no woman is an island

I receive a card a few weeks ago from Margaret:
Thank you for my new milagro. I plan on sharing it with my sisters Elizabeth and Kathryn. It will travel between my home in West Virginia and their homes in New York. My sister Kathryn and I make these needle felted things we call talismans, small, discrete lovely things about the size of your milagros. It will hang with these among other things at my altar for my mother, Elena, and her spirit will continue on vibrant as ever, only from a different plane.

Continue your work, it serves the world and graces what we think of ourselves. 

This note – so thoughtful.  And reading the last sentence a few times, I can’t help but wish for every woman, every mother, sister and daughter, to hear, to know words like this too.

Margaret writes in January of 2019:
I didn’t know what to picture when I learned my mom had colon cancer. Scans don’t show anything. Doctors draw diagrams and talk in the abstract. One doctor showed me his pinky and said my mother’s colon was like the diameter of a pencil. I said ok but what does that mean? I forgot to say what does it look like? Soon the vision wasn’t pretty in my head. But your artworks helped me see something beautiful and lively, chromatic. Epic and often exuberant, full of lines overlapping with pattern and movement. The organs in my mother’s body that were filling with cancer look different to me because of your artwork. I saw energy, I saw her perseverance, vivaciousness.

I can’t remember if I ever told her about your artwork. I think I was afraid to be implying she should love her cancer or love her colon, liver, lungs and linings which is where it all went. Instead I loved her as much as I could and I loved your drawings privately for myself in a way to make peace with the situation. Thank you for that. I wish you a happy new year. Thank you for doing what the doctors couldn’t do. You gave me a beautiful visual through which I upheld my mom the best I could.

I’ve had interaction with Margaret about her relationship with her mother and how my work affects her, since 2016. In that time I’ve sent along images (a couple below) as she requested. And I aways sent my best wishes for her and her mother.

I tell Margaret my interest is in both the physical body and in the subtle body. I feel she responds to both but most especially she picks up on the subtle (the unconfined and the constant). Margaret will always share connection with her mother. I appreciate knowing my drawings remind her of this.

Contacting me this summer, she looks for a work, something small, intimate and feminine in quality. I love the request and pull a few small, 2-sided, translucent studies. I call these pieces milagros, Spanish for miracle. The votive offering itself is connected to altars and/or shrines. I also call these small artworks holders of light because they do hang in space,  taking in and reflecting out on both sides. I photograph and send her a number of them, including the breast/mammary gland, which is the one she chooses.

Thank you Margaret for sharing the beautiful spirit of your mother with me. I wish you and your sister the very best. #Motherline #HolderOfLight

Milagro photo courtesy of Margaret Bruning #life

This post is dedicated to Elena Lisbeth Sette Bruning, beloved mother, who passed on Dec 13th, 2018. #nowomanisanisland


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

©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

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 colored body

Chromosome – from the Greek, chroma is color and soma is body. A colored body!! I’ve wanted to draw a chromosome for some time. This one is my first, it won’t be my last.

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Chromosome

Chromosomes are tiny, thread like structures located inside cells (in the nucleus) made from DNA, RNA and protein. The stuff inside your chromosomes (that DNA) instruct a cell in how to function and replicate. Every form of life has its own unique set of instructions. Your chromosomes determined your eye color, your height and whether you are a male or female. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46. Twenty-three come from mom, twenty-three come from dad. Oh – and a horse has 64 while a fruit fly has about 8. Plants have chromosomes too.

I understand some chromosomes are longer than others because they contain more DNA, Humans have about 30,000 genes in their 46 chromosomes.

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Telomere

See the yellow area at the end of each arm of the chromosome ↑, that’s a telomere. Telos is Greek for end,  and meros means part. They sort of keep the form from unravelling (like the plastic tip at the end of a shoelace). As we age, our telomeres become shorter. Naturally I wonder if we can grow our telomeres. One thing leads to another and before you know it I arrive at stem cells. And while I thought I understood what a stem cell was, I really didn’t. I won’t get into it now, but that stem cell research thing…incredible!
(go here for more → Doris Taylor – Stem Cells, Untold Stories)

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Stem cells

Ok, I need to stay focused but suffice it to say the beginnings of life are awesome. I don’t use that word lightly . One thing leads to another, and then another, and here You are and here I am.

I can’t help but believe if we could slow down and peek into the wonders of life each and every day (Could you? Would you? In any form you wish.) would this be a different world? It feels crazy out there but know, at your core, you are amazing!

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