a ceremony of appreciation

Invited by Dr. Jen Hartmark-Hill,  I make my way to downtown Phoenix for a Ceremony of Appreciation. The event, organized by the Medical and Allied Health students at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine, honors individuals who donate their bodies to the anatomy lab.

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Upon arriving I meet Dr. Rebecca Fisher, the director of the Clinical Anatomy lab. She tells me about the personal connection students have to a willed body donor. She shares both the educational aspects as well as some of the emotional impact the experience holds for everyone. I look around the room as we talk and I see students, faculty and their families (newborns are in the mix too). The energy is celebratory as everyone prepares.

The evening includes art, poetry, prose, and music (ukulele, piano, song and dance).

One student names his donor Bruce. You looked like a Bruce to me, he reads into the microphone. Another student tells of holding the hands of her donor and notes the nail polish, chips of color. One guesses the age of his donor and wonders out loud, are you a grandfather?

There is practical (medical) information they gather from their donor’s body along with a natural wonder and  curiosity about the life it held.

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I can’t help but make connections between art students and medical students and their draw to the human body. I have to wonder, do they learn about Leonardo da Vinci in medical and science labs?

The medical students describe the learning experience as 2D (text book or diagram) and compare it to 3D (real-life) experience. Artists use a similar language. Art students study Anatomy (for the artist) to understand the skeletal and muscular system. The study is followed by Life drawing where art students apply what they’ve learned to a live model. Learned and necessary skills to both medicine and art are observation and attention to detail.

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And speaking of detail…
The student who draws this skull and heart ↑ is named Dylan. I introduce myself to him and congratulate his fine work.

I appreciate the imaginative way he personalized the drawings (of his donor). Dylan includes the usual anatomical description seen in medical illustration like frontal bone and then he adds more individualized (and more telling of the human-being) descriptions like bank teller, sweet toothjeopardy loversingle mother, grandmother…etc.

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As I thank Jen (Dr. Harmtark-Hill) for inviting me, we agree the evening is moving and meaningful. And before we part for the evening  she mentions an approach to education that she calls  Appreciative Inquiry.

 I often speak with my colleagues about the fact that we are privileged to teach these medical students—they are incredibly good and altruistic individuals. If we can find ways to protect that compassion, kindness and caring throughout their medical training, while instilling knowledge and skills, we will have done their future patients a great service.

I understand Appreciative Inquiry to be a way of seeing (worldview) and a way of being (process) that supports the goodness in people (individuals, organizations and communities).

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A letter written to a donor and expressing gratitude.

Thank you Jen for inviting me to this most extraordinary ceremony. And thanks to the students for a creative and moving evening.


As I come to the end of my post I can’t help but think of a phrase that influences the work I do. I know with certainty it directs me to unique experiences like this one.

Summum bonum is Latin and translates to the highest good.

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drawing on the ovary and what it represents

On the one hand…
I think about lineage, in this case, the one that connects art and the human body. I look to artists whose work focuses on anatomy. I observe the image and information that surface through time. I’d like to think I hold a place in that picture.

And then there’s the life stuff…
I recall 2 events piqué my curiosity about the human body and how it works. I draw connections between anatomy, education and the power of the visual. And speaking of visuals…I draw the ovary.

Flashback…
Sixth grade. Catholic school. Teacher: Mr. Robert Fecas (Bob). Nuns run the school.
And sex ed goes something like this …
Boys stay in the classroom with Mr. Fecas (for their information session). Girls go into the library to see a video and have a talk (with the nuns). Girls return to the classroom with a small booklet. Look, I still have mine↓.

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Mr. Fecas sets time aside the following week (during our lunch hour) and will allow us to come into the classroom (boy and girls together) and ask any question we wish. Most every one of us shows up every day with curiosity and questions in tow. We giggle, we learn. Bob is the best kind of educator! (I also credit Bob for introducing me to reading, meditation and journaling at the end of a day – all in that order.)

Flash forward (college days)
In my 20’s, a medical procedure (amazing technology) allows me to see my ovaries (right in their environment). Is that me?, I ask the internist. What a powerful visual! I don’t forget the undeniable proof of a small (so small) world existing right inside my lower abdomen.  I leave the hospital with both a sense of awe and vulnerability (and my health).

Notes on…
The ovary – from the Latin: ovarium, meaning egg or nut.

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Ovaries sit below the fallopian tubes, on either side of the uterus. The small, pearl colored organs produce eggs (once a month). A female has the greatest number of eggs (about 20 million!) while growing in her own mother’s womb (think about that for a minute!). And if you can imagine they also begin decreasing (called atresia) from that point on. Know the typical female is born with all the eggs she will ever have for life, and she also has more eggs than she will ever need.

We know ovaries are part of the reproductive system. Do you know they’re also endocrine glands?  They secrete estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. As a woman ages and her ability to reproduce  lessens, the inner structure, a highly vascular stroma in the center of the ovary containing blood vessels, lymphatic vessels and nerves, becomes active for the first time. It appears one function winds down while another begins. Ovaries maintain an ability to produce steroid hormones for several decades after menopause. They stay active and useful maintaining some balance in the body as time goes on.

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About the energy of the ovaries…
Ovarian energy – think points of creativity. Are you doing something difficult and or challenging out in the world?  Ovarian energy supports you.

According to Women’s Bodies, Woman’s Wisdom, Christian Northrup MD who writes from an energy medicine perspective, says ovarian wisdom represents a woman’s deepest creativity. Ovaries hold that which waits to be born within us, that which can only be born through us. They support a female’s unique creative potential, especially that which we create out in the world outside of ourselves.

Consider, initiate, allow. Yield to your creativity, Northrup tells women, allow it to come through you. She directs a female to her own internal rhythm. The ovaries (and their energy) are dynamic organs that are part of the body’s wisdom throughout her life.

What do you bring forth? What do you allow?

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what’s going on and what’s taking place…cont.

Sue, Carolyn and I drive out to Mary’s house. Mary not only prepares a great meal for us, she also shares her work, her studio, and her art books.  I’m introduced to an artist I’d not heard of. Conversation is plentiful. We talk about all sorts of things, past and present. I learn something new about each of them, as well as discover something about myself. Too bad for you, I’m only sharing photos of our work here.

Everyone is asked to bring a small 2D drawing, photo, or reproduction of some sort. It’s to be representational of the larger work that will show at What Goes on and What Takes Place, during Art Detour. The 2D object serves two purposes. They’re a way to reconnect, share progress and continue planning. And they act as  jumping points to discuss another element of the exhibition. We’re each considering making a small print. They’ll be available individually or as a collective set of four, during the run of the exhibit. Right now, it appears the prints will be 6″ x 6″  images reproducing a portion of the large-scale artworks. It’s not written in stone, things can change.

Yesterday Mary and I enthusiastically discuss paper stock. If paper is not exciting to you, then my guess is it’s just another tedious choice…and well…too bad.  There are interesting facts about paper worthy of a discussion.

Here are  photos of what’s going on and some of what might take place….enjoy.

Below, I hold a small-scale, mixed media drawing showing the head portion of a life-size self-portrait I’m finalizing for the exhibit.

Mary Shindell holds in her hands, a small cut out maquette of one wing. Yes, one wing. Again, this is only a small piece of a large digital sculpture. Or is it an installation? What will she call it? We’ll wait and see.

Carolyn Lavender cradles in her hands, a reproduction of an owl’s head, one of the 200 animal heads that will grace her large graphite on canvas.

And Sue Chenoweth evenly holds a very small, but very exciting reproduction of the 40″ x 40″ mixed media work on paper, she’s completing.

We enjoy the similarities and the differences in the small pieces, as a grouping. They allow us insight into the whole exhibit, which we agree, is a great idea. The afternoon passes quickly. It works out for touching base, making a few decisions, and having fun. We leave with a parting gift from Mary. Better explained, she satisfies our lust…we want these little magnets she’s created. Mary generously gives them to us. She’ll have these available for purchase, at the exhibit.


Once again…here’s the scoop….

WHAT: WHAT GOES ON AND WHAT TAKES PLACE

WHERE: MODIFIED ARTS

WHEN: FEB 18TH – MARCH 12TH, ART DETOUR

WHO: MARY SHINDELL,  CAROLYN LAVENDER, SUE CHENOWETH, and MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

This exhibition is supported with a mini-grant for marketing through the Ted Decker Catalyst Fund.

Click Modified Arts to find links informing you about each of the artists, their studio and their work.

To visit artists web sites, click on their photo above.

what goes on and what takes place/ the venue



A few weeks ago (April 11th), I wrote about collaborating on an art exhibit, with three other artists. Yesterday, the four of us met with Kim Larkin.  Modified Arts, will host the exhibition.

Modified is run by Kim Larkin and Adam Murry. Kim made the round of studio visits, and then agreed to meet with the group on Saturday afternoon. Adam stepped in to greet everyone, and then he was off.

About the space…it appeals to all of us. It’s open and well-lit.  It has cool sophistication and yet  it retains its original charm. It’s in downtown Phoenix. And it has lots of history.

We do talk a little bit about the history of Modified. And then Kim speaks about their vision as the new directors of the space. She’s grounded. Intelligent.  Clear. Flexible. I had these thoughts, when I spoke to her in my studio, and listening to her in this meeting, I am aware of them again.

She has a sense of integrity we all connect to. I especially like that we discuss the exhibition as a whole experience. Kim brings up the idea of a community component. This is in perfect alignment with our plan.  We’re in agreement about connecting with /interacting with/and pulling in the audience. We want to make the experience accessible and inclusive. Ideas tossed about: showing the creative process through photos, personal material (studio ephemera, studio debris), speakers, event/s, video, and music/sound. How this part evolves, you’ll have to wait and see, just like us.

There will be one large, main artwork from each of us. And a few smaller supporting works, that specifically accompany the larger work. Included is the showing of process, in a more personal manner, will be bits and pieces from each.

Kim mentions bringing fun into the equation. We agree…it’s present already, it will naturally be a part of the end result.
WHEN will all this fun peak? I am really pleased to say…next year, during Art Detour.  Feb 18th- March 12th.

We note to Kim that we plan to reveal the other 3 artists, one a time.  She’s good with this. But as I write this…I’m not so good with it. I want to tell you who the other artists are right now!  Another clue below…..can you guess?

Obviously…four women.  I hope soon to reveal one of the other artist.

We play around with shooting photos and then our afternoon meeting ends. I leave feeling the agreement to create this experience is respectful and beneficial, to each of us and our own individual process of working. Kim offers the gallery, Modified, and we offer our work. In the agreement there is plenty of freedom to really create. It’s the thing that is driving this show. EXCITING.
Win-win for all, including you, if you’re inclined.

WHAT: WHAT GOES ON AND WHAT TAKES PLACE

WHERE: MODIFIED ARTS

WHEN: FEB 18TH -MARCH 12TH ART DETOUR

WHO: 4 Women Artist. More to come soon.

Stay tuned!

steady now, creativity in motion

Nothing about the creative process is black and white….just as in life, there are variables that affect outflow and outcome.

Yesterday I stretched two pieces of canvas. One I primed with white gesso, and the other with black gesso.  I don’t know exactly what will go on each canvas, but I have a general idea. I don’t really work off of very developed sketches all the time. Most often, I have an idea and I progress with materials that are flexible and continue to move for a while. I correct, alter, and solidify, as I go along. Things are never really permanent until the very end, if even at that point. It’s not easy working this way, but its the way that is most successful for me.

Right now, I have a clear sense of the unknown, and I am in sync with that. I have a blank canvas…in this case…two blank canvases. I also have plenty of experience, materials, and skills that will come with me as I move thru these new compositions. Consequently, I feel a sense of regeneration. One of the canvases you see here will be the center (the guts… literally)  of a larger composition.  The other, will be a supporting element, that stands alone, to express progress. At this moment, I am at ease with what comes natural and easy, but also with the struggle.


Get on your mark, get set…stop! Get on your mark, get set…oops. Get on your mark, get set…oh shit! Get on your mark, get set….GO!
Steady now, creativity in motion…  I trust the flow.

the first bit, more pieces to come

Today I offer the first glimpse of a creative collaboration that I am excited to be writing about. Involved are three other artists. Here begins the first formulations of what will be a future art exhibition.

The group of four has come together for specific reasons, most important is that we want to work together. Working together is a bit more involved than merely showing together in an art exhibit. It includes a systematic series of actions directed to some end. What is the end? Simply put, it’s the creative experience itself.

Certain criteria underlies the procedure of coming together. The artists are mature in their work, with a certain level of ambition still very palpable in their art. Not one  of us can call ourselves an “emerging” artist anymore. There’s experience present, singularly and collectively. And though there hasn’t been a “merging” within every arena wanted, everyone’s on it, in their own way, be sure of this.  Each has an MFA. With this footing, a level of tenacity and self-awareness is implied. Each person can draw, though each of us handles the ability in a very different manner. Everyone relates to the education process as a student, and as a teacher. And each person’s sensibility stands out as unique and precise. You see the individuals hand in the individuals works. There’s unmistakable presence of time, be it fast and quick or slow and steady. And evolution is a constant.

The evening’s conversation bounces around, as we share a meal. Discussion involves how we proceed in making art.  Process will be a part of the exhibition so this discussion is important.  How does one begin a work of  art? Is end result in mind? I listen to each response, there’s overlap in conversation, excitement, agreement, curiosity. I hear how different everyone is, in some external sort of way.  I do note a more internal form of connection as well.

Conversation continues. What do you listen to while in studio? This one element is important to everyone, so much so we discuss it at various points in the evening. Someone asks if the impetus to create is retinal or cerebral? Interesting choice of descriptive words. It’s retinal, they’re in agreement. I pause to consider. I can’t answer easily. Intuition, instinct, a strong understanding of the elements of design, confidence in the process, materials, adventures, age, personal interests…we’re talking about all of it. One spouse contributes a comment that gets our attention. It appears to me, you all solve problems. One person voices appreciation.  We all agree with the observation.

Here it is, in a nutshell. We’re working together, yes. There are four of us. We may have a venue and a general time line.  The whole picture isn’t clear…yet….but we do see it happening. It’s retinal. What do we call the exhibition? It’s important that we get this. It’ll determine various specifics.

This evening we’ve each brought along something. Some thing we work with; tool, material, a bit of process stuff. The symbol is a jumping point to help formulate a working title. I enjoy the discovery, the sharing. We throw words around. Out comes Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary , and I begin to read.

Process – operation.  PROCESS. PROCEDURE. PROCEEDING.   Apply to something that goes on or takes place.
A PROCESS is a series of progressive and interdependent steps by which an end is attained.
PROCEDURE usually implies a formal or set order of doing a thing, a method of conducting affairs.
PROCEEDING applies to what goes on or takes place…

“That’s it! I like that!”  One person calls out. Though I’ve not finished reading the whole thing, with similar excitement, everyone agrees. The working title of our project becomes What Goes On and What Takes Place.

Here, you have the Why. I’ll fill you in on the Who these other artists are and the Where, and When the exhibition will take place, and a few other important details.  Bit by bit, time will reveal.  After all, the creative experience, is what it’s all about. This collaboration is a building of trust in the process, as we each continue to make art.

Stay tuned, more to come!

P.S. this is way better than any reality show.
Hmmmm…..now what if….

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I’m reading Daniel H. Pink’s,  A Whole New Mind, Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. According to Pink, the time has arrived for the artist (right brainer).  Pink suggests the MFA is the new MBA.

Our economy is in a funk and as it gets better, a new level of creativity will certainly be in demand.  A bit of logic and a lot of invention is what smart companies will be calling for.  The basis of the book is that real creativity cannot be automated or outsourced.

Creative intelligence will be valued in a new way. The artists primary skills may bring in a top salary, paid vacation, insurance, and other company perks…the keys to the kingdom are changing hands.  Yes, Pink.