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

an interview / the u of a college of medicine

Mohammad Khan March 13,2018
An Interview with Monica Martinez 

This interview is re-created from the conversation I had with Monica Martinez, the artist responsible for the Nothing in Stasis exhibit that is currently in the lobby of the HSEB. 

How did you become interested in making art?

I’ve been making things since I was in grade school probably. Teachers noted my ability, and kept my interest going.

I attended college at the University of Texas in El Paso and began a more serious study of art, specifically metalsmithing and ceramics. I moved to New Mexico State University to get my graduate degree in fine art, particularly drawing and printmaking.

What made you decide to change media?

I went to NMSU to study with a printmaking professor whose work I admired → Continue reading


The Differential is the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix student publication. Mohammad Khan a first year medical student and an editor for the student-run newspaper contacted me in February.


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

anatomical drawing workshop with med students

I teach an anatomy drawing workshop at the college of Medicine on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus. Participants come from several programs (including a couple of faculty) though the majority are Northern Arizona University (NAU) students in Occupational Therapy (OT).

They introduce themselves and I enjoy hearing why they signed up to come to the drawing workshop.

One young woman tells us she saw a kidney and thought it beautiful and wants to learn to draw it. I understand completely. Another speaks about the piriformis muscle – she explains, it’s from the Latin and means pear (shaped). She wants to see and know this. I don’t know piriformis means pear-shaped, I want to see this too! Someone else explains she would like to learn to draw the human body when needing to explain something – instead of the usual stick figure. I smile and note if I had a patient and needed to be efficient – that stick figure would come in handy.

I move around the room and learn every participant has a personal reason for being here, including an appreciation of anatomy. Someone tells me she likes my artwork and thinks this could be fun. Thank you. Yes, it will be! I tell her.

I want to say a lot of things to them. I want to talk about science and art and their connection, and I want to talk about Leonardo (I never do!). We have 3 hours together – they’ll start something today but will probably finish up on their own.

They arrive ready with organ (subject-matter) references. And medical models are available. We talk about a contour study and I quickly explain the value of working organically. While Cindi (Director of Art in Medicine) provides a variety of papers (surfaces) and materials – the majority of the group chooses to work on black paper (I’m excited to see the black paper – I know what color does on it). A couple of the participants pick out beautiful rice papers and after some conversation – they work in parts and layers – bringing a more sculptural sensibility to their work.

Here are some captured moments of the afternoon. Note everyone begins with a careful contour study and then loosens up (with some prodding) to bring in color and texture. The nervousness steps aside and the afternoon brings a little science and a little art together. Ahhh…creativity!

On a side note: I particularly enjoy the overall conversation. It’s an unusual experience being around medical (health and wellness) people. They’re familiar and comfortable with the body in a way that the average person is not.

The afternoon is coming to an end and  I hear comments like … Oh! I love your kidney! Oh…look at your brain!! 

I learn some new things. I don’t take notes but I probably could (should) have.
Thanks everyone. And a special thanks to Cindi and Rebecca.


My drawings and paintings are on display right now at UA College of Medicine in downtown Phoenix until March of 2018. You can see the exhibit M-F, 9 to 5.
An Artist Reception is in the planning for February 2, 2018 – First Friday, 6-8 pm.

art in medicine – nothing in stasis

I spend the day with the crew at the University of Arizona’s medical school. I am in downtown Phoenix, at the Health Sciences Education Building, installing Nothing In Stasis, my most recent (years of work actually) drawings and paintings.

Walking in this morning, I see a group of students looking closely at my largest canvas that at the moment leans against a wall. I hear someone call out the name of a muscle. Someone else points out the thyroid.  I smile as I approach them and someone asks,  Are you the artist?  This is so accurate, she says. I hope so, I respond. I identify the figures in the painting and we talk about the content.

In between classes I catch students looking at artwork.  Either I am introduced by someone or I introduce myself. I completely enjoy it.

I shoot a series of photos ↓ while sitting in the corner working out a hanging system. Again, students are between classes. One young woman looks at one drawing and then another. She calls a friend over and says something to her as she points. I decide to walk over and introduce myself (all the while feeling like John Quiñones on What Would You Do).

The one female asks me if the surrounding organs signify something about the people depicted.

Yes! You’re correct!
Are they people you know?
My niece, my father and my mother. 

We discuss the compositions of my parents.  They clearly recognize and appreciate the details.

I don’t know how many students I connect with on this busy afternoon but each conversation brings insight.  Are you a medical doctor? My not so scientific response – No, but maybe in another life I was.

Before the afternoon is over I gather how meaningful the usual art works are  to the students, faculty, and staff. They have rotating exhibitions here. And for some reason this last month there has been no art on their walls. I am, in fact, putting my work up 2 weeks ahead of schedule. I clearly hear and see the art element is missed by most everyone.

I speak with Cynthia Standley,  who among other things organizes the Art in Medicine programming. We discuss the value of art in this particular educational setting. We talk about the connection between art and medicine (science) in terms of skill building: observation, critical thinking and communication. She notes how the skills enhance patient care. I note these are the very same skills I teach my drawing students.

I learn they have a partnership with the Phoenix Arts Museum as does our Department of Art at Phoenix College.

At the end of a long day, I sit and watch the natural light flood the now quiet area.

On a side note: When I agree to have a solo at the medical school, I am unaware they have a room with glass walls ↑ and they don’t know I have 2-sided translucent drawings. A medical school with glass walls…perfect!

My studio is empty. I have 60-plus drawings and paintings hanging in the Health Sciences Education Building at the Phoenix Bio-Medical Campus located a few blocks South of the Roosevelt Row Arts District.

The exhibition titled Nothing In Stasis will be showing to April of 2018. The area is open to the public and allows for visitors. An artist reception is in the planning for February’s First Friday. More info to come.


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