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

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.

microscopic organisms in my studio (here, there and everywhere)

In a recent interview Nicole begins by asking, “Who are you and what do you do?” I wonder if she knows I consider these questions all the time.

Who am I? What am I? What is this world? What is my relationship to it?

This summer, as artist-in-residence at the Tempe Center for the Arts, I study and draw out  the incredible human brain. My answer (to the set up of questions) then, could go something like – I am a nervous system. I am neurons and glia firing up a brain. 

As of recent I study microorganisms: bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea and protists. Today – I am an (human) organism made up of (hosting) micro (too small to see without magnification) organisms.

Note: My series of compositions include external and internal views and are ginormous considering…

In the course of this current interest (more like revelation) in microorganisms, I come across a virus that takes me back to the residency research where I look at the healthy brain and the diseased brain (In general I looked at Dementia, in particular I tried to understand Alzheimer’s Disease).

Meet M13 (Munich13), a bacteriophage (or simply a phage).

External (proteins)

A phage is a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria. M13 invades E Coli.

M13 catches my attention when I come across an article explaining how the virus dissolves (in laboratory studies) amyloid-beta plaques and tao tangles.  #combatneurodegenerativedisease  #Alzheimer’s  #Parkinson’s. #Huntington’s
#Creutzfeldt-Jakob

Here (↑ ↓) you have my best interpretation of the M13 filamentous bacteriophage.

Internal structure (composed of a single stranded DNA molecule encased in a thin flexible tube (protein coat)

…Life (microscopic organisms) in the studio (here, there and everywhere).

#microorganisms #microbiota #humanmicrobiome #weareone

archaea/m.smithii – old/new

Methanobrevibacter smithii, AKA M. smithii, member of Archaea domain, I don’t know of you before this. I feel bad considering you are descendants of the oldest life in existence.

Archaea derives from the Greek word achaios, meaning ancient or primitive.

M. smithii look how beautiful you are…

The single-celled microorganism Methanobrevibacter smithii,  the most abundant  archaeon in the human gut, aids in digestion of complex sugars. These microbes are a hydrogenotroph (consumes hydrogen) and a methanogen (produces methane). Yes, they are manufacturers of gas!

Methano refers to its connection with methane, and brevibacter means short rod. There appears to be an association between gas production and body weight. M. Smithii may influence weight gain and loss (anorexia) as well as constipation.

These microorganisms are prokaryotes having no cell nucleus (or any other membrane-bound organelle). Archaea, in general, are unique in that they have a distinct biochemistry.

About archaea and life…
They’ve been around for about 4 billion years! They’re resilient, truly thriving between order and chaos, proving life creative – even in time of crisis.

#history #inthebeginning #theytookabreath

 

white becoming white

Candida albicans, member of the Saccharomycetaceae (yeast) family as well as the human microbial community, I especially enjoy painting you fungus. I wasn’t planning on it, but maybe I’ll draw another member of your fungi kingdom.


The word Candida comes from the Latin candidus, meaning white. Albicans derives from the Latin word albicō, meaning becoming white. White becoming white.

Man, are we loaded with bugs! I never gave this stuff a thought…by stuff I mean the variety of microorganisms, including candida, holding microscopic space in the human body.

This fungus is most commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract and mouth (in at least 80% of the worldwide population). In some circles Candida aids in food digestion and absorption, while in other circles (the out of control circles?) it’s known as an opportunistic pathogen.

Candida albicans under the microscope.

The fungus (yeast) is naturally  found in the human body, primarily in the intestine, colon and mouth. Out of control, it can attack skin and mucous membranes. It can also travel through  the blood stream and affect kidneys, heart, lungs, throat and heart-valves. (Is this what it means to be metabolically flexible?)

cellular structure.

C. albicans is an eukaryotic organism. It’s structure includes a cell wall (which seems an important aspect to this microorganism), nucleus, ribosomes and mitochondria. I don’t know what it means when I read hyphae sense reproductive units from a distance and grow towards them but it makes me think of an electric pull.

I appreciate the lace-like quality of the organic form. The long branches, called hyphae (web) with their circular budded tip, appeal to me. This subject-matter is visually elegant and playful. Candida itself, complicated.

Here is what I wonder:
Candida albicans are commensal. We eat at the same table? I take this to mean they consume what the human host consumes. Yes? Or do they eat what the host discards?  Mutually beneficial?
Is C. albicans overgrowth always seen as an attack on the body? Can the out of control set up be a warning sign of another imbalance (other microbes) in the human body? 

#Microbiota #NewToMe #LoveDrawingMicroorganisms

twisted and seedy bacteria – you are streptococci

I work H. Pylori bacteria a few weeks ago so why do I feel the need to mess with Streptococcus? Bacteria is bacteria – or is it? Maybe it’s all about location…

Strepto from Ancient Greek: streptós, means easily twisted, pliant. Coccus from Modern Latin: coccus, from Ancient Greek: kókkos, translates to grain, seed, berry.

My painting goes through too many mutations for several reasons including that at times I don’t care for the look and feel of the surface, the heavy line work is not a preference and again, I discover filters.

Streptococci (plural) forms in pairs or chains. My compositions focus on their spherical quality, otherwise you’d see connecting chain-like or bead-like forms moving across the picture plane.

I work with smooth mylar to play with the translucent quality and glossy surface. What am I thinking to lay in a gesso black ground? Everything goes opaque, contrast is high and I lose a natural lightness. I rework and overwork.

Frustrated, it feels right to cut the bacteria out and seal it into a petri-dish. I enjoy holding it (with my cotton gloves).

The internal structure of streptococcus bacteria.

The external structure of streptococcus bacteria.

A few weeks ago a friend comments about streptococcus bacteria and its relationship to heart problems (aortic valve). It leaves an impression. I know then I’ll draw the bacteria.

Streptococci can live in the mouth, nose, throat, upper respiratory tract, intestine, genital tract, and on the skin. Particular strains can cause pink eye, meningitis, endocarditis and necrotizing fasciitis. Its trouble causing span feels much too broad, from the not so serious to the deadly serious. It surprises me to learn its nonmotile. It doesn’t move?! (Unlike H. Pylori with its flagella.)

I do move…
Yesterday, I don’t like these studies. Today, is a brand new day and I like them after all. Next: Fungi.


PS: I can’t write very much about the microorganisms I study. While I understand some things in general, I don’t understand things in particular. It’s a whole new (microscopic) world.

I look at microbiota – in hope of gaining insight into the human microbiome.  I hear microbial cells, in and on our body, outnumber our human cells 10-1 (statistics seem to vary – what do I know).  But what does this all mean in terms of our genes? What rules – the human or the microbial?

The most valuable thing that happens as I continue to work is I make connections to things I understand or thought I understood.  Let’s see how it works itself out of me.

In the meantime, I love the tiny stuff I’m drawing. I just wish I’d gone bigger with the microorganisms. I tell my drawing students regularly – it’s easier to work large than it is to work small. Right now I feel like the latter is the only thing I know for certain (but this too can change).

gene with a protein coat

All living things need their instruction manual (even nonliving things like viruses) and that is all they need, carried in one very small suitcase.
L.L. Larison Cudmore

The capsid, a protein shell, holds DNA.

Epstein-Barr, a microscopic organism of the Virus family, A.K.A. EBVand most commonly known as the human herpesvirus.

The microscopic organism known to cause mononucleosis (glandular fever) is also associated to a variety of cancers, autoimmune diseases as well as neurological (brain) disorders.

Virus, from Latin, means slimy-liquid poison or poisonous-noxious liquid. Is there a need for this microscopic organism, that has to hijack living cells (ours!) to replicate itself, to exist? Every single time I look for information about EBV (or viruses in general) I feel myself go down a rabbit hole.

EBV (in petri-dish)

I want to draw…

I enjoy the variety of mark-making the slimy-liquid poison allows.
I do feel a need to keep the composition contained.

Structure of EBV (in petri-dish).

The final study expresses both external and internal structures of the virus. I set DNA inside the nucleocapsid (protein shell with a geometric design) and include the viral matrix (colorful clusters of more protein).

I take the design and play with it. All the while I wonder why a virus that appears to become more aggressive with time, still exists.

Gene with a protein coat – Organism at the edge of life…Did humans create you? Are humans strengthening you? Are you alive or not? Can we put an end to you? Will we put an end to you? When?