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

Hi. I love your Torso images. Do you have similar work available? Dennis

This simple note arrives on September 13, 2014. Chosen for the State of the Art, Discovering American Art Now exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum, my studio visit makes the cover of the arts section in the NYT.  I receive email from across the country.
It still makes me smile. I am overwhelmed in the best possible way.

Eventually Dennis inquires about a commission.¬†He let me know he’d prefer a male, anterior view anatomy study. He’s a cardiologist, the connection to the heart is the draw.¬†Willing to wait as long as needed (his words), I decide he’s a patient man. In our correspondence I also gather he’s thoughtful. He describes how he works with artists to foster both creativity and opportunity. He writes that he rarely buys paintings, though he loves and collects glass sculpture.

Fast forward to September 2017

Hi Monica – I contacted you a few years ago … I had discussed a piece in your torso series. Do you have any completed works in line with that body of work you might have for sale at present?¬† Dennis

I have work and send him images. It doesn’t take him long to decide on a painting titled ¬†Front Body, Male.

Front Body, Male, ¬†Casein and Gesso on Canvas, ¬†34 x 13″

I now know his full name is Dr. Dennis Chugh.  I very much appreciate his reconnecting after all this time.

Front Body, Male will be on display at the University of Arizona medical school opening in a few short weeks.  I am happy to note the painting is his. I will borrow it for the exhibit, Nothing In Stasis. The show will run to March.

Dennis will have to wait a little longer for the work. His response:¬†I’m in no hurry.¬†I’m so glad your work is being seen (and sold).

Thank you Dennis, for reaching out and for the support of my work.

Dennis Chugh is a cardiologist who appreciates the arts and is also a maker of beautiful objects. He has blown glass for several years.

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

You can see more of his colorful Aviary Cilinders at ‚Üí

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

I could have titled this post: The Mud Dauber, at the Wedding Party.

The doorbell rings.

Sergio, the new neighbor, stands in my front patio holding a plastic cup. Sergio is newly wed (only a few days newly wed at this point). He and his wife Terrah, recently move on to our street.

Look! We found this at our reception!¬†He says with excitement. I look into the cup and see a wasp of some sort. Do you know I paint bugs?¬†Yes! That’s why I am bringing him to you.
We’d like to commission a small painting!¬†

It’s beautiful, I tell him.¬† Do you know what it is? He responds,¬†No, that’s your job!¬†

I plan to research and identify the small, thin-waisted, golden-yellow and warm-black wasp. I understand bright colors signify a more aggressive species…well let’s see what I discover.

Yes, this wasp can be aggressive, but usually only when provoked. I learn a few other surprising things.

It’s a Mud Dauber from the Hymenoptera order. Derived from¬†Ancient Greek¬†hymen¬†means membrane and¬†pteron is wing. They have two pairs of thin, often see through, membranous wings. The hind wings connect to the fore wings by a series of hooks, considered¬†married wings¬†in flight. Note: Hymen, also Ancient Greek, is the god of marriage ceremonies, inspiring feasts and songs.

Two other features are their chewing mouth parts and large compound eyes. These wasps¬†build their nests from mud (hence mud dauber). Did I mention Sergio and Terrah bought a newly remodeled house. He didn’t care for the layout of the yard(s). They are in the process of redesigning and completing as much of the work possible, on their own.

The symbolism of the wasp (happy to report):
Team work
New start
New goals
New doors

You probably couldn’t find a more appropriate symbol representing new beginnings, on your wedding day – ¬†congratulations Sergio and Terrah!

And thanks! for the commission.

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

Maria sends an email…¬†I will be back in town next week and was wondering if you have any of your work on exhibit right now. We have friends coming into town for a few days and I‚Äôm thinking of things for us to do. So if you were showing somewhere I would love to take our friends. One of them is an artist herself.

I invite Maria, Susan and Laura to come to my studio.

As you might expect  anatomy study surrounds us. We talk the body for a good while. Laura personally relates to the newest kidney drawing sitting on my table. Susan wants to know about materials Рthe paint and paper.  I understand she has worked in woodcut and now does linocut.

Do you have any prints, she wonders.¬†This question always confuses me. Do people mean a reproduction like a¬†gicl√©e¬†or poster? Or do they mean an original print? I’m a printmaker. I stumble with the words … I have real prints, I say.

Maria wants to know about one particular small print. I’ve only thought about anatomy lately so I have to stop, change focus and think … considering the content of the work, I find it amusing. I can tell Susan and Laura do too.


Self-Sustaining Confusion, MM – Collage¬†and hand-painted print, 12 x 10″

Here it is, in a nutshell:
The title –¬†Self-Sustaining Confusion –¬†I find in physicist David Bohm’s book On Creativity. I write the phrase on a piece of paper and leave it on my work table. Weeks pass and one day the rest of the composition formulates while I listen to NPR. ¬†A scientist talks about the brain chemistry at various stages of awareness (or lack of) and I hear things like 69 unfolded proteins and¬†limited real-estate in the brain.¬†And that’s that, I pull out a piece of copper and start drawing.

We talk printmaking and intaglio. This is a dry point. ¬†I use a sharp-pointed tool to ¬†scratch the image directly on¬†a copper-plate (I love copper!). Can you see it? ‚Üď The process of both printmaking and collage tend to free me up, work flows more stream of consciousness.

About this print in particular –¬†If I recall correctly I pull 15 prints, only 7 of them are worth saving. In general the drypoint technique won’t allow for too many pulls, the marks are too irregular.


copper plate with drawing on it


a few pulls of the print


Each image varies slightly. This one is the first image I collage and paint in the series of 7.

We talk about California (where they are from), the ocean, and the desert. We discuss raising chickens (I learn some things) and having fresh eggs (Susan does). ¬†Of course I bring up making ¬†egg tempera paint. They leave my home with plans to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s (Taliesin West).

Ladies, I appreciate our morning together. Thank you Susan for wanting to take home Self-Sustaining Confusion. It’s the last one of that series. Enjoy it!


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

Yesterday I spend the day carefully packing 2 works. Finally, both Tarantula Wasp and Praying Mantis will be making their way to Missouri.

Once upon a time (last Spring to be exact) I had work hanging at ASU.
Krystal connected in March…

My mother is on vacation from Minnesota and texted me some of your images at ASU. I love them. I love bugs and bats and anatomy and maps and you have put them all together in the most beautiful way.

A week later another email from Krystal…

Interestingly enough, my step daughter was also at ASU this week visiting her boyfriend, and she sent pictures of your work to my husband so he could show me. He was in Colorado and came back last night, so we were having coffee this morning and I said “oh, I have to show you these pictures my mom sent you of this artist in Arizona” and I showed him the first picture and he picked up his phone and showed me the same piece of artwork on his phone. So two people we are related to, from different parts of the country, both traveled to ASU in the same week and sent us the same photos, because your artwork made them think of me.

What are the odds of this happening!?


Soon another email…

I would like to purchase the Tarantula Wasp and the Praying Mantis. I love them both, I love their predatory nature. I had never heard of a tarantula wasp, but they are amazing. Have you heard of a cicada killer?

No I’ve never heard of a cicada killer. I look it up and learn it is as creepy as the tarantula wasp!

mantis1While the wasp is already scheduled to show to June, in April an opportunity presents itself to show the mantis (to September). Krystal agrees to wait for both.

The next email (cracks me up)…

I hate to wait for the praying mantis, but I have always wanted to have a piece on loan with my name on it. So if you will send me a photo of it with the tag, then I will suck it up and wait.

…and you did Krystal.

Synopsis: No Woman is an Island.
2 bugs, 2 art venues, 2 museum visits, 3 seasons, 3 states, a mother, a step daughter, a boyfriend, a husband and wife and a cup of coffee… #gottahaveart

Thanks again Krystal.¬†And thanks for letting me share our correspondence. It is a good story.¬†Enjoy the insects! They’ll be arriving soon.

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

i get questions

I appreciate getting emails from people who see my anatomy studies. Now and again I enjoy answering a question. Here is one I receive today. Thanks Karen!

Just want to share how much I enjoy seeing your art. I originally found/bought a coaster (bat) at Made during a Third Friday visit downtown Phoenix. When I saw the original would be shown at ASU, I made a trip to the museum to see it and the other exhibits at that gem of a museum. A follow-on of course, is the STEAM exhibit at TCA. I met some friends there and enjoyed all of the exhibits, but especially finding more of your work was so enjoyable. Your human anatomy work, from the intricate detail, color and scale, so awesome to see. Thank you for creating and showing your beautiful talent. I love the expression of “inside beauty” from the cellular, organ, system, skeletal. If I may, please tell me about your use of maps behind the animal/insect art. It is a great effect.
Thank you!

Karen, the maps tell the viewer about the subject.

About the bat: Invited to take part in an exhibition slated to travel overseas, Between Earth and Sky: Contemporary Art from the American Southwest originally travelled to China. Born and raised in the Southwest, I set out to focus on a creature ¬†connected to each state I’ve lived in. The map, in the case of the bat, connects it to Arizona where it is the state mammal. I currently¬†live in Phoenix near a large colony. Bats, in general, are in serious decline. I hope these thrive and continue to visit our neighborhood. On a practical note they help keep mosquito population down.


The Cicada, one of the insects in the STEAM exhibition, is from Kansas City. Someone who saw the ASU show sent me beautiful cicada’s from her personal collection. It was truly a special gift. I quickly researched the insects and I am certain I will not take another one for granted again.¬†¬†Kansas City sits at left center edge of the composition.


I began using maps a few years back. My husband brought home a perfectly preserved Hercules Beetle he found in a mine in Superior, AZ. I keep the impressive specimen in my studio. You see the city highlighted in the lower center (green) area.

hercules coaster

The maps are part of the narrative – they supply information : How? Where?
How did the study originate? Where does the the creature come from?

I love knowing the coaster directed you on to museum visits.

a cicada from kansas city

IMG_8838 (1)

“My mother is on vacation from Minnesota and texted me some of your images at ASU. I love them. I love bugs and bats and anatomy and maps and you have put them all together in the most beautiful way‚Ķ”

“My husband and I are from Kansas City and are print makers…
…we dabble in collage as well so really appreciate what you are doing.
‚ĶDo you have any cicadas?¬†‚Ķif you decide you would like some cicadas, I have quite the collection of them and would be happy to send some along for inspiration.”

A few weeks later a package arrives!



This is the one I choose to study and paint. I find two used Missouri maps here in Phoenix – what are the odds of that! I plan on another composition soon.


mixed media collage, 12 x 12″

Krystal shares more:
“‚Ķ.Aren’t they amazing. Right after they shed their husks they are completely white. I sit with them on my hand and watch them turn into their colors, their wings are tiny little clumps and then as they dry they uncurl and form into shape. It takes about 45 minutes and it’s the coolest thing to watch. Each group is a different size and marked differently.
…The orange wings came off small, all black cicadas from last summer. I didn’t keep their bodies because they weren’t particularly interesting, but I had never seen orange wings before. If I find them soon enough after they die and they are still flexible, I can pin the wings out and dry them that way. I am just fascinated with them. Glad you find them beautiful, enjoy.”

Krystal and her husband are artists and printmakers from Kansas City, Missouri.


There’s magic and myth associated with Cicadas, worth looking up if you’re inclined. They symbolize carefree living, resurrection and immortality. They connect to the ideas of spiritual realization and spiritual ecstasy.

Thank you Krystal! Yes, they are amazing.

There’s more to this story, but I’ll save that for another time. I plan to show the Kansas Cicada, along with other studies, in the STEAM exhibition, opening next month at the Tempe Center for the Arts.