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

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).

macrophage – large. eating. cell.

Laying out and studying a white blood cell called a macrophage (Greek makrós – large, phagein – to eat).

macrophage

Big eater, what’s your specialty?

Macrophage, your lot belongs to the immune system. You are King of the Phagocytes. Phagocytes are cells that protect the body by absorbing/eliminating harmful particles, bacteria and dead or dying cells. M1 macrophages attack invaders (microbes) by creating an area of inflammation around them. Perhaps you keep pathogens from spreading? M2 macrophages decrease inflammation and encourage tissue repair.

Side note…
Based on this, can I make 2 simple assumptions? Can I deduce chronic inflammation signifies organ or tissue has been invaded by a pathogen or there is injury?

Macrophage, you can take up residence in specific organs. For example, they call you Microglia in the CNS,  you are a Kupffer cell in the liver, and Adipose tissue macrophage in Adipose tissue. And other macrophages, like scavengers, you wander the body cleaning it up.

You remove dying or dead cells and cellular debris by engulfing pathogens and digest/destroying them. Sometimes a pathogen sabotages your process and decides to live inside of you. In the case of the latter, the immune system doesn’t have a clue (or does it?) as the invader begins to replicate itself.

macrophage with bacteria and debris

I know you a little better because I’ve drawn you. You are as intimidating as you are beautiful.


Postscript:
Right now I am looking at the relationship between gut bacteria ( the microbiome) and adipose tissue. Here now enters the immune system. The reason I took the time to draw out and investigate the macrophage (I don’t pretend to understand.) is because I made a connection to the microglia in the brain.
I was studying the brain (My father lives with Alzheimer’s Disease.) last summer. I keep thinking and saying I will go back to the brain when I finish whatever I am currently working on…but as it is…it really is all connected.
#SmallPictureIsBigPicture #Connections #Art #Life #Science


©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

portrait of veronica – new work

I don’t talk about this too much (if at all) but I do believe all of our organs are in constant communication with each other…and with us. Well…they’re not really separate from us. Nor are we separate from our environment…nor from each other.


As many times as I’ve drawn the skeletal system, I feel I should have it memorized by now. I don’t. Every body is unique.

Next month will be 4 years since Veronica had bariatric surgery.

I still have the x-ray she sent me of her stomach, post surgery.  I didn’t (and still don’t) recognize the organ though I recognized surrounding tissue. Within minutes of her sending the photo, my cousin and I were on the phone talking. I was surprised (and still am) to learn they’d removed 3/4 of her stomach. I remember 2 thoughts (I kept to myself): How is it possible? And what about the vagus nerve?! I still wonder about the latter.

That evening she told me about the numerous health complications being overweight can cause including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart failure. And we know obesity can lead to a number of cancers. I recall Veronica saying she was on the cusp of becoming diabetic.

She spoke about the side effects of her surgery as well as possible future complications including lockjaw and osteoporosis. Ouch! Is it worth the risk? She responded with a definitive Yes!

Not only was she concerned about her health, she also didn’t like the way she looked. It’s not me! It’s not me! 

Veronica used to call me because she was studying art history. We talked art. With this one phone call I learned a lot about my cousin. I’m sure neither of us imagined a study coming from the conversation. Though I did hold on to the x-ray.

Composition layout.

Fast forward to early this summer…
I mention in an earlier post, a meeting with Dr. Joe Alcock whose area of research is the microbiome. I tell him I want to learn more/work the subject. I’m thinking Microbiome 101 or a…let me introduce you to…sort of composition. Instead he suggests a focus on the obesity aspect.

Putting something into context is really the best way to learn.

Did I mention Veronica is almost done with school? And if things go her way,  she’ll be a surgical technician in the field of bariatrics. On a recent visit to El Paso, we set time aside to meet.  We talk and then I photograph and outline her.

Once again, she shares with me how it felt to be in a heavy body.  And then she moves on to describe the changes since the surgery; her feet are smaller and no more snoring. She happily notes her participation in kickboxing, cross-fit and yoga. I  ran! A 5K!  She has no regrets.

She tells me about the soda she occasionally allows herself. I have to be careful. Carbonation, she explains, expands the stomach. Yes, she’s gained back some of the weight.

What do you miss? What was your favorite (crave) food? Macaroni and cheese, Mexican style, canned milk, tomato sauce, butter and lots of cheese. This detail makes its way into the study.

What influences your food choices? Could it be microbes?

The plan includes a portrait of Veronica while I/you learn more about gut microbes and their link to obesity. (I’ve had a curiosity about microbes and auto-immune diseases for a good while.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines obesity as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 95 million adults (in the USA) live with obesity (47.0% are Hispanic, 46.8% non-Hispanic black, 37.9% are non-Hispanic whites and 12.7% non Hispanic Asians).


Joe connected with me during a time when my work was at Sky Harbor Airport.  We finally met in person during the run of my solo exhibition at the UofA medical school. He introduced me to the human microbiome. And because he comes from an evolutionary  medicine background, I am understanding the idea of adaptation, especially where health and disease are concerned. Joe believes fat has a defense function. It helps prevent bacteria from invading us. Obesity has more to do with our bodies relationship to the microbial world.

I have come to the conclusion that microbes are responsible for everything!

Did I mention I feel like I am in over my head…a good sign.

Joe Alcock has a podcast I access directly via SoundCloud → EvolutionMedicine. 
He has several episodes on the topic of obesity. The format usually includes a conversation between him and a colleague.  For me, this sort of back and forth talk makes the complicated stuff a little more accessible.


©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

art on a cellular level

What:    Art on a Cellular Level
Where:  Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Terminal 4, Level 3 Gallery
When:   Now!
Opened June 29, 2019 and runs through January 12, 2020

Portrait of Pillar

Arizona artists include:
Alan Bur Johnson, Jerome AZ
Bill Dambrova, Phoenix, AZ
Danielle Wood, Tempe, AZ
Jesse Armstrong, Gilbert, AZ
Kathryn Maxwell, Tempe, AZ
Mary Meyer, Gold Canyon, AZ
Monica Aissa Martinez, Phoenix, AZ

Science and art have a lot in common. Driven by curiosity, both fields involve exploration and discovery. Relying on observation, scientists and artists both attempt to understand and describe the world around us. They strive to see things in new ways and to communicate that vision.
While science may embody the rational, art expresses the aesthetic. This exhibition presents the work of seven artists that draw inspiration from the natural environment. With an interest in living organisms, these artists create works that celebrate the richness of life on our planet.

Artists, like scientists, utilize processes to make the unseen visible. They imaginatively represent things that we would need a microscope to see. From molecular structures of DNA to patterns of organic forms to the intricacies of human anatomy, these artists draw, paint, sculpt or construct Art on a Cellular Level.

Couple in front of the work of Bill Dambrova.

Over the 4th of July holiday while traveling, I enjoy watching people move through the space. ↑

I meet an emergency medic and his wife, who talk to me about the vegus nerve and the breath. ↓

The Phoenix Airport Museum is one of the largest airport art programs in the United States.
More → Sky Harbor Museum

no woman is an island

I don’t remember exactly (maybe 10 plus years ago?) when I showed the painting below at Estrella Mountain Community College. But I remember Cheryl.

The World Stage, a play in finite acts, 2004

Cheryl, who was a nursing student at the time, contacted me to ask about the painting. We went back and forth via email. She wrote to me about looking at it daily. Eventually she inquired about the price.

Fast forward to July 2019:

Hello, can you tell me If you have any upcoming exhibits in the Phoenix area? Do you have a studio that I can purchase prints from? I love the items from World Stage.  Thank you,  Cheryl A

Cheryl graduated and became a nurse. Eventually her children graduated from college. And recently she experienced a major loss in her life.

It was a pleasure meeting Cheryl all these years later. We spent a thoughtful afternoon together.

She will return to Estrella Mountain College in the Fall. This time she is in the role of educator. Full circle. And more new beginnings.

She now has The World Stage to look at everyday, along with a few other works.

Academia 2, Mixed media, hand colored Intaglio etching on Arches, 2008

I didn’t know what to expect when you walked into my studio yesterday Cheryl. Know that you have some of my favorite work that I’ve lived with for a good while. I wonder if you understand how I feel to know that someone thought about a painting for 10 plus years. I really had no idea the one painting was waiting for you.

Pride, the father of all the deadly sins, Casein and Egg tempera on canvas

La Persona, Mixed media, hand colored Intaglio etching on BFK paper, 2007

This morning in an email:

The Pride piece and The World Stage fit perfectly in my family room near my recliner. The colors are perfect and new for me.  I will place The World Stage over the “faux” fireplace. Looking at this piece gives me so much joy. It really is a lesson in patience. We can desire those little luxuries in life but not at the expense of our family’s needs first. It feels so good to finally “reward” myself for a job well done. It was worth the wait and has gained even more value to me.

Thank you so much Cheryl for a special afternoon. I’m really happy that you have my work in your home. I hope it continues to bring you joy. Good luck in the wholeness of your new life. I wish you all the very best.

Who Am I?, Mixed media, hand colored Intaglio etching on BFK paper, 2018


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

option+g+4 = ©

In June I receive an email:

Hello! I am a Pelvic Floor Therapist starting out on my own and am really interested in using your pelvis for a logo. I love the creativity side of the painting and getting away from the clinical/medical images I see so often. This work is multi dimensional and benefits from a soft personable approach. I feel this image automatically calms the parasympathetic nervous system and welcomes folks who are anxious about their situation and what is involved with their healing journey. Please let me know if this is something you would be interested in and how to move forward. I am available to talk if you would like to hear more about what I do and my vision! _________ I am in ________. A great country town with lots of art and culture!

I receive requests for use of my work fairly often. I’ve not allowed anyone the right to use it for marketing a business. This doesn’t mean I will not, it means I have not.

I always research before I respond. In the course of my usual checking, I find this person has already used an image and was coming to me after the fact. Surprised and disappointed, I contact the person and eventually learn my work was used on brochures, rack cards, business cards and a banner.

#@!!#!!

Some back and forth via email and phone – I had hopes the issue would have resolved by now.

#@!!#!!

I communicate with numerous professionals in our arts community and people’s response and direction are helpful to me. (Thanks Michelle, Rebecca, Ted and Reed) Everyone is appalled that my work was used without permission. I get legal counsel.

I organize a Single Use Agreement that includes a fee and terms for what has already been done. Initially I ask for 2 copies of all printed material and am informed it’s all been handed out except for the business cards. Eventually I ask for everything remaining, including banner, to be sent to me. This is where things sit today.

In the meantime, I wonder about moving forward with my blog.

The blog is a journal, holding record of my work. It’s part of how I organize and learn. It holds information and notes I return to often. I am an educator and it is a tool for both learning and teaching. It’s an enjoyable part of my process that forms connection. I have regular visitors. I’ve interacted with people all over the world. It’s brought opportunities and sales. I value and enjoy the medium.

As a visual artist, I am careful with photographing and documenting. I don’t know that I want to add a copyright and/or a watermark to compositions/images.

In all my years as a working artist, I’ve read books and attended lectures on legal matters concerning artist and their work. The internet changes things. You can find plenty of material on-line concerning rights and protection. Professional arts organizations offer artists insight and direction for best practice. But we need all proffesionals to practice this method too.

I had another issue come up early in the summer.  It was simple to resolve. The suggestion (from colleagues and articles) to the artist is to continue blogging because advantages outweigh disadvantages. I believe this to be true.

And I thought WordPress getting rid of the spell-check was my biggest challenge here.

Meanwhile…on the airplane heading back to Phoenix a few days ago, I begin reading a book I find in my father’s library. This Calvin and Hobbs comic strip falls out of it.  #INeedAFunny

BTW: In case you’re wondering, the option g 4 in the title are the keys you hit to create the ©.

Update: We settled the issue.


©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ