ahh…life

Ahh, mother. Ahh, infant. Ahh, life.

Last Fall, while working to understand the microbiome and its relationship to obesity, I knew it was in the cards that I’d focus on a neonatal study and breastfeeding (among other things).

I listen to podcasts as I paint. My drawing paper is a good place to note key points. #TheBodyIsPolitcal

I’ve learned to consider mother’s milk as food, medicine and signal (thanks to Katie Hinde and → Mammals Suck…Milk!).  This is complicated stuff (I say this a lot lately). I’m sharing general notes to explain my direction and include a few links for the science.

So much happens behind the scenes, when mother feeds child. It seems somewhat multi-leveled and maybe multi-dimensional (I don’t mean the latter to read esoteric but admit I like implication). I know breastfeeding shapes babies immune system. I learn it shapes the brain, influences emotion and behavior, and more clearly I understand breast milk feeds (gut) microbes.

My representation of the structure of a lactating breast includes secretory lobules, alveoli, ducts, fat and connective tissue ↑. I circle and magnify area to emphasize the focus. Isolating and highlighting ↓ epithelial layer (I like these cells!), I note milk lipid droplets and casein (And I wonder if the same animal protein when added to pigment becomes my Casein paint!)

I read oxytocin makes muscle cells contract and prolactin support the milk secreting cells.

Stem Cells

I learn human breast milk contains (non-invasive) pluripotent ↑ stem cells → mammalssuckmilk. .

While initially I plan to only draw the intestine, I recall babies have a large (way large!) #ThymusGland. It enters composition as do heart and lungs. And I always include the mighty #Liver.

Mother’s breast milk is living. It is both nourishment (calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorous, potassium…etc) and hydration. And if I understand correctly…each and every time (wow) mother feeds baby, her milk satisfies the child’s needs at that particular moment in time.

Baby’s spit/saliva carries a signal as it washes ↑ back up into mother’s breast where receptors pick it up. Communication via fluids…you can imagine the benefit to a building immune system ↓. (Breast milk mixed with baby saliva generates hydrogen peroxide → H2O2  )

I don’t forget (I wrote about them before) the human milk oligosaccharides ↑ (HMO’s), the complex carbohydrates unique to human milk that baby cannot absorb. Reminder: HMO’s act as fertilizer for populating gut microbes. (fucosyllactose component of oligosaccharide feed bifidobacteria)
#IntestinalFlora #GutEcosystem #Microbiome #ImUnderstandingSymbiosis!

I go back to my desktop notes to make sure I’ve included particulars in the post. While there’s more to the artwork, I repeat and emphasize…the relationship between newborn and mother is multi-dimensional.
#ILoveMitochondria

A woman’s body. Will continue. Holding the life.

While painting this study, I read and listen to Katie Hinde, whose work was introduced to me by Dr Joe Alcock.
→ TEDWomen What we don’t know about mother’s milk
→ Blog  Mammals Suck… Milk!


This post is dedicated to my sister who lives in Connecticut. Analissa had her first baby   just as the country went into physical-distancing. I hope to meet my ↓ nephew before too long. In the meantime, I text her when I learn a fun fact.

Nephew Roberto AKA Tito

And to my neighbor Amy, mom to 4 week old Hailey (this Portrait of…).

A few years back after having her first baby, Amy came over carrying several of her text books on anatomy, physiology and microbiology, which she left for me to use. They’re heavy! (I use them regularly.)


©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

anatomical drawing workshop with med students

I teach an anatomy drawing workshop at the college of Medicine on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus. Participants come from several programs (including a couple of faculty) though the majority are Northern Arizona University (NAU) students in Occupational Therapy (OT).

They introduce themselves and I enjoy hearing why they signed up to come to the drawing workshop.

One young woman tells us she saw a kidney and thought it beautiful and wants to learn to draw it. I understand completely. Another speaks about the piriformis muscle – she explains, it’s from the Latin and means pear (shaped). She wants to see and know this. I don’t know piriformis means pear-shaped, I want to see this too! Someone else explains she would like to learn to draw the human body when needing to explain something – instead of the usual stick figure. I smile and note if I had a patient and needed to be efficient – that stick figure would come in handy.

I move around the room and learn every participant has a personal reason for being here, including an appreciation of anatomy. Someone tells me she likes my artwork and thinks this could be fun. Thank you. Yes, it will be! I tell her.

I want to say a lot of things to them. I want to talk about science and art and their connection, and I want to talk about Leonardo (I never do!). We have 3 hours together – they’ll start something today but will probably finish up on their own.

They arrive ready with organ (subject-matter) references. And medical models are available. We talk about a contour study and I quickly explain the value of working organically. While Cindi (Director of Art in Medicine) provides a variety of papers (surfaces) and materials – the majority of the group chooses to work on black paper (I’m excited to see the black paper – I know what color does on it). A couple of the participants pick out beautiful rice papers and after some conversation – they work in parts and layers – bringing a more sculptural sensibility to their work.

Here are some captured moments of the afternoon. Note everyone begins with a careful contour study and then loosens up (with some prodding) to bring in color and texture. The nervousness steps aside and the afternoon brings a little science and a little art together. Ahhh…creativity!

On a side note: I particularly enjoy the overall conversation. It’s an unusual experience being around medical (health and wellness) people. They’re familiar and comfortable with the body in a way that the average person is not.

The afternoon is coming to an end and  I hear comments like … Oh! I love your kidney! Oh…look at your brain!! 

I learn some new things. I don’t take notes but I probably could (should) have.
Thanks everyone. And a special thanks to Cindi and Rebecca.


My drawings and paintings are on display right now at UA College of Medicine in downtown Phoenix until March of 2018. You can see the exhibit M-F, 9 to 5.
An Artist Reception is in the planning for February 2, 2018 – First Friday, 6-8 pm.

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.

6 zygotes

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The word zygote comes from the Greek and means joined or yoked.  On a quick tangent – this makes me think of the Sanskrit word yoga which means to yoke, to join or to unite. Here I think physical process, development and growth. And I think mother – my mother.

You recall I am doing an anatomy study of my mother and I want to reference in the composition the 6 children she raised. Initially I think to include 6 embryos. But as I look at resource material and compositional space I choose to set up 6 eggs becoming fertilized by sperm. I also think design: movement, color and line.

The bottom part / the ground of the drawing ( a 12″ x 44″ area ) is where I refer to the developmental phase after fertilization and the resulting one-celled organism called a zygote. The zygote stage lasts about 4 days – ironically equivalent to the amount of time this area takes to draw out and paint – 4 full days of steady, intricate progress.

Here are the stages of the 6 zygotes.

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Hot summers in Phoenix – I draw all day. This mixed media composition is bright and intense – more so than most of my other work on paper.

I need to start thinking about the title of the work and I wonder if it’s still part of the series called Nothing in Stasis. It is, I decide.

a new work

The human body is the primary subject of Monica Aissa Martinez’ small painting. She portrays our bodies as fantastic little factories, maybe tiny sex breweries, in a series of works about brides and grooms.
… Martinez says the experience of her recent marriage prompted her to explore the topic of who and what we are in a male/female union. Fascinated by the look of scientific detail in botanical and biological drawings, Martinez treats the figure to a revamping that includes ribbons and champagne glasses. The bodies take on the form of laboratory glasswork. The details in her work hold our attention long enough for us to realize the sly humor of lifting the lid off the marital sacrament to reveal the delightfully intricate plumbing that makes the whole process pump.

Linda A. McAllister
Senior Curator, Here and Now: Arizona Contemporary Artists, Part 1
ASU, Nelson Fine Arts Center, 1996


Linda McAllister wrote these words over 15 years ago about a series of small works based on brides and grooms. When people tell me my work has changed, I don’t agree completely. My work still focuses on relationship, if not male/female then masculine/feminine. I still use the body as container and I highlight the organs, I work with the idea of transparency,  and all these years later still use the same batch of pigment and enjoy making and using egg tempera.

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The Bride and Groom
Egg Tempera on Paper
16″ x 11″
1996

Below are a two more examples of the way I’ve represented relationship and the play of masculine and feminine, or male and female.

conductivity 02

Conductivity
Egg Tempera on Canvas
12″ x12″
2207-08

kinetic1

Kinectic
Egg Tempera on Canvas
12″ x12″
2207-08

Right now I’ve put aside what I was working on to work a new painting for an invitational. The theme – Sex, a woman’s point of view. The show runs in September. I began working on this painting right after agreeing to take part – just so I wouldn’t over think things. I got a visual while reading the invite and went with it.

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Detail
Casein on canvas

This painting is casein on canvas and today I paint until I tire and can’t control line work anymore. I have a few decisions to make. I’ll just leave it alone until I resolve some composition and then continue.

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New work as yet untitled but still part of the  Nothing In Stasis series.
Casein on canvas

I photograph at various stages so I can produce a short video.

– I’ll tell you more about the exhibit in time. The group of artists is exciting.

no woman is an island…contd.

The rhythm of the body
the melody of the mind
& the harmony of the soul
create the symphony of life – B.K.S. Iyengar


Maybe this post is about new work. Maybe it’s about life.

I started a new painting last week – a 92″ x 67″ canvas. That’s a lot of surface for me to deal with. I like the physical challenge of working that big. Preparing the canvas is a whole day in the studio. My arms and hands store the experience for a few days.

I photograph parts of the composition, and put them together in Photoshop.The studies look simple but each area is taking a full day. I am being as accurate with the details as possible. The colors reference types of energy.

IMG_3773I draw myself in handstand, one leg firm, the other slightly organic. This is one way to understand what I have to do with my alignment to hold balance.

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Working on upside down, reversed anatomy is complicated to say the least. I  get my bearings, and then flip them. Gravity plays out differently in the muscles. Hands become like feet and arms become like legs – press down to rise. The cat comes around out of curiosity, I capture her in a few photos and so she appears in the painting. I’ll work her anatomy out next.

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Clearly one can’t do this without support. Though well grounded and standing firm – no woman is an island.

On a connected note…
I sold You Are Here, A Map of Phoenix. It’s a turning point work that leads directly to what I am doing now: large, intensely detailed mapping of information.

We deliver and hang it this morning and then spend the afternoon hiking South Mountain. BTW, South Mountain lies to the bottom and off to the right, in the map below.

phoenix map

Thanks Greg and Veronica. Enjoy and use the Map of Phoenix, if you like.  It’s accurately abstracted.

subtle – this body is a construct

Construct

Instrument
Bind
Connect
Thread
Build
Encase
Flow
Lace
Hold
Organic
Physical
Weave

The body is a construct.

I produced a video that shows my working process – how stage above became stage below. I produced 4 versions of the video. The real-time video runs about 30 minutes, it’s long. The first edited version is 22 minutes and it captures what I really like about my working process. It will run next to the original work on paper, at the exhibit.

The final version is about 13 minutes and you can see it on YouTube at the link below. The first part is activity, and the last part shows stages of the composition to completion.

I had to adjust the whole thing numerous times, to be able to finally upload it and share. I  enjoyed most of the process. I learned a few things…

Putting together a quality video is complicated.

There’s text,
there’s random sound caught on the radio as I worked, I learned to lift it and place it where I wanted it (it was weirdly applicable and it starts the video and ends the video),
then there’s the deliberately created sound,
there are transition points …

all layered and as consuming as making a small painting

Most important I learned sharing artist process cannot be captured in its true-scope. Once you start manipulating something…well…it ceases to be what it is and becomes something else, yes it transforms. It’s like it goes from the natural, to the man-made.

Patricia, the friend that commissioned the work – it’s her back body – is going to let me borrow it for the exhibition. That’s what she said anyway. Thanks Pat, timing is everything.

the subtle body – nothing in stasis

Subtle
in ref. to things – of thin consistency
in ref. to craftsmen – skilled, clever
From O.Fr. soutil, from L. subtilis  – fine, thin, delicate, finely woven
from sub under + -tilis from tela web
texere to weave


I like the desaturated photograph below. It comes alive in a different way, for me. I have documented most everything in both color and black and white for this new series.

The work represents the posterior view of a female torso. I’ve completed a male posterior already. I use a model (the person who commissioned the work) for the initial layout. It’s a 36″ x 25″, casein and graphite painting, on a fine sheet of cream Arches paper. I’ve been working on it for about 3 weeks.


The moment of change is the only poem.   – Adrienne Rich

 

an homage to the back body

The mind is the switchboard for the nervous system of the body.  -LL


Maybe I’m complete with this one work of the posterior view of the torso anatomy. More than likely it’s the first of several. You may recall it all started with researching Nadis. Nadis translates to flow and somewhat connects to the nerves, veins and arteries – and make up what is called the subtle body. There are said to be 72,000 of them. What does that all mean? Hence, one reason for the initial start of the anatomy series.  I went from the parts (the individual organs) in earlier drawings and paintings,  to the whole, in this body of work. At this moment, I might be back to the parts that make up the various systems.  What a door I have opened.  I’ve studied the body for over 20 years. Why only now am I curious with the subtle connections in this very determined and particular way?

I’ve already said I’m not familiar with the back of the body like I am with the front. Why did I not start my study with the visually rhythmic backbone? After-all the vertebrae is the structure that houses, supports and protects  the brain and spinal cord. The whole central nervous system has me so engrossed these days. Once upon a time, I started with the heart, moved to the brain, and it’s inevitable that I find myself going down the spine. Actually – it’s more like – up the spine.

The spine supports the rib cage which protects the heart and lungs. It sets the muscles of the gastrointestinal organs including the stomach, intestine, liver, spleen, pancreas (from this posterior view it’s the first time I’ve really understood how the pancreas fits into the space), kidneys and urinary system. And it holds onto the pelvis which houses the excretory and reproductive organs.

Metaphorically, how do we experience the back of the body? It carries with it emotional, physical, and financial associations. Here are a few that come quickly to mind: support, stability, strength – lack / abundance, out of sight out of mind – carrying issues but not dealing with them, also the back body represents the past – relaxed or tense. And remember Atlas, who carried the world on his shoulders. My friend Maria says the shoulder blades connect to joy.

My yoga instructor Meg says … the legs are the governor of the back. This clarifies for me to stand with a firm foundation. I ask a few friends, who have studied the body through yoga, how they respond to their back body.

Patricia comments first:
The back body for me is a Mystery, that after ten years of [Yoga] Practice, is just now starting to reveal itself to me. Because my back feels so different to me than what it actually looks like, it is the one part of me that I love ( and actually require) having other people’s feedback on. My back body is a spiral, and it has its own loop*. 

Deborah follows with her insight:
Our back body is our “connection” to the Universal, our Self, each other…I see it as connection. if you think about the spinal cord…there’s “connection” to our entire body. So, out of that connection to the Universal…community…comes “support”…and if I think about the spine…it gives us “support”! To tie these together I think about the loops, which all initiate from the back body so we “soften”…especially kidney loop* and opening to grace…when we soften and “lean into it.” There’s “support,” there’s “connection,” and “grace”.

*Loop is an energetic reference in their yoga practice.

How do I engage with the back body?   Obviously it’s highly complex, and visually it’s stimulating and wonderful. Strength and flexibility (rooted in firm foundation) are key. And that’s just the beginning.

In all directness, this work, this drawing and study, serves me to understand that my body is my own.  It’s that simple and that complex.

Despite all the care I’ve set up with the color, I like the de-saturated image. It gives me some odd sense of celebration. And it captures the depth of its mystery.

Do you have a preference? Colorful top image? Or the latter black and white?
How do you experience your back body?

nothing in stasis (the subtle body)

“A hundred and one are the arteries of the heart, one of them leads up to the crown of the head. Going upward through that, one becomes immortal.” Chandogya Upanishad


The image above is the layout of the drawing, the beginning of the painting.

The image below shows the final stage and completion of the work.

You can see the stages in between, in the 2 minute video below. The images are accompanied by sounds created by Joe Willie Smith and myself.


new canvas – nothing is in stasis

..white lines in movement symbolize a unifying idea which flows through the compartmented units of life bringing the consciousness of a larger relativity.
Mark Tobey on his painting ‘Threading Light’


… a long and enjoyable  process.

Above 3 images show details of the same area at varying stages.  Image below, shows another. Both are from the same composition which I’ll show in completion in an upcoming exhibit.

This work reminds me of a conversation I had with a scientist friend. Dave and I were talking one day and in the context of that conversation he announces everything is random.

How can you say it’s all random! 

Because it is.

I didn’t buy it.

Fast forward months later:
I start with a plan to make a painting.  I have a structure in mind – the human body. I work in my usual manner, except a little more here and a little more there…

Enter Stage Right(brain) –  Randomness.

I couldn’t have known what I was going to do. If I had, then what would be the point.

The question … Is it all random? Is there rhyme and reason?  My answer just surfaced.

#mkingart #agr8thing.

pulling lines across space

Contact entelechy*, and all circuits are a go. Tune into it and another wonder of perspective is at hand.
– Jean Houston


I feel like I am working with string. This work is almost like needlepoint.  I am carefully pulling lines across space.

…still in progress. I have a long way to go. The casein on paper work is 60″ wide and 96″ inches in height.

She’ll be making her début in about nine months.

*entelechy [ɛnˈtɛlɪkɪ]
n pl -chies Metaphysics

1. (Philosophy) (in the philosophy of Aristotle) actuality as opposed to potentiality
2. (Philosophy) (in the system of Leibnitz) the soul or principle of perfection of an object or person; a monad or basic constituent
3.(Philosophy) something that contains or realizes a final cause, esp the vital force thought to direct the life of an organism

[from Late Latin entelechia, from Greek entelekheia, from en-2 + telos goal, completion + ekhein to have]

Carolyn Lavender, Mary Shindell and me had our exhibition proposal accepted by Mesa Arts Center.  We were notified a few weeks ago. Click on each of our names to see our website.

Our three person show will hang in the North gallery and will run from January 11 through May 5, 2013.
New show, new work (this new drawing), new media, and a new blog.

We have about a nine month gestation period.