no woman is an island

August 2016
Joe: I took a photo of your work last year at the Sky Harbor exhibit. May I ask your permission to use the artwork for my class on evolution and medicine at the University of New Mexico and on the blog that I use for the class: EvolutionMedicine.com?

Me: Thank you for asking. I received my MFA at NMSU…I have great affinity for New Mexico.

Portrait of Sara, Head in Profile, Arms Akimbo (detail)

February 2018
Joe: I’m in Tempe today through Saturday. I hope to visit the UofA Med school gallery while I am here. Are you available tomorrow around noon? Or Saturday?

Saturday afternoon, almost 1-1/2 years after the initial email – I meet Joe (and his mom!) at the Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix.

Joe is a practicing emergency physician and teaches at University of New Mexico Department of Emergency Medicine. He is also program chair for the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health. He wants to see my work and he wants to discuss using some of my compositions on the organization’s website. He invites me to attend their annual meeting this August in (beautiful) Park City, Utah. I appreciate the opportunity (curiosity stirred) but I cannot commit to the latter. Spending the last month working on applications for exhibition opportunities including a summer artist residency, I feel too many unknowns to set the plan in motion. He understands.

The three of us walk the exhibit and eventually come to Portrait of Sara ↑. At the time I work on the study, I explain as I point to the upper right corner of the composition, I learn about the cranial nerves. The vagus nerve, in particular, catches my attention because it is also known as the wandering nerve.

Joe’s face registers recognition and I glimpse excitement. I am in the habit of explaining the details of my work to people but perhaps in a medical education environment, I don’t need to explain so much. It is at this point that Joe brings up the microbiome. I’ve heard of the brain-gut connect, I say. He nods and clarifies gut-brain axis. I think about what I understand… It relates to the vagus nerve, yes? By the time the afternoon is over, I know the human microbiome is of great interest to him.

We talk about a few things including evolution medicine. But what stands out is when Joe connects body and environment.  I don’t write them down so I can’t quote his words, basically he brings up the construction happening across the valley.  What is occurring here, apartment building on top of apartment building – not a good thing for our microbiome. Being in nature and with animals, including living with our pets (the natural world) – supports the human microbiome.

We are a system of connecting parts.

Notes on the Complexity of the Brain, Mixed media and collage on paper, 8×8″

We sit at a table across from two of my small mixed-media portraits (studies of the brain). Joe says… I want that one. You do?!  He appreciates the techie quality. I nod…those are motherboard elements.


To know more about what Joe Alcock teaches visit→ EvolutionMedicine.com.
And → @JoeAlcockMD #tweets #microbiome and #evolution. And #phage.
When they refer to it (phage) on Science Friday (like they did this last week) – I enjoy knowing what it means! Information takes hold in small ways. 

Thank you so much Joe.


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

On a side note:
Did you know today is Day 3 of Brain Awareness Week. It is!
Notified that I did receive the artist residency, this summer I will spend 12 weeks at the Tempe Center for the Arts. I plan to study and draw the human brain.


the front and the back bones holding your brilliance

They are elegant and living organs – the bones of your skull.  Each one of the cranial bones is unique in architecture. I appreciate the contour of the frontal bone, most especially the sutures (fibrous joints).

Cranial bones are the hard mineral matrix supporting (fixing) the structure of your face (Including your sensory structures). The cranial bones provide protection for the brain (aka: braincase). In the case of the frontal bone – it protects the frontal lobe of the brain.

Your frontal bone forms your beautiful forehead and shapes the top edge of your orbits – look at that brow ridge!

Front bone (anterior)

Front bone (posterior)

The Occipital bone ↓ forms your posterior skull, your cranial cavity. It has a large opening, the foramen magnum (Latin for great hole), where your spinal cord exits your skull.

All the while I draw – I consider the energetics of this area…where the spinal cord exits the skull…It must be a sacred space!

Occipital bone – external surface

Occipital bone, inner surface

Studying the 8 cranial bones for a good while, I am not yet done. I look at the 2-paired bones next.  I could not have known how intricate and wonderful the upper skull is (what to me so long!).

Today I know better these bones that protect our brain, and protect our brilliance!  Out on an early bike ride this a.m. – I appreciate my bicycle helmet just a little bit more…

pugmark

A pugmark refers to the mark, track or footprint of an animal on the ground.

Invited to exhibit my jaguar at the i.d.e.a. Museum in February, they ask if I have touchable and tactile art samples for visitors to interact with. I don’t. But knowing I’d like the design, I create jaguar pugmarks. The sample also holds the smaller prints of another Sonoran desert cat – the mountain lion. The exhibits focus – the Sonoran Desert.

In our Arizona desert you can come across a mountain lion, but chances are you will never see a jaguar. But in the Dos Cabezas Mountains (about 60 miles north of the U.S. – Mexico border) you can (if luck and the stars are with you) wander across a jaguar pugmark.

The jaguar has a large pad with toes that fan out. Notice the oval-shaped toes taper, and one comes forward more than the others. The wide based pad is ‘M’ shaped. ( The smaller mountain lion prints appear similar).  The big cat walks with claws retracted so you will not see them in the footprint.

Front pad is larger (left), while hind pad is smaller (right).

Conservationists and researchers use footprints to study large animals in the wild, like the jaguar. Footprint size helps to identify individuals, but it is not an exact science.


i.d.e.a. museum
Sonoran Safari
Opens Friday, February 9  and runs through Sunday, May 27, 2018
Opening Reception: Thursday, February 8, 2018, 5-7 p.m.


gateway into the mind – the beautiful sphenoid bone

The sphenoid bone, from the Greek sphenoeides meaning wedge-shaped, is one of 8 cranial bones – the top portion of the skull that encloses and protects the brain.

One bone leads to another. I draw the ethmoid bone and that study leads into this one. I admire the shape, location, and the symbolic aspects of the sphenoid bone.

The beautiful Sphenoid Bone – Superior View

When I complete the superior view of the cranial bone and post it, people note its resemblance to a moth and a butterfly. You might also imagine a bat with its wings extended. This makes sense when you consider it is a body paired with –  yes – greater and lesser wings and two pterygoid processes that project from below.

This bone sits at the anterior base of the skull, in the very center of the head. It is here where the nerves leave the brain to connect with the spinal column and the lower spine.
Within it you find the sella turcica ( a saddle shape mass) which houses the pituitary gland (that hangs from the base of the brain by a stalk). It helps to form the septum of the nose and the nerves of the eyes pass through it.

Superior View of Sphenoid Bone (in blue) and Ethnoid Bone (in black).

Inferior View of the Sphenoid Bone (blue wash)

… the nerves of the eyes pass through it. As a visual artist I can’t help but take note of this. And it is this detail that might explain why sphenoid bone is known as the gateway into the mind.

Cranial-Sacral therapy recognizes the bone as a keystone of the cranial floor. There is a cranial pulse, a subtle pulsing (and flexing) of this particular bone signifying health – making the wings that much more magical for me. And I can’t help but think of the Caduceus, the medical symbol showing two snakes  winding around a winged staff (life-force rising from the base of the spine). Could the winged crown be the wings of the sphenoid?

The sphenoid considered a sacred bone at the top of the spine, equally as powerful as the sacrum at the bottom.

Inferior aspect of the Sphenoid bone.

Meditate on the beautiful sphenoid bone – breath deep and fly.

the pelvic bowl

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It looks like a bowl, my husband says as my neighbor Tara, a Pelvic Floor Specialist, hands him a pelvis anatomy model. She’s lending it to me for the weekend.

I say to him In fact,  it is called the pelvic bowlEddie. He watches on as Tara pulls it all apart and puts it’s all back together, identifying anatomy as she reconstructs the model.

Aren’t we perfectly designed? I say as I watch them.

My recent drawing begins with an outline of the bones of a pelvis (on the front side).  I place into it uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Only then do I decide to bring in the lower spine, the psoas muscles, and eventually the diaphragm.

This weekend I work the back of the drawing ↓ and complete the composition. Highlighting the reproductive system – I’m right back where I started.  The two-sided mixed-media drawing  basically depicts the core of the female body.

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completed back side of drawing 24 x 18″ mixed media

Do you need the model again?, Tara asks. Thanks, I’m complete, I respond.

With this study I learn more about menstruation, conception, pregnancy and menopause. With Tara’s help I learn about hormones, muscles, nerves and the value of breath work.

We are so perfectly designed. You are so perfectly designed. Embody this.

pelvicbowl

More about Tara and her practice (btw – she offers lots of practical information) →  pelvicfloorspecialist.com.


Side note:
Contacted by Carmencita from California who’ll be using an early stage of this drawing (front side) to promote a staging of That Takes Ovaries! Bold Females and their Brazen Acts. The performance will raise funds for Myalgic Encephelomyolitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

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studying the psoas

When I start to draw the reproductive system, I never expect I’ll detail surrounding muscles or organs. Naturally I do, its organic, one thing leads to another.

As of now I’ve added in the iliacus and currently I draw in the diaphragm (maybe a future post). The breath influences it all!

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Psoas major ↑comes from the Greek (psóās) meaning muscle of the loins. Their long, elegant form is one reason I want to draw them. The other, I want more  understanding of muscles and this area is a perfect start.

The psoas (a paired muscle meaning there are 2, one on either side of the spinal column ↓) is the deepest skeletal muscle of your core. It originates in the lower spine, attaching at the 12 thoracic vertebrae to the 5th lumbar vertebrae.

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I can’t help but think of yoga postures that work the area (my favorite flow: Trikonasana to Arda Chandrasa to Chapasana). I also consider practical applications and everyday use.

We activate the muscles in infancy as we learn to both sit up and to walk. The psoas muscles continue to do their job our entire life: holding us up as we stand and moving us forward as we walk. They help us get of bed, they allow us to go up and down stairs, as well as run and bike. And they support us when sitting (as well as standing up).

Side note: too much sitting, in fact, can tighten the muscles (which then places more demand on other muscles causing imbalance). Sleeping on your side, in a fetal position, can destabilize the hips and IT band and shorten the psoas (see what I mean…it’s all connected).

The psoas combined with the iliacus ↓ form the iliopsoas. The iliacus originates inside the pelvic, along the pelvic wall. I add it because the two muscles are paired and I enjoy working curvilinear form.

img_9650The two deep muscles of the midsection combine to form one tendon attaching to the inside of the proximal femur (thigh) bone (hip flexors). Simply stated, they connect torso and legs, affect posture and stabilize the spine.
img_9651Think of the psoas muscles as connecting multiple layers, systems, and expressing subtle yet dynamic energy.  Considering the kidneys sit on the psoas muscles I now wonder, do they resonate with the fight or flight energy of the adrenals?

They do play a vital role in our well-being and stability. Neglecting the muscle can lead to imbalances including anxiety, depression, chronic back pain, knee pain, digestive distress and respiratory problems.

Literally the psoas embodies our deepest urge for survival and our basic desire to thrive (this feels timely). Know they ground one to the earth.

Take a long deep breath – and bring attention into your center

…more on the breath and diaphragm later.

 

the female reproductive system

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I look at the structure of the female reproductive system for a long time. Draw, erase, re-draw, erase again – parts come and go as I place the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix and vagina into the pelvic bowl. I can’t help but wonder if the body is truly as symmetrical as medical illustration would suggest. Are things evenly balanced? It’s just a thought.

It surprises me to learn the uterus, in general, has not been studied separate from its role in child-bearing. The uterus is seen as someone else’s potential home and valued when it can potentially play that role, says Christine Northrup MD, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s WisdomAfter the uterus’s childbearing function has been completed or when a woman chooses not to have a child, modern medicine considers the uterus to have no inherent value. The Ovaries are viewed in the same way.

In truth the uterus supports hormonal regulation, sexual satisfaction, and bowel and bladder function. Removal is not advisable unless absolutely necessary. 

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The uterus is held in place by endopelvic fascia or ligaments.

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aligning the pelvis and the muscles

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ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vaginal canal

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blood supply – arteries

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blood supply – veins

The system is remarkable: life-giving, life-enhancing, curvilinear, expansive, contractive, cyclical, beautifully active.

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added muscle and lymphatic system

Energetically speaking the uterus sits in the area of the Hara (lower belly body center) which holds power, passion and creativity. It is also known as the Dantian or the gate of origin, the Ren Mai, translating to Conception Vessel. It is the space where life begins. Even after a hysterectomy (partial or full) the space holds energy.

Caroline Myss, PhD, in Anatomy of the Spirit, writes about the area and its energetic connection to the power of choice. Choice is born out of opposites, she notes, duality is forever challenging us to make choices in a world of opposing sides. Managing the power of choice, with all its creative and spiritual implications is the essence of human experience. Choice is the process of creation itself.

Every woman can and should ask and answer for themselves – What am I giving birth to? What life am I creating?


I begin the post noting how carefully I look at the female reproductive system. Naturally I consider the energy of current culture. It’s no coincidence that the first week of the new year I choose to focus on the female reproductive system.

Support Planned Parenthood (and other organizations like it). It offers sexual and reproductive health services including health care and sex education, to millions of women, men and young people world-wide.
Other services they provide :

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