micro to macro

“The task of the right eye is to peer into the telescope,
while the left eye peers into the microscope.” 

I understand this quote from artist (Sorceress of Mexico) Leonora Carrington more after a periodic table of elements makes its way into my drawing last week.


January 6, 2019
What are you eating these days Carolyn?

Raw honey is big. Radishes, apples, especially pink ladies, and I juice an orange nearly every day. Now we are in grapefruit season so I am adding that.  I also eat a lot of tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini and cabbage. And I eat a bit of radicchio everyday. Love it. And every day is guacamole. Potatoes are nearly every day. Sprouts are every day. Sage is nearly every day. Seaweed mostly Dulse everyday. And lots of asparagus and Brussel sprouts. Lots of grapes, raspberries, mushrooms and bell peppers. Greens every day. Haha, enough?

She doesn’t mention celery juice. Nor does she say anything about the cilantro she hands me as a snack almost every time I visit lately.

Carolyn is not necessarily raw Vegan, though she’s post radiation treatment and is still in cleanse mode.

Grounding the composition in fruits and vegetables, I gather bits of nutritional value for a few of them, to share on social media. They are like small vignettes with running text – easy and informative.
#FoodAsMedicine #MyQuickNotes #Education #InCaseYou’reCurious

#DrawingCelery. ❤️#JuicingCelery.#FoodAsMedicine Vitamin K, folate, potassium, fiber, manganese, pantothenic acid, B12, B6, calcium phosphorus, magnesium, flavonoids, carotenoids (VitA), non-starchy polysaccharides (pectin), apiuman (#anti-inflammatory!),  #antioxidant! #phytonutrient!

🐝 #pollen as #medicine. #Raw 🍯 is honey as it exists in the hive (contains pollen). 22 amino acids, 31 minerals and plenty of vitamins and enzymes. Micronutrients acting as antioxidants reduce inflammation, lower risk of ❤️ disease and some cancers. #BeesRock. #Raw ❤️🐝🍯

🍎medicine: Increases acetylcholine (an essential neurotransmitter 👈🏼), strong 💪🏻 antioxidant, she holds B-Complex maintaining ur blood cells and again ur nervous system, she offers good ole VitC, and plenty phytonutrients (protection from free radicals), some fiber, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Call her 🍎miracle fruit. 1 a day (or 2) x years = nutritional powerhouse. Avoid the seeds. These are #PinkLadyApples #justeatit

Tomato. 🍅 Or is it tomatl (Nahuatl)? This berry may have originated in Mexico. The Spanish encountered the 🍅 from their contact w the Aztec. #Mesoamerican #antioxidant #lycopene #vitaminC #potassium #folate #vitaminK Sketching tomatls in the am.

🥒 Cucumber medicine: Benefits skin, eye health, balances body’s PH level, eliminates bad-odor causing bacteria (bad breath), good for ur ligaments, cartilage, tendons, bones, hair, supports neurological function, has anti-cancer properties, supports normal flora and peel is beneficial too. I could go on. Who knew the list was this long! And it’s a fruit. Slice it, juice it. #Hydration #FoodAsMedicine Draw it 🥒 Paint it 🥒

#dandelion #greens #medicine #bitterherb Interesting thing about this ‘weed’ – every part of her is considered medicinal including root. This one came from my neighbors yard. #anti inflammatory #anti carcinogenic #anti-oxidative Easier to eat than to draw.

Drawing #radish today. #FoodAsMedicine. Holding #sulfur #vitC #fiber = anti-fungal, anti-cancer and digestion aid. Interesting thing about the radish – its companion plant is the cucumber. They thrive best growing near each other. #Ayurveda #TCM

I not only consider the elements found in the body but also the make-up of the food that sustains it. Enter: The periodic table of elements.

Red squares represent elements that compose our human body while fewer warm tones represent trace elements. I include symbol and atomic number.

I add in a few microorganisms, bacteria ↓ in this case.

And maybe archaea (pointing to time past) ↓.

And here are things 22 days later…


On a morning run, I listen to a lecture on the periodic table. The information really  does take my attention from microscope to telescope. Minutes later I come across side-walk chalk-art.
#Cosmic #BigBang #WeAreOne

i draw beautiful whipworms (note to self – these are parasites)

What a nice surprise to hear from María Adelaida. I’m pleased to learn she keeps an eye on my work as she notes my recent activity on microorganisms.

I know María from years back (2008-09). She is a biologist originally from Colombia, she’s in the valley working for the Mayo Clinic when I meet her at a friends party. She attends one of my art openings before moving to Germany to continue her education.

These days she lives in the UK and works at the Sanger Institute. Her current research is intestinal parasitic worms that cause neglected tropical diseases with a huge impact on children.

She has an idea for collaboration that includes a public engagement project.  Does she know how often I think about opportunity to engage with the public? It’s on my mind a lot especially after my summer artist residency at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Maria Adelaida’s research is the Whipworm and Trichuriasis.

We talk about art as a form of communication. She talks about her work reaching a new audience. I enjoy the idea of my work reaching a different audience as well. She speaks STEM, I bring the A in and speak STEAM.

I’m intrigued. Can you send photos of these whipworms?

She sends a series of electron microscope images. Oooooh! The first ones, in black and white, defined and beautiful, show the marking and pattern of the male worm. He appears to float in stillness (I don’t imagine the intestines are a quiet place. Are they?)

Soon I receive a Powerpoint of larvae that is out of the eggs, she says, in the presence of bacteria. (I can’t identify the bacteria.) And then more photos patterned and stained bright show the internal structure of an adult female whipworm infecting the cecum of a mouse. A transversal section shows the eggs.

I make time to get to my drawing table. I want to better understand what I see.

Cecum, Eggs and my imagination.

I spend a day drawing the cecum, a pouch connecting the small and large intestine. I imagine the area with little light (dark) so I take my drawing into a filter and play with it ↑.

Cecum is from the Latin caecus and means blind – blind intestine, blind gut or cul de sac.
Maria identifies the super beautiful cecum epithelia and explains it is only a single layer of cells, that is folded in ‘crypts’ to maximize the area. 

I note the eggs. I wonder how long they take to hatch. (Is this the correct language? Do they hatch?)

I spend a few days looking at photos and drawing worms. Yes, they do resemble a whip.

The female is larger than the male. I’m surprised to know the thinner narrower end of the worm is where the mouth is located while the wider end is its rear.

I take the image into a filter and again imagine the inside of the large intestine.

I get lost in the drawing.  I have to remind myself these are parasites that cause serious problems to the host. #DrawingInProcess #2sided


I learn from Dr María A Duque-Correa whipworm infection causes Trichuriasis, which affects millions of children around the world. Her goal is to more fully understand the initial stages of the epithelia infection by the larvae, a crucial step that determines whether the worms are expelled or remain in the gut causing chronic disease. In the long term, this knowledge will help to develop vaccines and discover drugs to fight whipworm infections.

Here is one of her public engagement programs → Worm Hunters.

Crossing my fingers that we will work together in the future.

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).

microscopic organisms in my studio (here, there and everywhere)

In a recent interview Nicole begins by asking, “Who are you and what do you do?” I wonder if she knows I consider these questions all the time.

Who am I? What am I? What is this world? What is my relationship to it?

This summer, as artist-in-residence at the Tempe Center for the Arts, I study and draw out  the incredible human brain. My answer (to the set up of questions) then, could go something like – I am a nervous system. I am neurons and glia firing up a brain. 

As of recent I study microorganisms: bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea and protists. Today – I am an (human) organism made up of (hosting) micro (too small to see without magnification) organisms.

Note: My series of compositions include external and internal views and are ginormous considering…

In the course of this current interest (more like revelation) in microorganisms, I come across a virus that takes me back to the residency research where I look at the healthy brain and the diseased brain (In general I looked at Dementia, in particular I tried to understand Alzheimer’s Disease).

Meet M13 (Munich13), a bacteriophage (or simply a phage).

External (proteins)

A phage is a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria. M13 invades E Coli.

M13 catches my attention when I come across an article explaining how the virus dissolves (in laboratory studies) amyloid-beta plaques and tao tangles.  #combatneurodegenerativedisease  #Alzheimer’s  #Parkinson’s. #Huntington’s
#Creutzfeldt-Jakob

Here (↑ ↓) you have my best interpretation of the M13 filamentous bacteriophage.

Internal structure (composed of a single stranded DNA molecule encased in a thin flexible tube (protein coat)

…Life (microscopic organisms) in the studio (here, there and everywhere).

#microorganisms #microbiota #humanmicrobiome #weareone

archaea/m.smithii – old/new

Methanobrevibacter smithii, AKA M. smithii, member of Archaea domain, I don’t know of you before this. I feel bad considering you are descendants of the oldest life in existence.

Archaea derives from the Greek word achaios, meaning ancient or primitive.

M. smithii look how beautiful you are…

The single-celled microorganism Methanobrevibacter smithii,  the most abundant  archaeon in the human gut, aids in digestion of complex sugars. These microbes are a hydrogenotroph (consumes hydrogen) and a methanogen (produces methane). Yes, they are manufacturers of gas!

Methano refers to its connection with methane, and brevibacter means short rod. There appears to be an association between gas production and body weight. M. Smithii may influence weight gain and loss (anorexia) as well as constipation.

These microorganisms are prokaryotes having no cell nucleus (or any other membrane-bound organelle). Archaea, in general, are unique in that they have a distinct biochemistry.

About archaea and life…
They’ve been around for about 4 billion years! They’re resilient, truly thriving between order and chaos, proving life creative – even in time of crisis.

#history #inthebeginning #theytookabreath

 

white becoming white

Candida albicans, member of the Saccharomycetaceae (yeast) family as well as the human microbial community, I especially enjoy painting you fungus. I wasn’t planning on it, but maybe I’ll draw another member of your fungi kingdom.


The word Candida comes from the Latin candidus, meaning white. Albicans derives from the Latin word albicō, meaning becoming white. White becoming white.

Man, are we loaded with bugs! I never gave this stuff a thought…by stuff I mean the variety of microorganisms, including candida, holding microscopic space in the human body.

This fungus is most commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract and mouth (in at least 80% of the worldwide population). In some circles Candida aids in food digestion and absorption, while in other circles (the out of control circles?) it’s known as an opportunistic pathogen.

Candida albicans under the microscope.

The fungus (yeast) is naturally  found in the human body, primarily in the intestine, colon and mouth. Out of control, it can attack skin and mucous membranes. It can also travel through  the blood stream and affect kidneys, heart, lungs, throat and heart-valves. (Is this what it means to be metabolically flexible?)

cellular structure.

C. albicans is an eukaryotic organism. It’s structure includes a cell wall (which seems an important aspect to this microorganism), nucleus, ribosomes and mitochondria. I don’t know what it means when I read hyphae sense reproductive units from a distance and grow towards them but it makes me think of an electric pull.

I appreciate the lace-like quality of the organic form. The long branches, called hyphae (web) with their circular budded tip, appeal to me. This subject-matter is visually elegant and playful. Candida itself, complicated.

Here is what I wonder:
Candida albicans are commensal. We eat at the same table? I take this to mean they consume what the human host consumes. Yes? Or do they eat what the host discards?  Mutually beneficial?
Is C. albicans overgrowth always seen as an attack on the body? Can the out of control set up be a warning sign of another imbalance (other microbes) in the human body? 

#Microbiota #NewToMe #LoveDrawingMicroorganisms

twisted and seedy bacteria – you are streptococci

I work H. Pylori bacteria a few weeks ago so why do I feel the need to mess with Streptococcus? Bacteria is bacteria – or is it? Maybe it’s all about location…

Strepto from Ancient Greek: streptós, means easily twisted, pliant. Coccus from Modern Latin: coccus, from Ancient Greek: kókkos, translates to grain, seed, berry.

My painting goes through too many mutations for several reasons including that at times I don’t care for the look and feel of the surface, the heavy line work is not a preference and again, I discover filters.

Streptococci (plural) forms in pairs or chains. My compositions focus on their spherical quality, otherwise you’d see connecting chain-like or bead-like forms moving across the picture plane.

I work with smooth mylar to play with the translucent quality and glossy surface. What am I thinking to lay in a gesso black ground? Everything goes opaque, contrast is high and I lose a natural lightness. I rework and overwork.

Frustrated, it feels right to cut the bacteria out and seal it into a petri-dish. I enjoy holding it (with my cotton gloves).

The internal structure of streptococcus bacteria.

The external structure of streptococcus bacteria.

A few weeks ago a friend comments about streptococcus bacteria and its relationship to heart problems (aortic valve). It leaves an impression. I know then I’ll draw the bacteria.

Streptococci can live in the mouth, nose, throat, upper respiratory tract, intestine, genital tract, and on the skin. Particular strains can cause pink eye, meningitis, endocarditis and necrotizing fasciitis. Its trouble causing span feels much too broad, from the not so serious to the deadly serious. It surprises me to learn its nonmotile. It doesn’t move?! (Unlike H. Pylori with its flagella.)

I do move…
Yesterday, I don’t like these studies. Today, is a brand new day and I like them after all. Next: Fungi.


PS: I can’t write very much about the microorganisms I study. While I understand some things in general, I don’t understand things in particular. It’s a whole new (microscopic) world.

I look at microbiota – in hope of gaining insight into the human microbiome.  I hear microbial cells, in and on our body, outnumber our human cells 10-1 (statistics seem to vary – what do I know).  But what does this all mean in terms of our genes? What rules – the human or the microbial?

The most valuable thing that happens as I continue to work is I make connections to things I understand or thought I understood.  Let’s see how it works itself out of me.

In the meantime, I love the tiny stuff I’m drawing. I just wish I’d gone bigger with the microorganisms. I tell my drawing students regularly – it’s easier to work large than it is to work small. Right now I feel like the latter is the only thing I know for certain (but this too can change).