gut. brain.

What do you visualize when you read the phrase Gut-Brain Axis? Or Brain-Gut Connection?

I picture very active brains communicating with very active intestines. Or is it the other way around? Both. It’s a two-way, busy connect especially when you consider the wandering nerve, aka, the vagus nerve. Think: 2-way, information highway. The vagus nerves are paired cranial nerves (CN X) and happen to be my favorite of all the nerves.  Because it is the longest nerve in the body it moves alongside heart and lungs and goes through all the organs of the digestive tract, connecting brain to gut.

I enjoy the challenge of capturing Veronica’s likeness while I work her profile.  I organize and sketch in the brain. The small area of my drawing is detailed into a collaged map of El Paso,TX,  where my cousin lives.

I have fun with the photo ↑ and strategically place color pencils to direct attention to the brainstem, the area of the brain I am working to understand.  I imagine the space to be like a facility loaded with chemicals and chemical messengers / hormones and neurotransmitters. Think: Food intake. Signals and controls. Many and complex. (FYI – purple pencil points to vagus nerve start.)

Some of the hormones involved include adipoectin (a protein hormone that modulates glucose regulation and fatty acid oxidation), and leptin (made by fat cells and decreases appetite).

Veronica, during our initial conversation, noted ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite. If I understand correctly, it is primarily released in the stomach and signals hunger to the brain. It also plays a role in determining how quickly hunger returns after a meal. And it promotes fat storage. After my surgery, she says, no more ghrelin. No more! What does this mean?  Forever? I ask.  I don’t know, she answers. And now you eat because??
I must live!
Ah…survival!

Side note: The hormones that play a role in obesity, do they also play a role in anorexia?

I haven’t brought the microbiome in yet. But I will. Now when I hear gut-brain, I also think of microbes.  FYI…they can influence hunger and satiety.

Anyway…I’m still laying ground work…which is both complicated to figure out and complicated to draw. Both my brain and my hands are keeping busy.

One more thing…
In early posts I highlight the brown adipose tissue (BAT) and the white adipose tissue (WAT). Now I study and set in subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) located under the skin and visceral adipose tissue (VAT).

In the image above, ↑ I enhance (darker area) the greater omentum (cool name! for an organ) , an example of VAT. It looks like lace, doesn’t it?  This apron of fatty tissue, connective tissue and lymphatics,  comes down from the stomach and stretches over the intestines. The greater omentum, aka, Policeman of the abdomen, might just be the first line of defense against toxins or infections (microbes).

BTW…yes, there is also a lesser omentum…

Meanwhile… drawing circles/making connections.


Keeping a note:
Amylin is a hormone, co-stored and co-secreted with insulin in response to nutrients. It promotes satiety by mediating brain function, including appetite inhibition.

Amylin also plays a role in neural regeneration. It helps regulate glucose metabolism and modulates inflammation. I pull it aside and note it here because of a possible link to Alzheimer’s Disease (Type II Diabetes).

¿rata o ratón?

The best laid schemes of mice and men
Often go awry.     – John Steinbeck


I was not comfortable with the research phase of this composition. And now that I am almost done, I wish I’d painted an alive looking rodent (as opposed to a dead looking one). I loved discovering the small clavicles, the little shoulder blades. and the delicate rib cage.

IMG_4213

Every summer I make time, usually 5 consecutive days, to complete one small composition a day. I work from morning to evening.  I like the intense practice that gives way to  creative solutions. I never know how things will turn out, but I determine to complete a composition that balances and appeals to my eye – and to do so rather quickly. By the end of the week, I have a series of little artworks.

In summer’s past I’ve printed, drawn, and done collage. This time I paint. It’s not a week of work though, it’s going on over a month at this point. I will have 6 small paintings on paper instead of 5. I am working steady and quick but this particular time the process requires a different pace.

It’s varies because I am working a bit larger than usual. I work the front and back of a prepared sheet of paper.  The images on each side connect, and I’ve decided material and color have to compliment. I make the egg tempera palette a little different for each panel. Drying time is part of every step. The running themes are the cat (or connection to a cat) and anatomy study, the latter requires research. Consequently I need more than a day to complete an image.

Today I’ve completed a rodent. Never confident the composition would work, I decide today I like the direction it’s taking.  The image at the top of the post is the casein under-painting. I finish below – with egg tempera. I planned to only make 6, I need the other side of this paper to complete that intention. But it’s possible I may continue and finish a few more, the challenge appeals to me.

IMG_4216


Common House Mouse (Mus Musculus)
Black Rat (Rattus Rattus)
Brown Rat (Rattus Norvegicus)

FYI – Rodents get their name from the Latin – rodere – to gnaw …

rodent.jpg

his – nothing in stasis

I’ve completed a set of His and Hers pelvic girdles. The works are studies, abstracted and detailed, 13″ x 13″,  casein on canvas paintings.

The composition begins very simple and then gets very complex…. there’s a lesson in here somewhere.

I hope these works in some small way cause you to take care – of yourself and our world. We are so intricately connected.

Below is a very short video I put together showing various process steps in of the making of His. It’s less than 2 minutes long, and it shows the work in its accurate color. I posted these black and whites, because I really like the detail that shows up. And because I am considering something to display them this way as well.

To see read about Hers and access the video link → click here.

days of drawing – the back body

A sheet of fine drawing paper on the easel,
graphite, water, brushes, and tubes of paint,
two slow days on the sketch.
Process.

Even – spaced, repetitive- ribs are,
shoulder blades, pelvis bones, kidneys  – mirror,
though not exactly symmetrical, nothing is.
Process.

Days leave marks – many,
erase, move, add and subtract,
pushing and pulling, drawing in and drawing out.
Process.

bones, art, and other things interesting

My work allows me many opportunities. Take these photos for instance …

On my last dental visit I conversed (albeit awkward) with Melissa, the dental hygienist who cleans my teeth. She asked what I did for a living. What sort of subject-matter do you draw? When I told her, she wondered if I might like a copy of my x-rays.
Well….yeah.
She pulled them up again,  identified details, gave me extra info about teeth, nerves, and pointed out the sinuses.  The string-like shapes fascinate me. The head and neck areas are really interesting, she noted.

When the dentist came in he told me about the varying structure of the tissues of the body. He expressed the value in drawing for the purpose of learning.  He’s correct, I know.

A few years back, I was invited to the Barrows Neurological Institute, here in Phoenix.
It was a turning point for my work.  I saw slides of fluid and body … stuff. Things appeared as solid black ground, with bright shapes and strings floating through it.  I learned that the bright colors were not natural. They were injected ink, so one could see the matter: cells, both good and bad, and yes … cancer. They appeared as worlds of silence and wonder, what I might imagine outer space like.

While there I ran into someone else I knew. She invited me into her lab and showed me DNA sequence.

Since then I’ve purchased many anatomy books and taken anatomy classes. I’ve really looked at and studied the body and it’s parts (both eastern and western studies).  It’s not a machine which I sometimes liken it to…it’s soft, vulnerable, intricate working and so perfect in its design.

Who created this? – I still wonder.

Today I am in Dr. Richard Shindell’s office. He is a leading valley Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon. He’s married to artist Mary Shindell.  To say Rick’s an interesting guy, is an understatement. They met in art school of all places. I can tell you about furniture he’s built for the Roosevelt Row galleries. My husband can tell you about the hot rod cars Rick builds.  Here – go to his website bio –  and read about him yourself. His talents are many. He’s a fine surgeon and quite respected.

I’m here to see x-ray light boxes he has available for sale.

Mary takes me through the office.  The rooms are full of art.  The waiting room has a
Roy Wasson Valle print (you know…Fuzzy Balls) in it. A Shindell in the background. Patient rooms are brightly colored and filled with original works.

I need to focus. And I sort of do – in what appears to be the x-ray room.

I’ve considered painting the back body.  I’m not certain it’s visually all that interesting. Mary disagrees. She shows me these framed x-rays. They catch my attention. The spinal column holds great visual rhythm.  The kidneys show up from behind, quiet and subtle.

Rick’s office holds extraordinary things.  Though, not so extraordinary if you work with the bones of the body.

I see the feet and I think of being grounded and having support.  I want to do a drawing focusing on that stuff.

How many people do you know, that have a pelvic girdle sitting on their desk?  I want it.  The pelvis has such elegant contour, and holds beautiful form.

After all the visual stimulation…we get to the light boxes.  That’s why I’m here after-all. They’re cool. I’ll plan to have a bit more of that part of the visit in our [Creature, Man and Nature] blog.  Right now…I have to file this afternoon into my brain. It’s too valuable.

In the midst of all this, Mary and I see a collaborative opportunity. We need to see what Carolyn thinks.

Thanks Mary.  Thanks Rick.

a sketch

Sketch ( from Greek σχέδιος – schedios, “done extempore”) is a rapidly executed free-hand drawing that is not intended as a finished work.

Studio visit.  Curator drew out this sketch.
Will revisit this photo in September to see how close to the real thing we got.

milagros

kidneys in solar plexus area

I research a long time, before and during my painting and drawing work. I’ve shared lots of that with you.  I sort of traverse time and space looking at both ancient and modern culture. I’ve studied pagan ritual, yogic practices, and various Christian religions, and specifically Catholic symbols and rites.  The latter is most familiar to me, because it’s part of my personal history. I am still drawn to rituals of Catholicism, especially those mixed in with the Native (US and Mexican) Indigenous Peoples.

I’m working/reworking the life-size figure/self portrait…painting I thought I’d completed, for next month. Today I redid the entire solar plexus area of the composition, yet again. The whole area is slightly off and it bugs me. I’d been working on small sketches of body organs and was realizing more and more, the large figure’s anatomy is off in some places.   Though I lean towards abstraction in general, cause I don’t want realism. Right now, I do want precision because human anatomy in its simplicity and complexity is pretty wonderful. It really is like a little miracle.

While re-working the kidneys this afternoon, I’m reminded of milagros (Spanish for miracles). Milagros are small religious charms, used in Mexico and other areas of Latin America. They serve to petition saints for guidance, help and protection. Milagros are made in many symbolic forms, from ears and eyes, legs and arms to angels and animals. These religious charms get tacked on to the surface of altars and statues of saints, crosses…etc. They act as prayer reminders or as thanks to a particular saint for prayers answered.

I have a few wooden crosses with many milagros attached to them.  Here are a pair of silver kidneys. And beneath it is my study of the kidney.

kidney "milagros"

my kidney "sketch"

It appears to me, despite my research and wondering out into other cultures and studies, I come back to what is most familiar.  In this case…folk art familiar. And then I put it out again, with a significant personal twist.

ear "milagro"

my inner ear drawing

Above is an ear milagro and beneath it is my inner ear drawing. I call the little work Oido, Spanish for ear.  Check out that ear drum and cochlea…such great shapes. I added the little form to the face of my large painting as an after thought.  I couldn’t, after really looking at the intricate parts of this mechanism, leave it out.

"milagro" of arm and hand

my arm and hand finished painting

Despite all the intellectual research and connection that I shared some of in an→ earlier post,  here/now I make one very direct and simple visual association.   I know I saw it before, but why didn’t I think it was worth mentioning?

It is.

The tie-in to the sacred is key. The body = The Sacred.

cross with milagros

These milagros, little miracles, are the ground work, probably for most of the art I have made in the last couple of years. I realized this so clearly today, I  had to make note of it.