a bacterium – the coiled gatekeeper

Meet Helicobacter pylori, AKA H. pylori – a bacterium found in the mucous lining of the stomach (in at least 50% -60% of the world’s population).

External (top image) and internal (bottom image) study of H. pylori bacteria.

Helicobacter from the Greek, means spiral or coil. Pylori related to pylouros, the opening or junction leading from the stomach into the duodenum, also from the Greek, translates to gatekeeper.

My studies include bacterial cell basics: plasma membrane, cell wall, ribosomes, cytoplasm and nucleoid (no enclosed nucleus).

H.Pylori: external (top), internal structures (bottom)

I remember once-upon-a-time studying single-celled organisms. I always liked the word flagella and still it manages to get my attention (determines compositional layout). The whip-like appendages support locomotion (moving, pushing, swimming) and are also sensitive to temperature and chemistry.

I wonder – in the case of  H. pylori – should this particular microorganism really be on the move? 

Flagella – a whip-like appendage.

I work from images that include the pili (another cool word…related to pilus and Latin for hair) while other photos suggest the bacteria to be a smooth coil. In each study I take liberty with color and I include the hair-like pili in one drawing, for the added rhythmic line and texture.

Some of my favorite bacteria (in name only) have a lot in common (of course they do, they’re bacteria). To my untrained (in bacteria) eyes (perhaps even to the trained eye) my study of H. pylori could resemble E-Coli. Perhaps one might even pass for Lactobacillus and another for Salmonella.

As my study evolves – Surface of bacteria

The human body (yours and mine) is home to loads of (100 trillion) bacteria.  We host colonies of microorganisms! They live in us and on us.

Are they harmful? They can be. Are they beneficial? They might be. For example, H. pylori in the stomach can lead to duodenal ulcers and stomach cancer. Did I mention this particular bacteria adapts to an acidic environment? Note – it does not always produce disease.

Process photos… study continues to evolve…internal structure of bacteria

I think about the creative process a lot, laying out careful design only to sometimes rub it out quickly. It is, for me, a continuous mix of control and freedom.

Helicobacter pylori, Coiled Gatekeeper, are you a natural expression of the creative process?


Back in the studio…
I am in the stomach with this bacteria. I plan to look at viruses, fungi and archaea too. Let’s see where they take me. At some point I will be returning to the brain – with a new perspective.
#GutBrainAxis #Microbiome

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

el murciélago

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

bat2

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.

IMG_5384

  • 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.