giving and receiving (the art of cooperation and conflict)

Organizing notes and/or…
What I learn (try to figure out and detail) along the way in my study about obesity and the microbiome/gut bacteria …

Newborns, breast milk and HMO’s…

Galactose (molecule) is one of the sugars (a building block for HMO) found in breast milk.

Oligosaccharide from the Greek, oligos, a few, and sácchar, sugar.
Human milk oligosaccharide (HMO) are sugar molecules found only in human breast milk. HMO’s, while indigestible in a newborn, encourage the growth of health promoting bifidobacteria. Think: fertilizer designed for fitness enhancing microbes.

Stuff I find particularly interesting…
Breast feeding promotes a diversity in the microbiome that may set up an individual for protection against future obesity (amongst other things).
Breast milk varies over the period of lactation and the growth of bacteria varies in different populations.

And then there are the short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) …

Butyrate (a most essential SCFA necessary for homeostasis)

SCFA are another product of microbial (friendly gut bacteria) fermentation (of indigestible dietary fibers). This source energy for the cells lining the colon kill pathogens and protects against dysbiosis.

Included in my drawing are the 3 most common examples of SCFA’s which are butyrate↑, propionate↓ and acetate↓↓.

(Yes…fun to draw out  and paint all the ball and stick models.)

Propionate (Greek protos, first and pion, fat) produces glucose in the liver.

 

Acetate (taken up by astrocytes/glial metabolism)

Takeaways…
The right food early in life trains the immune system via the microbiome.
Changes in diet (those SCFA) drive changes in gut microbes. Fiber rich foods (plant based) allow host and microbes to have mutualistic relationship (cooperation).
Microbes harm and/or help us (the host).
Junk food allows for conflict (harm).

…and then there’s hormones…

Insulin (Ribbon diagram) allows the body to use glucose for energy or store for future use.

Ghrelin (ribbon diagram) in the stomach – stimulates appetite and promotes fat storage.

Questions…
Does some food fuel pathogens and promote their growth?
Does some food inhibit or kill pathogens?
Do pathogens play a role in obesity?

#PortraitOfVeronica #GottaHaveArt #ThisStuffIsFrickinComplicated

ps. The title of the post came after a Yoga class the day after the holiday.


©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

a city, modified: 20 years of modified arts

A City, Modified, is a cross between historical exhibition and invitational. The show surveys Modified Arts’ origin in 1999 to the present day and explores the galleries’ history as a music venue and arts space in downtown Phoenix through photographs and historical memorabilia. It is also an invitation to a selection of artists that have had an impact on the space and the arts community in Phoenix over the last two decades.

Participating Artists Include:
Annie Lopez
Brent Bond
Casebeer
Christine Cassano
David Dauncey
Daniel Funkhouser
James Angel
Jerry Jacobson
Douglas Miles
John Randall Nelson
Laura Spalding Best
Malena Barnhart
Monica Aissa Martinez
Rembrandt Quiballo
Sergio Aguirre

Who: Modified Arts
What: A City, Modified
When: November 15 – December 14th
Opening Reception: Third Friday, November 15th, 2019 6pm-9pm
Closing Reception: First Friday, December 6th, 2019 6pm-9pm
Where: Downtown Phoenix, Roosevelt Row

m/a
407 E Roosevelt, Phoenix AZ 85004
Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday 9a-5p, Saturday 12-4p
or by appointment at info@modifiedarts.org
more → www.modifiedarts.org
Facebook invite

Congratulation Modified!


Here are 2 of my memories (in photo)…

2010 / Converging Trajectories, Crossing Borders to Build Bridges

2011 / What Goes On and What Takes Place

 

speaking of diversity…

I’m still in the GI tract, looking at the microbiome as it relates to obesity.

Energetically, I’m in the solar plexus, the space below the rib-cage and behind the naval. This area governs digestion and metabolism. (Note: I have a very different picture of this nowadays.) Symbolically, it is the center holding our willpower and self-esteem. One of my Yoga teachers refers to it as the city of jewels.

Out of balance, the area can carry either excess energy or an energy deficiency. A balanced solar plexus can wake up ones sense of personal power.

The area holds (for you) a bright yellow light. #Fire

I think about optimal well-being which includes the whole person … physical, mental and social well-being (body, spirit and mind).

Here are a few personal details about my cousin …

Veronica has 3 children. They hold space in the composition ↑ as sperm meets egg (3x). Her children are adults (she’s a grandmother).

The day I photograph her, I note long fingernails and dark purple nail-polish. This last week I give the study a manicure and pedicure.

Veronica has numerous tattoos. Three flowers ( 2 blue and 1 🌸) are added to the top, left foot (our right, her left).  FYI…the immune system keeps those tats in place!

Puncture the skin and immune cells kick in. Macrophages (remember the big eater) work to gobble up invaders, in this case, the ink particles. Yes, they hold the color in place! Should the dermal macrophages be destroyed, new ones step in and continue holding that ink. The purple floating shapes ↑ to either side of the flowers – represent this (cool) hand-over system.

For years I’d not seen the small pastel of Veronica as an infant. It was on the wall during our photo shoot. I include a portrait of the portrait ↑ in the drawing as I consider a newborn’s microbiota.

Do you know breast fed babies have a more diverse microbiome while formula fed babies have a less diverse microbiome? Human milk oligosaccharide (HMO) is particularly interesting. The energy rich substrate, individual to each mother, varies throughout the period of lactation. Infants can’t absorb HMO… but microbes can.

I don’t clearly understand until now, how a high-diversity of microbes might lead to better health conditions for an individual. I mostly focus on who we are feeding – the good microbes and/or the bad microbes. And while this does play into things, so does supporting a well diverse population of microbes. With diversity, perhaps no one microbe can cause a problem (reduction in pathogenic infection).

And speaking of diversity…

Each time I’ve spoken to Veronica, she brings up the word diversity. She’s indicates in one way or another, the importance of inclusion and the recognition of a variety of individuals in terms of personal and work environments, organizations…etc. There is so much more to this idea, she says, so much more….

Veronica will be finishing up school very soon and probably a new career adventure to follow soon after.

I’ve completed 11 life-size humans – diverse in so many ways. When I am done with this one – it will be #12!Thanks for trusting me to bring your uniqueness into the mix Veronica.


Some thoughts…
This work in particular is valuable to me because right now I look at obesity (and the microbiome) through the lens of Evolution Medicine. I am particularly drawn to the idea of adaptation and how the concept applies to health and wellness.  Though always aware, I am even more clear on how everything we do has a cost and/or trade-off.  I’m more inclined to consider how this applies specifically to the care of the human body and the individual.

My understanding of the microbiome feels like I’m working a complicated puzzle. Things come together one piece at a time. At this point, I almost feel like I could go back to each drawing and add a microbial element.

What the body holds is incredible…I understand  more and more one human study at a time.

#GottaHaveArt


©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

bugs, seashells, skulls

This semester the majority of the students use a variety of Micro-pens. Note the line work in this assignment, some indicates structure while some indicates texture.

The subject matter is a natural and complex form. Students used to draw only shells. A few years ago I brought in bugs. This semester, thanks to the PC biology department, we have small animal skulls. The composition is to include 2-3 objects and students must balance out positive space with negative space.

While I would like each student to include 1 of each (bug, shell and skull) in their composition, I let them pick and choose. I’m not surprised some students don’t like the bugs. I’m very surprised others don’t care for the skulls. And I understand why most of them love the variety in the seashells.

Santan focuses on a star fish.

Drawing students learn the skill of observation. Using a magnifying lens, they look closely at the form and surface of their complex object. Marker (no eraser) forces them to work slow and careful. They learn to focus. They learn patience, commitment and discipline. During critique we talk about how these traits show up in the work.

The assignment goes well. Here are a few of the studies.

Santana’s What Am I Looking at?

Angel, She Sells

Luis’s Land and Sea

Seb’s Sirens Song

Leo’s Hopper Goes to the Beach

Grace’s SeaShells

Pedro’s Dinner Time

Ilse’s Monsters

Aine’s She Sells Sea Shells

Eman’s Food Chain

Luka’s Linear Evolution

Luka’s Speleothems

Fernando’s Skulls Overboard

Early in the semester, students tell me about Inktober. In general, I think the idea behind this is one ink drawing a day throughout the month of October. This study takes at least 4 days for the majority of the class. But it’s still a fine drawing for the month!  #inktober2019


The post includes only a few of the drawings. You can see all of the work on Thursday, November 7th, when Phoenix College (main campus) celebrates National STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) day.  Free and open to the public. You’re invited!
more

pretty close to a PSA …

2 things….
Last week I had a very quick (and very spontaneous) introduction to molecules. (Thanks Joseph!)  I returned to the studio loving the ball-and-stick sculpture-like forms, knowing  they’d show up in the current study (Portrait of Veronica).

and…
This week gut microbes ↓ enter the picture plane. And maybe…so does microbial imbalance aka dysbiosis.

Portrait of Veronica (lower edge of the life-size study)

Understanding Omeprazole is an antacid, I was never at ease hearing Veronica would be on it for the rest of her life.

Omeprazole is what is known as a Proton Pump Inhibitor. PPI’s are among the most widely used (prescription and over-the-counter) medications. They are linked with obesity (among other things). And long term use can be harmful.

I always planned to include something in the composition about antacids. I just had to find the right way to do it.

Enter: Molecules! ↓ Here is omeprazole. I like detailing the form and purposely choose sweet colors  (like candy which many antacids tend to resemble).

FYI, my source for information on antacids is Joe Alcock. If he’s involved, always know the microbiome is involved. He refers to gastric acid juice as the gatekeeper to the microbiome.

Consider stomach acid kills microbes that enter the gut along with food. When gastric acid output is blocked, say…by an antacid, understand the stability (balance) of microbiota is also altered. It appears good bacteria might be reduced while harmful (and opportunistic) bacteria remains.  (Gastric acid also supports absorption of calcium and B12.)

It’s complicated…
#SmallIntestinalBacterialOvergrowth #Dysbiosis #Inflammation #WeightGain

I take a minute to email Joe, who notes there are a few conditions for which life long omeprazole makes sense. For everyone else, he says, PPIs should be a very short term drug.  Read his post and find out why → Killer antacids

You’ll be seeing more molecules in my study…


©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

histology of the gut, horror vacui at its finest

Rafting the Colorado River a couple of years back, I remember looking at the surrounding walls of the magnificent Grand Canyon. Moving deeper into it, all the while wondering to which organ in the body could I compare the environment. You know … if one day I was to draw on the experience.

Interestingly, more than half the people on the trip were medical professionals. Daily conversation allowed for a variety of responses… lymphatic system, kidneys, adrenals…etc.

I was thinking intestine, more specifically large intestine. If I was there today it could be the entire digestive system.


The last few weeks, I’ve put the portrait of Veronica aside to work a painting for an invitational exhibition. The small study helps me to work out an area of the larger portrait drawing where I struggle.

Collaging a map (of the Grand Canyon) onto canvas, I think about the topography of the GI tract. And looking at histology of the gut, I think horror vacui at its finest!

These multi-colored and multi-finger like ↑ forms are my version of enterocytes.
What: Enterocyte (a cell)
How and Where:  Line up and form intestinal epithelium, (inner surface of the intestine).
Think barrier, absorbing beneficial stuff (like sodium, calcium, magnesium, zinc…B12…water…etc…so much more than this but I want record of a few things).
And they restrict entry of harmful stuff (like microbes/pathogens and toxins).
They have an endocrine role (secrete hormones).

Can you tell my interpretation ↑ of this structure of tissues, in the abdominal cavity, hints at gut inflammation? Note the abdominal fat (visceral fat at top and bottom edge) also forms a barrier (surrounds and seals).
What: Adipose tissue (Visceral fat/VAT)
Where: Within abdominal cavity
Why: Fat protects organs by trapping and killing escaping bacteria.
Endocrine organ secretes protein hormones.

Casein, egg tempera, collage on canvas, 19.5 x 26.5″ (WIP)

The composition includes enterocytes, adipocytes, t-cells, macrophages bacteria, viruses…and other stuff…

Painting with casein and egg tempera, I can’t help but think about the food we eat. Casein and egg yolk are binders (adhesives), mixed with pigment, they are my medium. Milk and egg, do they stick…to the gut too?

#wip #horro vacui


Earlier in the month, working the portrait of Veronica with its focus on the microbiome and obesity, I wanted to set the lining of the intestines into the composition ↓. I have to be honest; I kept losing my sense of the space. I needed a map of some sort. I also needed to understand some things → Fat fights back.

So physical…this stuff… and wonderful. It seems to me… the body…might be trying to protect itself (you and me). #sosubtle


©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

food. who’s in control?

The question: Can gut microbes influence our eating behavior?

Veronica sends a short list of the food and drink she particularly enjoys (and on occasion craves).  Meanwhile I figure out the composition.  I weigh choice and consequence.

Microbiome. Healthy food / Unhealthy food. I weigh the food that feeds good microbes and promotes health (plant-based, fiber-rich) against the food that feeds bad microbes and supports dysbiosis (microbial imbalances that drive disease).

A few things I learn along the way: Less diversity of the microbes in our gut can lead a person to obesity. A healthy microbiome can protect us from infection and disease and produces vitamins (B12 and K).

I know (cuz I draw) there is limited space in the gut. I also know microbes complete for the space. Microbes use it = Microbes use us.  Microbes compete with each other and they compete with us (their host) for space and resources.

What if each and every individual’s gut microbes have needs and wants of their own ? This sort of changes the picture, doesn’t it? And you thought self-control (or lack of) was the main thing driving your food choice and intake.

This whole thing starts to make a little more sense as I draw and paint the food on Veronica’s list, into the composition. I can’t help but think about all the apartments going up in Phoenix and all the growing city traffic. Microbes, like Phoenicians, might be trying to figure out how to survive and thrive in dense environment. #competition

Below are some of the images and notes I post into social media. And as usual…the food pulls in the people (comment threads, not included, were interesting to read).

Pepsi 🥤 has 41g of sugar (and 38mg of caffeine). A Snickers bar 🍫 has 27g of sugar and 14g of fat. Who do you think craves sugars and fats more? You or the microbes  that live in ur gut? #Conflict between #host (you and me) and #microbe (our bugs!). #obesity

I read somewhere that the grilled cheese🧀 🥪  might be the most popular sandwich in the world. 😮 Could this be true!? You tell me. They always remind me of my grandmother who used to take me to a local diner to enjoy one. She loved ❤️ a good grilled cheese 🧀 🥪 . All I’m going to say is that they change your gut flora. All dairy changes the gut flora. It has something to do w short chain fatty acids (lipids). Do your microbes 🦠 love 🧀 🥪?? I bet some of them do. #oozycheese btw…all food changes the gut flora. #bread and #butter #noprocessedcheese

I wrote about the benefits of 🥑 in my last study and they’re plenty. In this current study about obesity and microbes 🦠 – things get complicated. 🥑 are unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). It feels to me like the benefit might be unique to each individual depending on their gut microbes. 🥑 satiate and if everything is balanced they can suppress hunger and increase meal satisfaction. But if it’s true that microbes 🦠 can hijack our neuronal systems 😮 and our 🧠 brain (I 👂 they can!) well then this changes things. Do microbes 🦠 compete w us for food and energy? It’s the question here. Anyway- I ❤️ 🥑. #appetitehormones #WhoIsInCharge? Is there anyone who doesn’t love a good guacamole?!

🥩 The art of the red meat 🥩 (in this case medium rare). What if 🥩 red meant promoted the growth of bad 🦠 bacteria? And what if we benefitted from eating less of it? This is how I 👁 it (as I ✏️ it). Think about the space in your gut 🤔. It’s limited, right? And tunneled and narrow and twisty turny… Why would we put something hard to digest into our gut to take up space (for a good amount of time) when we can eat more fiber-rich and plant-based 🌱 food that promoted microbes beneficial to our gut? Things could move easily, quickly, take the turns smoothly…or not. Just something light and easy to think about. 🤔 WhatKind? HowMuch? HowOften?

Clementines. 🍊 Oranges! Fruits feed good bacteria 🦠 . 🍊 🍊🍊 in particular have some sort of soluble fiber our gut bacteria 🦠 ferments. One of the byproducts of this process is a fatty acid called #butyrate. Butyrate helps maintain the cells that line our GI tract. And that’s a good thing! You know the soluble fiber is mostly in the stuff that divides the segments of the orange…so eat them all up. Good stuff! #ShortChainFattyAcid #VitaminC #AnOrangeTreeGrowsInPhoenix 🍊🦠

The last thing I draw on the list is 🍺. Veronica likes a German wheat beer called Hefeweizen. I played w the logo Hefe and turned it into the word Jefa. #Jefa, Spanish slang indicating the female #boss.  She is! Ok, now back to the microbes…🤔 Who craves the 🍺? You? or your microbes 🦠? Which microbes? #VitamiminB #Polyphenols Your body lets you know. #OrDysbiosis

Do microbes influence your eating behavior?

#obesity #microbiome  #conflict #cooperation



©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

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

tempera @ crystal bridges

In February I receive an email from Assistant Curator Jen Padgett at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

I’m curating a small focus show about tempera painting and was drawn toward your Male Torso – Anterior View and Female Torso – Anterior View, which were in our State of the Art exhibition.

I wondered if you might have any comments about your use of casein in the work, or any of the other materials. We’re planning to install the paintings in a section that looks at the variations of tempera including casein, and how that is used with other materials such as gouache, etc. The overall goal of the exhibition is to engage our visitors with the complexity of materials and techniques and I think your works do that beautifully.

Before a planned phone call at the end of the week, I send Jen process shots ↓ of both of the works. I list all the material including casein and egg tempera.

Male Torso in process. Mixed media includes Casein, Egg Tempera, Gesso, Gouache, Ink, Micaceous Iron Oxide on Canvas
Size: 45 x 35½ inches

Jen tells me about the exhibit. I enjoy our conversation about materials and also share with her some history about both casein and egg tempera.

Today she sent installation ↓ shots!

Tempera, one of several exhibitions on view now at Crystal Bridges Museum, runs to October 14, 2019.

Jen, thank you for the photos. The space looks beautiful!

Installation photos courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum

more about → Crystal Bridges


© All Rights Reserved by Monica Aissa Martinez