterwork Conversations.com is Vlada and Matthew’s website. They  have recently recorded an album called Imagination of the Folk.


The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.

no woman is an island

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.
Rumi

 


I have worked on this commission for most of the last 3 weeks. Normally I don’t do this kind of work that fast, I tell Terri yesterday when I deliver the completed, though unframed, large work on paper. I enjoyed it and I struggled with it. In general my drawing is changing, I am including much more information, if I can figure it out.

There are things about this composition I don’t normally set up to do – like a smiling face. Because I told Terri to stand in a natural way and she stood firm, bright-eyed, strong, chin up and she smiled, I worked very hard to get the face just right – eyes, smile and all.

Here are a few progressive shots of it:

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general sketch

 

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refinement and muscle structure

 

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anatomy goes in

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completed head includes cranial nerves in and out the head

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I wish I could take that, Terri points to all the internal anatomy in the artwork, and place it here, inside me – she points to her chest. It came from you, I say as I laugh. She nods and repeats herself, I wish I could bring that inside me, now.  That’s a great thing to hear.

This is an anatomy study , it’s a study of an energetic system, it’s Terri. And Terri has brain cancer.

I ask if she is okay with me sharing all this. She nods her head – Yes, I am. I ask a few more times. I feel protective. But whom am I protecting, I wonder. Terri is accepting of her life. Her son, who is present, agrees – she’s accepting it all!  Terri is forthcoming about where she finds herself, and she’s at peace. I see it in her expression. I hear it in her voice. She tells me she’s had 3 other cancers – of the colon, in the sacrum, in the lungs, and now – the brain.

I consider the physical body a lot these days, as I immerse myself in these anatomy studies. The body serves a great purpose, it holds the spirit. As human beings we live and connect with it and through it.

I prefer to use medical terminology when I title a work. This could be different, it is a human body, a female front body, from head to hips. It is a  Study of a Human Female Body, Anterior View. But I am thinking of another title, a sub-title, something like –  Inside me, Inside you.

Thanks again Terri. It’s been some assignment to study your spirit – strong-willed and so directed.

teri2

The work is casein, gesso and graphite on cream Arches paper, 36″ x 25″


The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.

mm8

The art in this post connects to another work completed in 2012. Terri and Patricaia traveled to Italy recently and upon their return, drove to California and married.