caballo del mar

Caballo del Mar is Spanish for Seahorse.

A student gives me this small seahorse that once belonged to her grandmother. She gives it to me because she says she knows I’ll paint it. Aimee is correct. I accept the precious object knowing I will complete an anatomy study.

10426783_10152851786292298_1382095722110227132_nThe seahorse is a marine fish in the genus Hippocampus. Hippocampus comes from the Ancient Greek, hippo meaning horse and kampos meaning sea monster.

A few facts:

  • These creatures have independently moving eyes.
  • Their body is covered with consecutive rings of bony plates.
  • Seahorses are fish. They use gills to breathe and have a swim bladder to help regulate their buoyancy. Note: they are not very good swimmers.
  • They have no teeth and no stomach. Food moves through their digestive system quickly; they eat almost constantly to stay alive.
  • The male gives birth, he carries the brood pouch.
  • I believe, when I begin the composition, seahorses mate for life (which is why I paint two), and though they do form a bond, I learn for most, it is usually only through breeding season.

Seahorses were given international protection on May 15, 2004 (under CITES). Millions are now being traded around the world for many reasons including for their use in traditional Chinese medicine. There is also deterioration occurring in the Coral reefs and seagrass were they make their home. Learning this, I have to say, I’d feel even more saddness for them if they did mate for life.

I wish we could be better caretakers of all of life.

Here is the finished anatomy study of a female (facing left) and male (at bottom) seahorse. I place them in the Pacific Ocean, because they are found in warmer waters.

Thanks Aimee.

Caballos del Mar, Mixed Media collage, 12 x 12″

Caballos del Mar, Mixed Media collage, 12 x 12″

Seahorse’s symbolize:

  • Patience
  • Friendliness
  • Protection
  • Inflexibility
  • Persistence
  • Contentment

the little armored one

Armadillo is Spanish for little armored one. The Aztecs called them  āyōtōchtli meaning turtle rabbit.

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The Nine-banded Armadillo is the state small mammal of Texas. It’s believed to have crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico in the late 19th century. They tend to be solitary, mostly nocturnal, and forage at dusk. It feeds mostly on ants, termites and other small invertebrates.

From the start I intend to draw in the anatomy . Usually I begin with the foundation (skeleton) and move back and forth from there. Here, I couldn’t help but complete the covered shell first and it causes me to have second thoughts. Would the anatomy add to the image? I could ruin everything. After reading more I decide to continue as planned.

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The Texas mammal has a distinct shell casing made of bone. It has two large shell casings covering shoulders and rump, with seven or nine bands in the middle. When the armadillo is born, the armored shell is soft and leathery, and hardens once the animal reaches adult weight. Its total body length is about 15-17 inches, and the male weighs  11-17 lbs. while the female armadillo weighs in about 8-13 lbs. It has strong claws and a long, tapered tail covered by bony rings. It has 30 or 32 peg-shaped teeth and a long tongue.

A female armadillo reaches sexual maturity at 1 year and can produce up to 56 young ones over the course of her life. A single egg is fertilized, implantation is delayed 3-4 months, gestation is about  4 months during which identical quadruplets are split, each developing its own placenta. It will give birth to the same gender quadruplets from a single egg.

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The armadillo symbolically connects to boundaries and shields. It points to vulnerabilities, empathy, discrimination, and the idea of being grounded. The armadillo wears its armor on its back and its medicine is in that part of its body. It encourages us to protect our inner selves.

This week I meditate on the little armored one.

 

el murciélago

Murciélago is Spanish for bat. I like the word, and I like the creature.

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Approximately 70 species of bats live in the Sonoran desert region, about 27 of those species live right here in the state of Arizona, more than in any other state. I live near a bat colony and note them as they occasionally fly about the neighborhood.

About bats:
Bats are from the order of Chiroptera (meaning hand-wing), which describes their most unusual anatomical feature and the reason why it’s the only mammal naturally capable of true and sustained flight. In the course of working on this study I learn more about this magnificent nocturnal creature.

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  • A bats body is hairy while a leathery membrane makes up its wonderful wings.
  • Bats are not blind though see best at night.
  • They use echo-location to maneuver through space, and to help find shelter and prey.
  • They have an acute sense of smell which helps in the rearing of their young in large maternity colonies. In fact, it’s the way they find their own young in the midst of hundreds of others. I find it particularly interesting that colonies include non-reproducing females that help with rearing duties.

In the lower elevations of Arizona bats mate in late Spring, maybe as early as March.  In Northern Arizona bats can hibernate 5 to 8 months. 

Bats are in serious decline. They are an important part of our ecosystem helping to keep populations of night-flying insects like mosquitos, in control. They disperse seeds and pollinate many plants. In the state of Arizona bats and bat colonies are protected by law.

Symbolism:
Because bats live in the belly of Mother Earth, they symbolize death and rebirth. They are  reborn every evening at dusk. The Native Americans observed them as highly social creatures with strong familial ties. While the bat is nurturing, verbal, enjoys touch, it is also shy, intelligent and gentle.

Bat medicine teaches us to release fear. Think new beginnings.

 

no woman is an island

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.
Rumi

 


I have worked on this commission for most of the last 3 weeks. Normally I don’t do this kind of work that fast, I tell Terri yesterday when I deliver the completed, though unframed, large work on paper. I enjoyed it and I struggled with it. In general my drawing is changing, I am including much more information, if I can figure it out.

There are things about this composition I don’t normally set up to do – like a smiling face. Because I told Terri to stand in a natural way and she stood firm, bright-eyed, strong, chin up and she smiled, I worked very hard to get the face just right – eyes, smile and all.

Here are a few progressive shots of it:

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general sketch

 

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refinement and muscle structure

 

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anatomy goes in

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completed head includes cranial nerves in and out the head

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I wish I could take that, Terri points to all the internal anatomy in the artwork, and place it here, inside me – she points to her chest. It came from you, I say as I laugh. She nods and repeats herself, I wish I could bring that inside me, now.  That’s a great thing to hear.

This is an anatomy study , it’s a study of an energetic system, it’s Terri. And Terri has brain cancer.

I ask if she is okay with me sharing all this. She nods her head – Yes, I am. I ask a few more times. I feel protective. But whom am I protecting, I wonder. Terri is accepting of her life. Her son, who is present, agrees – she’s accepting it all!  Terri is forthcoming about where she finds herself, and she’s at peace. I see it in her expression. I hear it in her voice. She tells me she’s had 3 other cancers – of the colon, in the sacrum, in the lungs, and now – the brain.

I consider the physical body a lot these days, as I immerse myself in these anatomy studies. The body serves a great purpose, it holds the spirit. As human beings we live and connect with it and through it.

I prefer to use medical terminology when I title a work. This could be different, it is a human body, a female front body, from head to hips. It is a  Study of a Human Female Body, Anterior View. But I am thinking of another title, a sub-title, something like –  Inside me, Inside you.

Thanks again Terri. It’s been some assignment to study your spirit – strong-willed and so directed.

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The work is casein, gesso and graphite on cream Arches paper, 36″ x 25″


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

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The art in this post connects to another work completed in 2012. Terri and Patricaia traveled to Italy recently and upon their return, drove to California and married.

6 zygotes

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The word zygote comes from the Greek and means joined or yoked.  On a quick tangent – this makes me think of the Sanskrit word yoga which means to yoke, to join or to unite. Here I think physical process, development and growth. And I think mother – my mother.

You recall I am doing an anatomy study of my mother and I want to reference in the composition the 6 children she raised. Initially I think to include 6 embryos. But as I look at resource material and compositional space I choose to set up 6 eggs becoming fertilized by sperm. I also think design: movement, color and line.

The bottom part / the ground of the drawing ( a 12″ x 44″ area ) is where I refer to the developmental phase after fertilization and the resulting one-celled organism called a zygote. The zygote stage lasts about 4 days – ironically equivalent to the amount of time this area takes to draw out and paint – 4 full days of steady, intricate progress.

Here are the stages of the 6 zygotes.

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Hot summers in Phoenix – I draw all day. This mixed media composition is bright and intense – more so than most of my other work on paper.

I need to start thinking about the title of the work and I wonder if it’s still part of the series called Nothing in Stasis. It is, I decide.

the spongy, tube shaped pancreas

IMG_6268Finally I draw a complete pancreas. It’s hidden behind the stomach and in all my studies I’ve included only a hint of it. The pancreas assists in digestion, it breaks down carbohydrates, proteins and lipids.

The reason I isolate it in this particular drawing is because It also supports the endocrine system and produces several hormones including insulin and glucagon, that regulate blood sugar levels.

The pancreas sits in the upper region of the solar plexus. The area is the brain of our instinctual animal nature and is closely concerned with mobilization of energy for physical and mental purposes. 

Energetically it is an organ of stability and connects to the sweetness of life.

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pancreas and spleen

My work is not literal interpretation of the body, it’s abstracted and symbolic. Because I’ve not drawn this particular organ prior to this, I feel excited as I read and work. For me it’s a new shape, new information and new discovery. I am once again impressed by the intricacy of our physical form.

una campamocha, a praying mantis

From whence arrived the praying mantis?
From outer space, or lost Atlantis?
I glimpse the grim, green metal mug
That masks this pseudo-saintly bug,
Orthopterous, also carnivorous,
And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us.

~Ogden Nash~


Campamocha is Spanish for Praying Mantis. I like the word.

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La Campamocha, 12 x 12″, collage on panel

After researching this insect, I feel facts and symbolic connections are a bit out of synch. It may be that the symbolic associations are purely visual. I must say though it’s one odd-looking bug. It’s a cousin to the termite and maybe a prototype of the cockroach.

A little more…

  • mantises have compound eyes that give them a binocular field of vision
  • their one ear is on the underside of the belly (similar to a cricket if I recall correctly)
  • its neck is flexible and rotates 180 degrees
  • life span is about 10-12 months
  • spiked forelegs help them hold prey securely
  • it’s considered a predator
  • it’s a carnivore
  • they can fly (they can?!)

In terms of symbology …

  • mantises blend with their environment and becomes invisible to enemies
  • they teach us how to still the outer mind and go within
  • the word Mantis is Greek for prophet or seer
  • it is the oldest symbol of God.

…. could this be why we found this one staring at us from a bottle of wine….

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Since I began working on this insect series I have received emails that include photos of exotic bugs, names and web sites of artists who depict bugs and many interesting reads. I know many of your favorite bugs : cute and ugly. I’ve been visited by a number of insects whom I’m sure wish their presence known (la campamocha en la botella de vino). All the bugs I drew made some personal connect via a friend or were direct. I appreciate it all. If we could learn to respect the smallest of life it would certainly be a better thing all the way around.

The most recent link I received reminded me of the Insect People from the Navajo Creation Myth: Insects in Art and Religion of the American Southwest. 

… enjoy…the bugs.