adipose tissue – studies

Adipocyte, I’m looking at your structure. You have everything I understand to be in a human cell plus added oil bodies or lipid bodies. Drawing you out to know you better, I layer the lipid droplets in yellow and white. Fun to resolve this portion of you. I use casein paint and ink but I might have worked with egg tempera. I bet a simple droplet of egg yolk could suffice.

Mixed media on Mylar

Adipose tissue, AKA body fat, located beneath the skin, around organs, between muscles, in bone marrow and in breast tissue. Can I really describe you as a major endocrine organ because…you produce hormones? Do I understand this correctly? I drew out all the major endocrine glands, do I go back to the series and add you now?

Adipocyte. Fat Cell

Adipocyte AKA Fat Cell

Adipocytes form several types of adipose tissue, at least 2 maybe 3.

One type: Brown adipose tissue (BAT) ↓
Brown adipose tissue, each of your cells includes several lipid droplets. And you hold many iron-containing mitochondria. Is this why you appear warm in color? Mitochondria, holders of energy (ATP), are the power-house of a cell. It is no wonder you consume energy and generate heat.

Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT)

Do you sit in the front and back of the neck and upper back? Between the shoulder blades? Around the kidneys? Anywhere else? And are you the baby-fat in a newborn?

Will you hang out and stay active as I get older? Please do! I need you for warmth and physical activity. I need you for my bones and for endurance.

Second type: White adipose tissue (WAT) ↓
White adipose tissue, I especially enjoy setting in your single lipid droplet (again, like dropping yolk to mix my egg tempera paint).  I pull out my thinnest brushes and sharpen all my pencils to be able to detail organelles into each of your cell’s periphery. You might be simple in design, though I find you more complicated.

White Adipose Tissue (WAT)

You have fewer mitochondria than brown fat. You store energy in case I overexert (and in case of starvation). You too help maintain my body temperature. Do you hold heat? Are you more like insulation? Padding? Are you mostly visceral fat? Might I find you inside my abdominal cavity and between my organs? You don’t have my permission to take over my liver or intestines. And don’t get too comfy with my heart or kidney’s either. You’re a little more troublesome, aren’t you? And what does it mean that you originate from connective tissue?

Maybe a 3rd type is beige fat?
Sooo…I hear white fat can brown with chronic cold exposure. While out on my morning run, I consider the probability. Not happening in Phoenix. Though a friend did just tell me about a local gym that supports a cold therapy.


A few weeks ago:
I have lunch with Joe, a doctor/educator from New Mexico. We meet to discuss the microbiome. He directs the conversation towards weight gain. He says, with no uncertainty, everyone will gain weight with age. He explains why he believes this to be true.

Joe talks about people and the relationship they have with their microbiome which involves both cooperation and conflict. I appreciate when he explains humans are an eco-system. He adds… a sometimes messy eco-system.

The stuff that stays with me:
Weight gain might not always be about discipline or lack thereof.
There might be something else at play in the gaining of weight.
Perhaps gut microbes influence eating behavior.

I sense Joe’s compassion for people dealing with weight issues.

Some play…
I take my drawings through a filter to contrast and simplify forms. Here is another view of the varying density of adipose tissue. #Ahh!Life!

#adipocytes #fatcells #adiposetissue #brownfat #whitefat #beigefat?
#subcutaneous #visceral #microbes


© All Rights Reserved by Monica Aissa Martinez

it was a toad after all

This week I paint a toad I’d met and photographed at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center. He’s a rescue. For the record, I’ve been calling him a frog.

Handsome, isn’t he?

Rescued Desert Frog Toad

This guy ↓ is painted on a small (12×12″) collaged panel using casein.

And only because I receive fresh… “freshest eggs the girls just laid”… eggs (Thanks Jasmine!), I complete the composition in egg tempera.

I miss painting with yolk! And yes, the fresher the egg, the silkier the yolk feels as it moves from brush to surface. The medium lends itself to this guy’s texture (which is why I understand he’s a toad and not a frog – #itsthetexture).

My first amphibian study. Maybe I’m finished with this composition – maybe I’m not. 


Filters. Fun.

This frog toad has been in the queue since last summer He brings with him the energy of rebirth adaptability and renewal regeneration.

Frogs Toads have fairly simple skeleton structure. They don’t have ribs. The pelvis can slide up and down the spine. And they don’t have necks. No head turning for this guy. 5 digits on back legs, 4 up front.

 

Speaking of egg tempera…”Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is showing both Male Torso and Female Torso in their current exhibition which runs through October 14th. If you’re in Bentonville… 
More info → Tempera


© All Rights Reserved by Monica Aissa Martinez

grounding

I couldn’t help but think about grounding as I set out to run yesterday morning. The idea was on my mind and consequently in my feet, as they landed, hitting the earth with each stride. Walking and running are two activities that ground me on a regular basis.

Yoga takes it another step (no pun intended) and grounding becomes rooting. Standing in Tadasa, the whole body is taken into account. Tadasana, AKA Mountain pose, directs the feet to touch the earth, planting (rooting) evenly and firmly. The posture centers one into the body. Stabilized, physically and mentally, the body can now move into other postures with a particular focus and freedom. Other standing postures like Vrksasana (Tree Pose), which explores balance, and Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) which brings attention to feet, legs and hips, also support grounding.

This morning while completing my post, I realize more, especially as I consider degrees of health and wellness. Do I take touching the earth with my feet for granted?

I think about people who are bedridden. They don’t easily, if at all, touch ground. And what about people who can’t move much and are on the second floor of a building? They might not often even see ground. Do they remember?

What if the earth is a treatment surface spanning across the globe – helping with health and well-being? What if touching ground (or rooting into the earth) is as beneficial to you and me as clean air, nutritious food, sunshine, physical activity and water.

Human body touch ground. Human body touch earth. #IsMedicine
Stand on the earth today, take root and know you are present, here and now.

I’m almost complete with Portrait of Carolyn (Carolyn, the person, is doing great, btw.) I am still considering the title and want to add the word ecology to it. I read in my notes where I wrote about the body being a private, public, social and biological statement…I have a few more elements to set into the earth and sky.

On a separate note… I think about the people whose feet don’t touch the earth often and they may not remember. Today, I root into the ground and honor it for them.


© All Rights Reserved by Monica Aissa Martinez

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

laying out the body human

I carefully outline Carolyn’s form. The first internal organ to come on to the picture plane is the liver. The organ’s communication feels strongest when I set up to paint.

About the liver…
Consider it has over 500 functions! You could not survive without it. The busy organ aids in digestion and metabolism. It filters your blood (1.5 quarts every minute). It breaks down fat (by producing bile) to release it as energy. It also breaks down meds, drugs, alcohol, caffeine…etc. It takes the heat for you every single day! And it stores vitamins, iron and glucose (sorting and hoarding) for a rainy day.

In Chinese medicine the liver is yin (gallbladder is yang). It is like the general of an army. It opens into the eyes, directs the tendons, reflects in the nails, governs anger and houses the ethereal soul. Do you crave sour food? Your liver might be telling you it needs an extra boost.

The Nahuatl understand it to hold one of three vital forces. Ihiyotl governs ones passion, sentiment and vigor. The Ancient Egyptians also believe it seats the emotions. Necessary in the after-life, they preserve it upon death, for safe travel.

I set the notable liver and then I place the heart. Another time I’ll tell you about the Tonalli, another of the vital forces to the Nahuatl.

liver, heart, stomach

I draw the stomach followed by the large intestine, small intestine and colon…

large and small intestines

I detail left breast tissue and right, move to clavicles, arm and hand bones, pelvis, legs and feet bones.

mammary glands

Thyroid (upper blue area in neck) and thymus (lower blue area above heart)

I place the thyroid. The butterfly shaped gland always speaks to me in turquoise blue. At this point I make the heart bigger, overlay it with the thymus gland (also in turquoise) and as is usual when drawing the thymus, I tap mine in acknowledgment.

Spleen

Finally, I introduce the blood vessels and the beautiful lymphatic system into the composition. The latter directs me to outline and color in the spleen. While the spleen associates with the liver – as I paint, it is the most quiet of the organs.

I like the container-like quality about the form. Let’s see if I can keep it.

Detail – Liver

#WorkInProgress #YourOneSacredLiver


Side note:
Tucson Museum of Art’s Chief Curator, Julie Sasse, is bringing the TMA’s Latin American Art Patrons to the Phoenix Art Museum’s Teotihuacan exhibition next week. While they’re in town I’ll be hosting a studio visit for them.

A good way to begin the new year…

portrait of carolyn – body female

It’s late July when after taking care of the various recommended health screenings, my friend Carolyn has a biopsy. She calls to tell me she’s diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer.

Stage zero! Stage zero? What does this mean? In the course of our conversation I feel myself in repeat mode…Stage zero! Stage zero? 

Diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), she explains the cancer cells are contained. They’ve not spread outside of the ducts or lobules into surrounding breast tissue.

Carolyn, a visual artist, problem solves. Research, discipline and commitment are all part of the creative process in the studio. She now directs these well-honed skills towards creating balance in her health and wellness. She chooses to clean up her system. For Carolyn, this means going vegan.

She surrounds herself with an integrative medical team including her regular primary care physician who is a D.O. (internal medicine), a medical oncologist, a cancer surgeon, a plastic surgeon, a radiation oncologist, a naturopathic physician, a physical therapist, a lymphedema specialist and she brings in a licensed acupuncturist.

August 23 she undergoes a 5 1/2 hour surgery for stage zero breast cancer followed by  a traditional course of radiation which she completes November 6th. Carolyn opts out of the 5 year hormone (suppressing) therapy that often follows radiation. 

I photograph and outline her body the following Saturday afternoon. I return to my studio and Carolyn heads to the Grand Avenue Street Festival.

Carolyn is open about her medical history and consequently I know a fair amount…of interesting things. Her medical records are impressive. They are carefully organized with an object-like quality almost like the cut-outs she collects to work her drawings. Still, I never expected to draw her.

Back in the studio, it’s been a while since I work out a full-scale human. In the interim I’ve learned much more about body organs and systems. And I crack the door and peek into microorganisms and the human microbiome. I am curious to see how the latter will enter the picture plane.

As I work, I recall a few years back, a conversation with Carolyn about the ileum (highlighted below ↓ in orange). It’s a space in the small intestine where the body stores Vitamin B12. I’m fascinated that such an area exists. #thebodyamazing

Carolyn takes B12 regularly these days.

In the small intestines you’ll find the ileum. To the left is the cecum (the start of the large intestine) and below it is the appendix. Lower right corner is the edge of the rectum.

I lay out the structure as I consider the narrative of this new work. It is a very good time to talk about women’s health and wellness.

Work in Progress Portrait of Carolyn (on Arches Hot Press) 7×4′

A body human: portrait of the private and the public, the social and the biological.


Carolyn is an artist who lives in Phoenix, AZ. I know she’ll appreciate me telling you she grew up in Washington, outside of Seattle. She is married to a good guy. Brian surprised (and impressed) me when he handed me an article about the benefits of cilantro.
Oh…and cats! they live with lots of cats (maybe 4).

12 weeks – neuron to mandorla

Artists-in-Residence:
We re-organize work-spaces Thursday, at the Tempe Center for the Arts, preparing for the closing celebration of our summer artist residency Friday evening.

Twelve weeks – they fly!

Crossing paths with the many people at TCA including employees, docents and guests (many guests from around the world!) is one of this residency’s perks. I especially enjoy getting to know and work alongside artists Kyllan Maney and Bobby Zokaites.

Kyllan’s Radial Patterns are full of spiraling detail. I’m impressed by the relaxed, yet quick pace at which she moves. The generous Kyllan (she shares a lot with me) has a most notable ability to bring together community.

Bobby’s nature is full of curious and intelligent play. His color scheme for his many compositions is influenced by Dr. Suess. We spend many afternoons talking and cover everything from the elements of design to the business of art. I watch as he constructs his robotic designs. And for the record, I envy his ability to construct a cool sentence.

The three of us connect on a few occasions talking politics – history and world events. And art.

My work: 12 weeks from the Neuron to Mandorla

Understanding the healthy brain seems necessary to understand the brain with dementia. I first study the neuron and in this I discover a variety of supporting glia.  Looking at all the various parts of the brain, I also emphasize and draw the hippocampus and I isolate and draw the motor and sensory cortex.

The Homunculus – Photographed by Tricky Burns

In June I come across an article linking mitochondrial dysfunction to Alzheimer’s Disease.   I feel sad to know the form I tend to favor in a cell is one of the first to redirect in AD. The mitochondria ↓ are the powerhouses of a cell and produce about 90% of the chemical energy needed for the cell’s survival.

Mitochondria

Last week I read about the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)  in Alzheimer’s disease. Consider the ER ↓ like a road system moving into and throughout a city allowing for transportation of goods. Within the cell these passageways allow proteins (“the goods”) to move from the ribosomes (red ↓ dots below).

Based on work I complete a few years back, I know about unfolded or misfolded proteins. Now I make their connection to the amyloid plaques in AD.

Endoplasmic Reticulum with Ribosome

My first study in this residency introduces neurons and microglia. My final study in the residency has me return to the neuron. This time it is a diseased and dying neuron surrounded by amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

dying neuron drawing in progress (front of drawing)

completed dying neuron (Back of drawing)

The completed drawing of a dying neuron appears like a sacred mandorla holding space where opposing worlds and forces meet. A subtle (not so subtle) location where heaven and earth, the divine and the human interact.

The residency is over – the work continues.


A special thanks to gallery director Michelle Dock and all the crew (Tricky, Brady and Anthony) at the Tempe Center for the Arts. Thanks to all the docents who shared personal stories with me. You do a fine job of sharing the work with the public.

Thanks again to Kyllan and Bobby, my fellow resident artists. I hope you both know how much your hearty laughter served me this summer.


The Artist-in-Residence is over but draw: the art of curiosity and innovation continues to Sept 1st at TCA.

Mom, who had not seen dad’s study, saw it yesterday.