no woman is an island

I know you said your studio is empty but I‚Äôm wondering how exact that is ūüôā I‚Äôd love to buy a piece of yours as an anniversary gift for Ray.

Yes, the walls really are empty. All the humans are gone! ¬†I do have some critters….

Setting up a date and time for a studio visit I ask Amy –¬†Will you be bringing Ray? Or will this be a surprise?

I lay paintings of insects, a hummingbird, and a tortoise out on a drawing table. As I turn a spot light on them, I feel certain Amy will choose a bug.  But fairly quickly she picks the tortoise. It reminds her of a road trip her and Ray take in their first year of marriage. 

Being turtles…
Cold, November and fairly newlywed (10 months) they drive along the Southwest. Traveling Southern Arizona to New Mexico and into El Paso, she notes they make their way across the border to Juarez and they get lost.  A pizza delivery person had to lead us out!  Upon return they make their way to Hueco Tanks and then head back up New Mexico to Santa Fé and Taos.

we are outside at a caf√© somewhere in New Mexico — I can picture the scene perfectly and we were both wearing black turtlenecks and freezing and looked up and realized we were both pulling them up over our faces, to just below our eyes. And “being turtles” was born

I smile with the visual.

Is she female? Amy asks.
I don’t know. Let’s look at her sexual organs, I say half-joking.
Is this her spleen?

Study of a Tortoise¬†– Casein, Gesso, Prisma Pencil, Micaceous Iron Oxide, Ink, Collage on Panel – 10×10″

Amy drops me a text later that evening…¬†I just realized Rays grandpa used to tell a story about a tortoise named Gilbert! (the map)
Meant to be yours – She is!

Surprise Ray! And a very Happy 20th Anniversary to both of you!

Thank you so much Amy!

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

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.
‚Äē 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:


general sketch



refinement and muscle structure



anatomy goes in


completed head includes cranial nerves in and out the head


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 Р Inside me, Inside you.

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


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.


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.

every picture tells a story

This mixed media jewelry pin is from 1987. It included every single technique I’d learned that year in my Advanced Metals¬†classes at UTEP. ¬†The design has in it marriage of metals, as seen in the silver and brass railroad crossing stick atop, and the silver round disks below. I constructed three bezels and set three jewels for the traffic signal on the right. And I used rivets to connect the centered (and off kilter) number 2 highway sign. The RR crossing sign below sways left to right and back again, with a slightly different sort of rivet. I completed the design, ¬†(correction: began the design) by etching the word west into¬†the copper back plate. I was also studying printmaking that semester and put a little of those skills to use. ¬†The back has a hinged clasp. Practically, it’s an ambitious set up and things melted here and there. I reconstructed several areas a number of times.¬†This was a long time ago. It’s not perfect, but it was a fun and challenging design, that tells a story. ¬†I’ll share the story for my nephews Alfonso, Daniel, Carlos, and Manuel. The story includes their father, whose recently passed away.

Luis was practical. He was also complicated. Sometimes he caused me to pause and think, and other times he just annoyed me. ¬†He said things like…You’re not Mexican, you don’t ‘think’ in Spanish! Do you? YOU think in English!¬†Yup,¬†I’d answer, I sure do!¬†¬†He’d get frustrated. ¬†I’m not Mexican, I’d qualify, I was born and raised in America. ¬†He’d grumble and exit the room. ¬†I’d never considered what language I thought in, I was in my 20’s. And who are you to be directing my thinking?¬†I said to him finally. Luis had his view of the world, it was different from mine.¬†I was young and stubborn. ¬†He was older and stubborn.

Back to the pin…It’s based on Luis’s continual suggestion to me, most of my college years…to go west. Go west, Monica! ¬†Go west! ¬†He’d go on to tell me as an artist I might find more opportunity heading to California. When I moved to New Mexico (from Texas), he approved. It was a better option for me, he indicated. The last time I saw Luis, he was staying with us, here in Phoenix. He noted our move had been a smart one and we’d done well for ourselves. ¬†Aren’t you going to tell me to go west?¬†¬†Ah…you should,¬†he muttered. California Monica. California. Some of his comments and sharing had bits of truth in them and a few things have stayed with me. He impressed me with something the last time we spoke. It was about human nature, ambition, drive, and money. I think about that conversation pretty often.

I guess the pin is about travel and movement, not the Grapes of Wrath movement, only opportunity…and change. It’s all good. ¬†RIP Luis.