no woman is an island

It’s early December when I receive this email from Julie:
By any chance do you have any small works of just the brain? My sister is looking for a present for her son (my nephew) who is a neuro surgeon and I wanted to tell her about your work. If you had a small drawing of a brain, send me an image and the price and I’ll forward it on to her. Thanks!  Happy holidays! -Julie

You could guess things played out well. As I prepare to write, I ask Julie for story.

The way it came down, Julie explains, was that my sister asked in passing, Do you know by any chance an artist who paints or draws images of the brain? We want to give our son (Steven) and his wife Mary (also a surgeon) a gift that would be near to his practice (a neurosurgeon). 

Julie’s reply: Boy do I have an artist for you, and I just so happen to be organizing a solo exhibition of her work at TMA! Her work is wonderful and I think I saw a few brain images when I visited there recently. 

Julie Sasse is Chief Curator at Tucson Museum of Art. She’d made a studio visit in early November. We were going over the artwork for my upcoming September exhibition, in the museum’s → Kasser Family Wing of Latin American Art.  Wendy Carr, is Julie’s sister.

Julie continues, I really like my nephew (and his wife!). He and I went on a three-week trip to Chile the summer before he entered med school so we have a special bond—went to Easter Island as well. What a great trip that was. He is so smart and I love to hear about the lives he has saved. 

Friday, I send 4 images, along with the information she’s requested. Monday, Julie tells me to hold one particular study. Tuesday I speak with Wendy.

I enjoy hearing about her son, Dr. Steven Carr, MD., an Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. Wendy notes Steven’s creative side, He enjoys working with his hands, wood in particular. He made a toy box and a rocking horse for his son as well as a train set and a trolley car.

I tell her about an exhibition of my work at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. I recall how I especially appreciated the medical students and faculty talk about my work and point out the details. I didn’t say much, mostly I listened (and learned!).

Here ↓ is the small brain study Julie asked me to hold. I paid extra attention to details with this image. And I was using mylar for the first time. I discovered both graphite and casein paint love a mylar surface! It’s a favorite material and I continue to use it.

 Sagittal View of the Brain
Casein, Graphite Ink on Mylar
10×13″

The brain and its cells have become the focal point of many of my works since my father’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. I’ve had time and opportunity to learn about the brain, including visiting the brain bank, in Sun City, AZ.

This artwork showed with phICA, in a container space in downtown Phoenix as well as the University of Arizona Medical School, also in downtown Phoenix.

Now it’s yours, Steven and Mary! This gift of art is in recognition of becoming a Board Certified Neurosurgeon, Steven. Congratulations to you.

Wendy and David, thank you so much. I’d like to extend a personal invitation to all of you. Should you be in Tucson, come and join us for the opening of my solo exhibition, on September 1st! Amongst other things, I plan to have a wall of brain anatomy, including microanatomy study, on display.
#UrBeautifulBrain

Thanks again, Julie!


The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.

©2022 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ



sound + light = creation

A new work is in progress. I’m painting a newborn, more specific, a preterm baby.

martinez_canvas

Organizing this study, I began with one focus, shifted to another, and then still another.
 Finally, I  started painting at what was supposed to be the bottom of the composition, only to eventually make it the top.

When this idea presented itself in October, I’d been spending so much of my time in my head (Pun intended, I was trying to lay out neuron structure). When I got done, I was so ready for some grounding. In this way, I guess it’s natural to land in conception (it couldn’t be that complicated, I thought. Ha!).
#It’sComplicated

At some point, I wondered if I could imply those that had come before. It felt natural to want to indicate those that protect and guide. I wanted ancestral presence. #biological #intellectual #emotional

I contacted Gila, a friend who is a Yoga and massage therapist, as well as a doula. We have a fun conversation. I returned to the studio and worked an ovum onto the bottom of my canvas. #grounding

This human reproductive cell ↓ is one of the largest single cells in the body. It’s much bigger than the sperm (about 10,000x larger). And it holds loads of mitochondria.

Ovum

Gila commented on the ovum …..as a sound/vibration she sings a song to the sperm, which is the carrier of light : sound + light = creation 👼 that’s how the universe started and we are the same ☯️🌟🙏

Sperm…carrier of light.

Meanwhile, I’m reading sperm cells are haploid (single set of unpaired chromosomes). This ↑ haploid will connect to the egg, also a haploid. (Sperm’s midsection holds lots of mitochondria too!) In humans, only their egg and sperm cells are haploid. Together, egg and sperm will form a diploid. #Sound+Light=Creation

Things get more interesting as I learn about cortical reaction, a process preventing any other sperm (other than the1) from fusing with the 1 egg. #GotAllMystical #TheCreativeProcess

1 Sperm (of about 250-280 million) meets 1 (largest cell in the human body, released once a month during ovulation) egg.

I connected with my friend Dominique who is a cancer biologist. She clarified: Sperm and ova are haploid, germinal cells. They undergo a special cell division called meiosis, that renders them haploid. As soon as fertilization takes place that egg and all the subsequent cells are diploid, as you point out in humans that means 46 chromosomes.

It’s complicated. I wanted to redirect. 

Meiosis is very important, Dominque continued, because the 4 daughter cells each have independently assorted chromosomes. Like shuffling a deck of cards. One way to ensure a random assortment of genes, the other way is recombination which also takes place during meiosis!!! 

Above the ovum and sperm cells is where I layout meiosis.
Including the 4 daughter cells!

O.k. I’m in here! What about mitosis, Dominque?

Mitosis happens when any plant or animal cell divides. It has a series of steps in which chromosomes are copied and condense as they become tightly coiled. This allows them to them to pair up and align in the center of the cell. Then there are little organelles called the centrioles, these move to opposite sides of the cell and produce the spindle. Think of them as making thin filaments like spider webs that attach to the center of the chromosomes, called centromeres. And now comes the magic trick: half of the copied chromosomes are pulled towards each centriole, exactly half. Then the cell divides and each daughter cell has a full genetic instructions for its function!!!

I like magic!

Mitosis

Well…ok. I’m rolling now…

And without anymore delay, I’d like you to meet Vañya Victoria Jacquez.

I’m here! I’m here!

Vanya made her appearance at 32 weeks. Jeorgina (mom, who happens to be a Pediatric ICU nurse) had a C-section and tells me Vanya came out screaming! Which I gathered was a good thing.

Vanya is Victor’s (my nephew) and Jeorgina’s daughter. Tomorrow she will celebrate 3 months!
Congratulations Jeorgina and Victor. Clearly, your little girl was eager and ready. #soonerratherthanlater

Let’s see where this composition takes me next…
#workinprogress


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

no woman is an island

A few years back, curious about mula bandha, I asked Tara, a neighbor, to tell me about the area I understood as an important root lock. In my many years of Yoga practice, I’d studied the 3 bandhas: jalandhara bandha (chin lock), uddiyana bandha (stomach lock) and mula bandha, in which muscles are contracted at the center of the perineum. Tara was not a Yogi but was (and still is) a pelvic floor specialist.

We had an informative conversation about the general pelvic floor as well as the center of the pelvic floor, the perineum. I had no plan to paint these compositions until the next day when she brought a medical model for me to better understand. ↑  (Ps. Since then she’s brought even more interesting models to my studio that have influenced various works.)


Fast forward to this year, late October, when Tara asks if she can drop over and see pelvic art.
Sure, I say, but I’ll have to look for the them, give me a bit.

I find the artwork and invite her over the next day.
I show her each 2-sided study. There are 2 different works, one is female and one is male.
One side of each study shows muscles and nerves while the other side includes bones of the pelvis. Hanging in space, I want the viewer to be able to walk around each piece and note the layers.

Pelvic Floor Female : Inferior View
Pelvic Floor Male : Inferior View

Tara looks at them and without hesitation says she wants them.
I’m getting a new office and I want these in it!

And because they are 2-sided, she wants to know how she might hang them.
You have choices, Tara! And quality of light matters too.

Side by side as a horizontal statement.
One above the other as vertical presentation.

When everything is said and done with the artwork, naturally Tara and I talk anatomy. I want to understand more about how male and female pelvic floor’s differ. While there are differences in the male and female pelvis, Tara notes, there are not as many as one might think. She gets excited with explaining details (I think she should always carry a dry eraser board), Females, as compared to males, have 2 extra pelvic floor muscles, the compressor urethrae and sphincter urethrovaginalis! She goes on to explain. (And I should always carry a pen and notebook) #knowyourbody

To learn more about Tara and her work (she has lots of Q and A sections on her site)
go to → pelvicfloorspecialist.com

Again, thank you Tara! This work found a perfect home!


The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.

©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

circle of willis / blood vessels of the brain

I’ve wanted to draw the Circle of Willis ever since I heard the name of this area of the brain.

Friday, I got going on what I thought was going to be a quick study. One thing led to another and I ended up with a network of the brain’s blood vessels. #lovelylinework

This weekend I painted the study.

Initially the composition was to be black and white (like an MRI). I got out my gesso, both the black and the white, 2 various shades of cadmium red, and then out came the gold ink. I brought gold in because as I drew out details and thought about the brain and it’s blood supply, I worked in wonder of life processes.

I recalled a conversation with my father, who years ago, suggested I stay away from using gold to indicate the precious or the sacred. He thought it too easy a solution. I agreed with him then and maybe sometimes, I still agree with him today.

Circle of Willis: Circle comes from the Latin circulus, diminutive of circus ( a little ring!). Latin circus relates to Greek kirkos, circle or ring. The Circle of Willis is named after Thomas Willis, father of neurology. The area, located at the base of the brain, supplies oxygenated blood to over 80% of the cerebrum. (It’s not the focal point here, but it is the starting point.)

Dear dad, about the the gold ink…It came in at the very end, after a lot of work and a lot of thought. Nothing easy about it. It’s so subtle, you could miss it if I hadn’t said anything about it.
#urbeautifulbrain #circleofwillis #life


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

matter and memory

“He who installs himself in becoming sees in duration the very life of things, the fundamental reality.”


I begin this study of my father in 2015. The work first exhibits in 2017, at the University of Arizona, School of Medicine, in downtown Phoenix. And it shows again in the summer of 2018, for an art exhibition/summer artist residency, at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

This week I find myself adding 3 new details to the composition. Next time it shows, it will be a little different. #NothingInStasis

When I start this work, dad is experiencing changes in his health. He takes a fall and because he describes how he tucks and rolls, I don’t worry too much. (Apparently he learned to tuck and roll while playing high-school football. I had no idea dad played football!)

Another fall causes my father to stop his daily swimming practice. Something feels different after this one. (In my childhood, dad was a summer lifeguard. He enjoyed swimming for as long as I can remember. My siblings and I still share memories of our summers at the pool.) Dad never returns to swimming.

Today, I better understand how changes in one’s health can signal changes in one’s brain. As covered in previous posts, dad is eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Detail of some organs of balance in the composition.

Considering my father didn’t care to be photographed, he was open and easy with all the prep work necessary for this artwork. Frankly, he was much more comfortable than I, with the whole process. I remember him smiling for all the shots. If you knew my dad, he didn’t usually smile for photographs (he made faces). I sensed his respect for my work and I suspect he enjoyed being a part of it.

I add a coronavirus to the composition. Dad tested positive though remained asymptomatic until he tested negative.

So…
Dad left the planet last August. The medical examiner determined cause of death as Alzheimer’s Disease. And while there is truth to this, I think the death certificate should also note some complications ↑ due to Covid-19.

This week I found a book my father gifted me, titled Matter and Memory, by Henri Bergson.  Dad, always the avid reader, was a thinker and true educator. He particularly enjoyed talking philosophy. (It’s a complicated read. I have yet to finish it.)

Looking back, I recall the look on dad’s face when he saw the title of my first solo exhibit, in 1998, was élan vital (a phrase coined by Bergson in 1907). He was pleasantly surprised and though I should not have been, I was surprised he knew Bergson’s writing (Of course he did!). We enjoyed conversation that weekend of the opening, breaking down impulse, current, vital force, vital impetus…etc.

One of my last memories includes time with my father last Christmas (pre-pandemic). I bought him a small puzzle of the United States (For a short time in his life, he taught history).

Dad, where is Texas?
He points, Right here.
Put it in its place.
What’s to the west of Texas?
New Mexico! You lived there!
Yes, I did! Where’s New Mexico? He picks up the piece.
Where does it go? He points.
Fit it in dad. 

We move through the puzzle, one state at a time, both of us enjoying the process. When we are done, he’s happy and tired.

And 2 more additions to the study:
During my summer residency (back in 2018), I learn mitochondrial dysfunction appears to be a trigger for AD. I consider adding one. Yesterday, I paint this powerhouse of the cell into the composition.

These days, I’m learning about neurotransmitters. I learn about acetylcholine and cholinergic neurons ↓ and their connection to AD and add what I believe will be the final detail.

…My father left the planet in early August, ten days before my birthday. He lived a full and happy life. He was curious, thoughtful.

Dad, you are one cool guy! #UrBeautifulBrain

Still and curious. Continuing to learn.

#ProcessPhilosophy #NothingInStasis
#Motion #Change #Evolution
#VitalForce #CreativePrinciple


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

muscles coordinate (tree of life)

out on my final run of last year
i spot a newly pruned shrub
eyes and legs, upright and steady
muscles coordinate
nature inspires me to draw a cerebellum
power of fine-movement, precision, timing
balancing eye and hand
muscles coordinate
to create first study of the new year

#LittleBrain #ArborVitae

cerebellum: sagittal cross section

 


©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

the appendix

Looking up the word appendix in my copy of a “Medical Meanings” glossary (thank you Wright), I am directed to see vermis. (Vermis?) Vermis is the Latin word for worm. (Of course it is!) It continues….Veriform appendix, Latin for addition or supplement, which is stuck on the base of the cecum for no apparent purpose in man but to serve as a seat for appendicitis. (hmmm). Out of familiarity, we seldom use the full name of this little organ; we call it simply the appendix.
And a note… A vermifuge (Latin fugare, to chase away) is an agent that expels worms or similar vermin from the gut.


My previous post, on the ileum, receives a comment from pediatrician, Dr. Betsy Triggs. She writes, Oooh! Please do the nasty little innocent looking troublemaker appendix next. Ileum’s neighbor. 😊

I’m going to stop saying I especially love some particular part of the body (like the appendix), cause it’s getting old. Truth is, I love learning about the whole incredibly complex and connected organism.

And another note: I appreciate my glossary definition of the word autopsy
Autopsy is a misapplied term when used to refer to postmortem examination. The Greek autopsia (auto-, “self,” + opsis, “seeing”) meant, in fact, “seeing oneself.” According to Professor Alexander Code (JAMA. 1965;191:121), for the Greeks this had an even more mystical meaning in the sense of “a contemplative state preceding the vision of God.”

The appendix (study) world as seen under magnification.


I paint a cross section of the appendix and ask Dr. Triggs, for her thoughts on the organ.

She writes, The appendix is now thought to be the repository for the “good gut bacteria” that doesn’t get pooped out when you have diarrhea. Maybe because it’s a tiny little wormy thing with a small Lumen, offset on the cecum (which in itself is a blind pouch off the large intestine) gut bacteria can survive there even when we take antibiotics. It’s such a cool little finger/wormy thing that can flip and be in different positions so making the diagnosis of appendicitis tricky.

Detail

As I read Betsy’s (great visual) description, I note the appendix a dead-end of sorts, or maybe more like a cul-de-sac. Either way, I imagined it to be a hot-spot where bad bacteria collected. I recall reading different areas of the intestine holding different bacteria due to temperature…or something like that. What is the temperature of the appendix (temperature in the appendix)?

Anyway…I want to keep this post short and sweet…perhaps like the appendix.


©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

ileum

I do like the word ileum (i-lee-uhm). When I first hear about it, I wonder exactly where this area that holds B12, sits in the body. Eventually, I learn it is the last section (of the 3 sections) of the small intestine (lower right side, pelvic region) before arriving to the large intestine (whew!).

When drawing the gut, I am in the habit of giving the ileum more attention and playful highlight.

Last year, while researching the GI tract, I find a cross section of it (wow!) and know I will eventually paint it. #Now #HereItIs↓

Ileum comes from the Greek eileos and means tightly twisted. Yes, it certainly appears this way.

Note: The GI tract (also called the alimentary canal) is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube that includes mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine and anus.

Here is my  interpretation of a cross section of the distal intestine AKA the ileum. Imagine that, like a hollow tube, you are looking into it. #AMostCoolPerspective

I may go back in and add a few more shapes (fat cells) around it.

A few things…
The ileum absorbs methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin (2 more fun words) AKA vitamin B12. It also absorbs bile salts.
And…I can’t help but think about the microbes that set up house in there too.

The more I draw out the more I draw in… #ACoolEmptyNotSoEmptySpace


©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

1 & 2 / olfactory and optic

I’m still in the brain, at the bottom of the top (inferior view), looking at the cranial nerves (CN1 and CN2).

Learning the olfactory nerve is cranial nerve #1 (CN1). Really? Cuz I thought for sure it was #2!

Tiny sensory nerve(s) of smell 
you are
cranial nerve(s) number one.

Olfactory nerves (CN1)

I wish I knew where I read a kiss evolved from a sniff.
One can tell a lot from sniffing another…

Optic nerve, cranial nerve #2 (CN2), for me you are (will always be) #1.

eyeballs
see

optic disk
point of exit
small blind spot

optic nerve
channel site
connects brain to eye


optic chiasm
evolution suggests you’re a turning point
X marks the spot

I’m enjoying the details…


©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

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.

martinez_toad

It was a Toad, After all, Casein, egg tempera, collage on panel, 12×12″

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