present and re-present

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the leading cause of neurodegenerative dementia associated with aging, affects over 5 million adults in the United States and is predicted to increase to 16 million affected by 2050. – Alzheimer’s Association 2017 


Looking at the PET scans  – I recognize his profile. This is my father.

Talking to my sister Mercedes, she reminds me how for years when one of us called out Dad! he’d yell  back, YO SOY EL SEÑOR MARTINEZ! 
I smile. I don’t ask if he still does this.

It’s natural when I make art to think about it as installation. I want some sense of a bigger picture. With this particular work, I imagine a small series of studies and words. Maybe the words are text (as marks) across a wall.

I ask mom, my 4 sisters and brother to jot down thoughts/words about dad, past or present, as I make a small scratchboard series of his PET scans.

Mercedes: His funny sayings – CON UN DIABLO!!

Dad never really cusses in front of us. My guess is this saying is his version of Damn it!

Elisa: He likes to play with words, he always has. Every time we pass a one-way sign or stop at a four-way stop sign he says…”un guey”. “Cuatro gueyes”.

Dad’s humor includes playing with words and the English and Spanish language. 

Elisa: He used to say grocerias for groceries. Now he says, narizona when we get to Arizona Street.

Elisa also sends recordings she’s made of some of their conversation. In one recording she asks dad about his sister Carmen, who died last month at the age of 99.

Elisa: How many years between you and Carmen?
Dad (who is 86): I don’t know, followed by a long pause, she was old enough to scold me.

Mercedes: He liked Gabriel-Garcia Marquez’s, Cien Años de Soledad.  He took us to the Plaza Theater to see 2001: A Space Odyssey when it first came out and Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein at Plaza…Jaws and Star Wars at Cielo Vista. 

I laugh because within minutes of Young Frankenstein starting, I saw in his face he’d  regretted it. Not a kid’s movie dad!

Mercedes: …summers and swimming, Washington Park and Armijo….with all the neighborhood kids.

Dad, for many years was a summer life-guard for the city summer recreation program. He took us to work with him every day, Monday to Friday (lucky mom). And along with us, he often did have many of the neighborhood kids piled into the station wagon.
He swears he taught me to swim. Maybe I didn’t pay attention. His mouth dropped when years later, as an adult, I told him about the afternoon I almost drowned at my best friends house.

Mercedes: He liked Yoga!

This comment brings back my 10-year old self, skipping over him as he holds Cobra Pose.

Mercedes: …candy apple red Alfa Romeo. Guayaberas. He taught me to make Gin and Tonics. He likes to eat :).

Gin and Tonics?!

Analissa’s memory takes her back to high school:  I went to the library to pick a book, I chose One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia-Marquez. He read it with me. He went on to read everything by him, took a class on the author and later magical realism. I thought that was cool – he made himself an expert just like that. I once went to play cello for a class he was taking. I forget the class, but I played the same program as Pablo Casals did at the Kennedy White House. I sensed he was proud.

Analissa (younger than the rest of us, never knew dad the lifeguard, but does know dad the swimmer):  I would go swimming with him, since I was a little girl. He taught me to swim. I have specific memories: his cadence and body movement and endurance – his swim bag and goggles, flip-flops and little shampoo bottles. The last time we went swimming I sensed it would be our last time at the pool together. So I stopped and just watched him swim the whole time.

…We once looked up the town he was in, in Germany, on Google Earth. It was exciting for both of us. He had 3 memories: The train station that would take him into town, the ‘biergarten’ where they would drink, and the cathedral where they’d go to church after drinking all night on Saturday, then back to the train station. We found all three of those things, they were still there.
Dad is funny. 

Chacho, my brother, notes John Nichols and the Milagro Beanfield War – When I read it, at Cathedral, he told me it was one of his favorite books.  He would read it at least once a year. He likes Hemingway. When I was reading For Whom the Bell Tolls he would tell me about it. He had the movie on VHS.
His favorite drink is Negra Modelo.

‘El Sapo High’…He says this every time we pass El Paso High School. 

Clearly Dad read a lot and – he suggested I read Cortázar’s Rayuela and also the English translation titled Hopscotch. The book had instructions in it on how to read it. Apparently it bounces from the past to the present. Instructions?! Too complicated dad!
It’s still on my list.

One of my sisters never responded and mom wasn’t sure what to say. She’s in the thick of it with taking care of dad.

As Artist-in-Residence, I focus on dementia and Alzheimer’s this summer.

I sit at my drawing table at the Tempe Center for the Arts, talking to people who come in and share their personal stories about how dementia touches their lives. I’ve connected with professionals on the issue. And last week a chemical engineer visiting the gallery talked to me about President Reagan, who died of Alzheimer’s. He was known to drink a coke a day. This chemical engineer, who spoke 5 languages, told me about a project he took in Japan shortly after graduating and consequently he never drinks out of aluminum cans if he can help it – only bottles for him.

…I know I want these small scratchboards bigger. I admit, this summer it sometimes feels odd to be working with new materials, mixing colors, and laying out ideas.

Raising awareness…my own and yours.


Tempe, AZ →  Dementia Friendly City
More → The Alzheimers Association
Special TIME Edition June 2018 → The Science of Alzheimers

a brain. new paper. new media.

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I spent yesterday afternoon working with different materials – paper and media both. I settle on an a crisp architect paper – and I render this brain. I love the surface.

I need to figure out how to display this small work without framing it. I don’t want to deal with glass and a frame. I could tack it up onto a wall but there has to be other choices –  cleaner choices.

Any suggestions?

a heart and a brain

Today in Yoga we talk about the organ of the heart. I happen to have completed (yet another) small drawing of one. We tend to think of it in connection to love. Meg, the instructor, says in this case it’s connected to happiness. She explained the energy is more about accepting what is – as opposed to wanting to control. I also drew (yet another) brain.

They work together. Or do they?

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For some reason I make a connection to Ahimsa. I’ve decided non-violence is a discipline. I’m not sure why I piece this together. But I do.

the brain – the hub of the cns

Men aught to know that from the brain, and from the brain only, arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains, griefs and tears. Through it, in particular, we think, see, hear, and distinguish the ugly from the beautiful, the bad from the good, the pleasant from the unpleasant…It is the same thing which makes us mad or delirious, inspires us with dread and fear, whether by night or by day, brings sleeplessness, inopportune mistakes, aimless anxieties, absent-mindedness, and acts that are contrary to habit. These things that we suffer all come from the brain, when it is not healthy, but becomes abnormally hot, cold, moist, or dry, or suffers any other unnatural affection to which it was not accustomed. Madness comes from its moistness. When the brain is abnormally moist, of necessity it moves, and when it moves neither sight nor hearing are still, but we see or hear now one thing and now another, and the tongue speaks in accordance with the things seen and heard on any occassion.

But all the time the brain is still, a man can think properly.

                                              – Hippocrates, 5th century, B.C.

 


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I lose track of time and over work this brain (and my own). I get caught up in its architecture and in reading about it. In the last few years I have drawn more brains than I can say. I understand the brain is protected by the thick bones of the skull, suspended in cerebrospinal fluid, and isolated from the bloodstream by the blood brain barrier.

Yesterday more becomes clear – the brain is the hub of the central nervous system. It’s the control center for all the other organs. It is the CNS! 

It is the Central Nervous System. I feel like I make a great discovery. But I believe I knew this. Somehow isolating parts in the way I did, and working them out … shifts my awareness enough to realize how profound this really is.  I don’t care for this particular image of the brain. It’s part of a larger composition and I will simplify it at some point. But the time-consuming, detailed work allowed me insight. Is that how the (my) brain works? Maybe this time.

Early in the week I drew a spinal column, and naturally I thought about the spinal cord and eventually one thing leads to another …

IMG_7131a… I feel like I may never understand the wholeness of us.

My brain needs a rest now.


These images are part of my fathers anatomy study – which I’ve yet to title

In the large drawing the spine will connect to issues with his Lumbar Curve.

I add the brain as representation of his occupation and interests. He’s a thinker. He studied both phycology and philosophy. I recall when he completed his masters degree in guidance and counseling.

Years ago he gave me a small 23 page booklet about Transactional Analysis. It gave me  insight to some basic principles about relationship. Everyone should be so lucky.

hand-eye coordination

There is a region of the brain important for maintaining the calibration between visual and motor systems necessary for accurate eye-hand coordination.

Presumably, recalibration of the eye-hand coordination takes place continuously throughout our lives.  – Lorri Preston

IMG_6565 copyI’ve sketched the hand, eye and brain before. I draw them all again this week while at the same time I prepare syllabi for Drawing classes this Fall.

The study is direct and only focuses on the three parts of the body at the start. And this morning in Yoga, my teacher Meg talks about the heart. Naturally I make time to draw out and consider that connection as well.

I show the small grouping to Thomas, who is also an artist and had been wanting me to include the heart. He says … these four body parts … I consider them the four basic elements of an artist’s existence – bridging the internal and external, the subjective and objective.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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I consider the process a week long meditation – natural and organic.

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cerebellum

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Cerebellum

The brain takes all the body’s information, internal and external, and produces a response. I love drawing the parts, they are mysterious and complex. Lots of folds, lots of nerves,  lots of hidden elements – for me that means things to represent.

My yoga teacher Meg says energetically we are in the cerebellum now. Each week in class we discuss the organ we are in, and its symbolic aspects. The connection comes from Meg’s interest in Tibetan Pulsation. I know little about the study. I appreciate the information. I understand there’s a physical organ connected to various points in time in the calendar year. Last Wednesday was the last day of being in the legs. Legs, Meg noted, associate with movement: steady forward, hesitant backward, or standstill.

Thursday we moved into the Cerebellum: much thinking, talking. worrying – balance is signified by clarity. Coincidentally this week in the studio I focus and complete the head of my male figure. I rework the cerebellum several times, simplifying the purple (my color choice) form just a little each time.

The cerebellum (Latin for little brain) sits at the base of the skull, above the brainstem. It controls fine movement coördination, balance, equilibrium and muscle tone. My painting of it went through stages. I like the shape, it’s a favorite. It has floral shaped elements which I clean up and eventually leave out for the sake of balancing overall  composition.

Below I start with a general sketch and move to final stage of the area. The painting itself is far from finished.

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initial sketch

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progressing

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I always layout more detail thanI keep.

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Detail of brain includes ear and the cerebellum in purple

IMG_4391 I notice our yoga practice consists of grounding asanas. We began by standing in tadasana,  firm on the feet.  I wonder now if that’s how the energy of the energy of cerebellum balances. I bet it is.

braincase – nothing in stasis

Brain: an apparatus with which we think we think. – Ambrose Bierce


I finished the back body with the great spinal column as focal point, it seems only natural that I move up into the brain.
This is a small 13″ x 13″ casein on canvas.

The detailed eye-ball in the upper left hand corner represents subtle vision, and the inner ear in the lower right hand corner represents subtle hearing.

I love the word Braincase. It’s exactly what it sounds like, the cranium enclosing the brain.

The video shows the layering process.
Note: I’ve used the same series of sounds in all the videos to this series of work. It’s created by artist and musician Joe Willie Smith and me.

Today I read about Chinese medical classics which note, All of marrow belongs to the brain. I’ll take the thought into future works.