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.

neurons and glia (and my father’s brain)

Are you in the neuron? Or is the neuron in you?


Steeped in the study of the human brain, I am in preparation for an artist residency at the Tempe Center for the Arts. Consequently I know my brain changes as I learn, while I draw, and even now as I write. I mean it is really changing.

And I guess I can say now my father’s brain is changing too. Dad’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. For awhile I understand (more or less) he has dementia – I now know (more or less) he has Alzheimer’s. And because my father has Alzheimer’s (the most common form of dementia) I decide to focus this summer’s residency on both the healthy brain and the  brain with dementia.

Where to begin….
The residency calls for me to work at the Tempe Center for the Arts (I am 1 of 3 artists that will be in residence this summer).  I can’t help but consider the public. Actually I am always aware of the public, but more in the form of viewer (of the completed work) and not necessarily as part of the process. I will engage with visitors in a thoughtful manner.

While I’ve drawn many studies of the brain in the last few years, now I feel the need for a brain basics course (101). I consider the primary building blocks of the human brain – neurons and glia (neuralgia).  I spend days looking at imagery including the drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal (The Beautiful Brain).

I draw and paint a neuron↓.

Neuron Study

I draw glia ↓.  I didn’t know there’s a variety of glial cells!

These particular cells are key in maintaining homeostasis. I think of them as a sort of maintenance crew (though they’re more than that). While I’ve found different ratios, overall it seems glia outnumber neurons 10 to 1 (I’ve also read 6 to 1, 3.75 to 1).

Oligodentrocytes

Astrocyte

 

Microglial cell

I enjoy detailing the small preliminary study ↓ (not finished yet).
Note: At this point I better understand where abnormal plaques and tangles, as seen in Alzheimer’s, form.

This week my mother sends my father’s brain scans to me. The day the disc arrives, I pop it into my computer. I recognize my dad’s head and  profile. I manage to bring in (and change) the color of the basic black and white scans. I see them light up and they’re beautiful. There are 4 images, 1 rotates while 3 are static. I figure out how to move through layers of the brain. What am I looking at?  I sober up.

I recognize general areas of the brain though I don’t know how to read the particulars of the images. I hope to find someone who can help me make sense of things.


We’ll be installing in a couple of weeks…
Tempe Center for the Arts

The Gallery at TCA presents
draw: the art of curiosity and innovation
May 25-Sept 1
This interactive exhibition celebrates a wide variety of creative media, styles and techniques that incorporate drawing. The “draw” experience includes fine art displays by local artists, exploration stations for doodling and art making, live artist demonstrations and multiple workshop opportunities for all ages.

Meet Artists-in-Residence through Aug. 3
Kyllan Maney, Monica Aissa Martinez and Bobby Zokaites
 → for more info


Last month I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with Dr. Jay Braun, ASU Emeritus Professor of Psychology. We talked about the healthy brain and the Alzheimer’s brain. Exercise, he says, is the most important thing one can do to maintain a healthy brain.

I’m off for a run now…


sims lab – the practice

Invited to visit the Sims Lab at the Phoenix Biomedical campus, I think – mannequin designed to simulate human vital signs – things like breath and pulse. I don’t imagine a complete hospital environment – including sounds – High Fidelity Simulation. I can’t know I’ll meet numerous mannequins including smaller trainers.

Briana walks me into an area that’s ready for an OB lab. She refers to the trainers, I assume she is talking about students in training. I see no students. A trainer, I learn, is a tool, equipment and/or technology, shaped like a human body (full or partial) aiding in the teaching/learning process in medical school. Briana  pulls out a couple of them and explains their use to me.

We move into another room and come across a full body mannequin on a hospital bed, in what appears like an operating room/lab. Briana apologizes for the mess. Mess? I see sterile and clean. She points to things that are out-of-order. In an emergency situation where seconds matter, equipment and tools are in their place.

I touch the mannequin. I’m relieved he doesn’t feel real, at least not the skin surface. Briana helps me to feel organs and bones.

We head down the hallway to meet Victoria (below), a birthing mannequin. Yes, a mannequin that gives birth. Here is where I get a better sense of what high fidelity simulation means.

Briana explains the mechanisms while I note a 2-way mirror.  Medical students learn to respond to a full birthing experience, including sound. As in real-life each birth, and so each simulation, is unique. It all goes smooth or it doesn’t.

We come across placenta sitting on a table (of course we do).

Briana: It is birthed 35-45 minute after baby.
Me: Are there contraction?
Briana: Yes.

Briana mentions placenta brain. The phrase, not necessarily the explanation, brings a visual to my mind.

Me: I understand it’s a part of the secondary endocrine system.
Briana: It carries all the hormones that mom and baby need.

Right at this point I notice Briana is pregnant. We talk about various cultural norms concerning placenta. She explains it is also freeze-dried, ground and encapsulated, so mom (and nursing baby) may continue to benefit from the nutritious placenta for a good while after delivery.

Across the room I see 2 more mannequins – male and female. As we exit, I’m glad to know Victoria isn’t alone.

Briana: Let’s go see the kiddos!
Me: Kiddos?
We enter a smaller dark area. Lights come on bright and for a second I feel like I’m backstage at a theater production.  

Briana: Victoria’s bellies are hidden back here.
Me: Victoria’s bellies?!
Three fabulous bellies! As I write this I don’t recall if Briana says this or I do. I think she says it and I feel it true – they are fabulous! …and in various stages of pregnancy siting across the narrow table.

I learn about Leopold’s maneuvers.

And then I meet the kiddos… I hold one and as directed I roll it tightly in my hands like it might be while in utero. It is smooshy, flexible and surprisingly heavy. Average weight, Briana notes.

She then opens up the less common vertical C-section belly (below) and calls out the layers. Particularly interested in fascia, it’s the only layer (white) I focus on.

Off to stage right is the plug-in station …
I don’t say this but i think it. Babies, they lighten everything up.

We walk into a few more mock hospital rooms that include infants and young children on gurneys. Briana wipes the eyes of one of the mannequins and cleans the mouth of another. I sober up understanding the elements in these environments are for training students before they meet real people in real events.

Completing the tour, I ask about the student’s emotions and reactions. Yes, these are also part of the learning experience. It’s all about the full practice of medicine.

Briana works at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in the Center for Simulation and Innovation. Her background is in Cardiology and Cardiology Intensive Care.
She heads off to a meeting and I return to my studio.

Photo from the Tempe History Museum currently on view – 4th floor HSEB.

Note:
While I walk across the hall and take the 4 flights of stairs down – again I can’t help but think about being an artist. I especially appreciate the unusual experiences my work brings me. I could not have imagined any of this in all my years of art school.

Thank you Briana. We both have newborns in the planning – mine will be in 2D (probably on canvas) while yours will show up in 3D (real-life). Best wishes!


My artwork – Nothing In Stasis (solo exhibition) is on view through the first week of April.
Monday-Friday, 9-5

At the Health Sciences Education Building
Phoenix Biomedical Campus (PBC)
435 N. 5th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004-2230
Map (PDF)
Parking Information

Health Science Education Building

2×2 more bones of the cranium

Your skull, the most complex part of your skeletal system, includes 29 bones grouped into 2 sections – your neurocranium and your facial bones. The last 3 months I’ve spent most afternoons studying and drawing the 8 cranial bones that hold and protect your brain. I may have already said this – think brain helmet!

The word cranium derives from the Greek kranion (skull) and relates to kara (head). Also known as braincase (favorite) and brainpan (least favorite) among other names. This is my first time looking at the top of the skull and connecting the parts. I don’t know how engaging each of these 8 bones are until after I begin my study. The decision to draw them all out is organic – one visually appealing bone leads to another.

I’ve shared the 4 unpaired bones and now I study and complete the 2 paired bones that sit on either side of (and above and below) your skull/head.

Parietal bone, exterior surface.

The Parietal bones form the roof and sides of your skull and head. Their name comes from the Latin paries, meaning wall. If I understand correctly this bone articulates with the other parietal bone, with the temporal, sphenoid and occipital bones – all but the ethmoid bone!

Parietal bone, interior surface.

I enjoy painting the edges (the sutures) of all the various cranial bones. This elegant form  below is the temporal bone – the other paired bone. They sit on either side (your temples) and base of your skull.

Temporal bone, outer surface.

Temporal bone, internal surface.

The temporal bones are a wonderfully complex design serving clear purpose (How can this stuff be random?! Who designed it?!!). I won’t get into it too much even though I want to – I’m an artist not a scientist. Lol. These bones house the structures of your ears (They house the structures of your ears!!!!).  I could probably break down the parts of this bone and even be willing to draw each of them separately because interesting shape and interesting name (wow stuff) always calls my attention.

I am complete with the 8 bones of the cranium. Early on I completed the ethmoid bone – for me that wild and beautiful bone ushered all the other cranial bones into the studio.


And on a side note:
Last week was my artist reception at the BioMedical campus in downtown Phoenix.  I completely enjoy the evening.

Photo by Christy Vezolles.

During this time that I’ve had my work in a medical school – one question pops up regularly with the various events. People want to know where my interest in anatomy comes from. While I have alway participated in sports (still run, practice Yoga), I explain my appreciation for the body and anatomy came from my anatomy studies in art school. It’s odd to me that it is not common knowledge that artists study anatomy. I loved drawing and learning the names of all the major bones and muscles of the human body.

deep in the solar plexus – the pancreas

I love the shape and texture of the pancreas – long, flat, soft and flexible. I’ve drawn it before and wonder why didn’t I note it tucked deep into the solar plexus? This organ carries some energy!

The 6″ organ sits behind the stomach and in front of the spine. The head of the pancreas nuzzles the duodenum while the tail end tapers into the spleen. The organ is gray-pink in color but because I want to emphasize subtle energy, my representation is yellow (golden) dominant.

Pancreas (anterior)

The pancreas plays a role in both the endocrine system and the digestive system.

As part of the endocrine system the pancreas produces hormones (insulin, glucagon, somatostatin and pancreatic polypeptide), secreting them directly into the bloodstream. One of its jobs is to monitor the bloodstream. When the pancreas detects a rise in glucose levels it responds by producing a hormone called insulin. Insulin attaches to cells signaling them to open up and absorb the glucose (basic fuel for the body) from your blood.  Insulin allows cells to receive the energy they need and ensures blood glucose level remains stable.

It also holds an exocrine function involving secretion of digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates, lipids, and in particular – proteins – aiding in digestion and absorption of nutrients in the small intestine.

Pancreas (posterior) Slight color variation signifies – from left to right – the tail, body, neck and head

Symbolically:
The pancreas is located in the solar plexus, the area representing the center of will.
Connected to it are the energies of stability, instinct and intuition, along with will, courage, choice, action and peace.

Caroline Myss connects the pancreas to the sweetness in our life…ahhh glucose.


I am in the planning with the University of Arizona medical school for a solo exhibition. I hope to include the endocrine system I designed last year. Because the pancreas from that original series found a buyer, I draw another. Returning to it allows more insight.

altar of incense, the ethmoid bone

Coming across an image of the ethmoid bone, I love its wild structure. I wonder where in the body is this angular (cubical) bone located?

Quickly I learn it is one of 8 bones of the cranium.

Look to the top centered, dark area inside and underneath ↑ the skullcap. This is one side of the ethmoid bone. It separates the nasal cavity from the brain.  (Man…do I really need to clean this skull. Though for this purpose the dirty area works as a marker.)

From the front of the skull, the Ethmoid bone sits at the roof of the nose, between the two orbits forming the inner edges of the eye sockets. Ethmos is Greek and means sieve. The bone is lightweight and spongy, full of air spaces and canals.

Ethmoid bone (anterior view)

Neurons of smell travel thorough the ethmoid and the olfactory bulbs that lie atop, across what is called the cribriform plate. If this narrow and deeply grooved plate is broken one loses their sense of smell. All olfactory nerves travel through the crosses and canals of the ethmoid.

Ethmoid bone (posterior view)

I enjoy drawing the front and back of this beautiful bone.

About its symbolism:
In more esoteric teaching it is called the altar of incense, representing the altar in the sanctuary.  The altar of incense is the place of prayer and this bone represent the principle of prayer.

Inhale deeply!  Consider the lovely ethmoid and know it connects to your sense of smell.

no woman is an island

I could have titled this post: The Mud Dauber, at the Wedding Party.

The doorbell rings.

Sergio, the new neighbor, stands in my front patio holding a plastic cup. Sergio is newly wed (only a few days newly wed at this point). He and his wife Terrah, recently move on to our street.

Look! We found this at our reception! He says with excitement. I look into the cup and see a wasp of some sort. Do you know I paint bugs? Yes! That’s why I am bringing him to you.
We’d like to commission a small painting! 

It’s beautiful, I tell him.  Do you know what it is? He responds, No, that’s your job! 

I plan to research and identify the small, thin-waisted, golden-yellow and warm-black wasp. I understand bright colors signify a more aggressive species…well let’s see what I discover.

Yes, this wasp can be aggressive, but usually only when provoked. I learn a few other surprising things.

It’s a Mud Dauber from the Hymenoptera order. Derived from Ancient Greek hymen means membrane and pteron is wing. They have two pairs of thin, often see through, membranous wings. The hind wings connect to the fore wings by a series of hooks, considered married wings in flight. Note: Hymen, also Ancient Greek, is the god of marriage ceremonies, inspiring feasts and songs.

Two other features are their chewing mouth parts and large compound eyes. These wasps build their nests from mud (hence mud dauber). Did I mention Sergio and Terrah bought a newly remodeled house. He didn’t care for the layout of the yard(s). They are in the process of redesigning and completing as much of the work possible, on their own.

The symbolism of the wasp (happy to report):
Communication
Focus
Order
Productivity
Progress
Team work
Construction
New start
New goals
New doors

You probably couldn’t find a more appropriate symbol representing new beginnings, on your wedding day –  congratulations Sergio and Terrah!

And thanks! for the commission.


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