no woman is an island

I don’t remember exactly (maybe 10 plus years ago?) when I showed the painting below at Estrella Mountain Community College. But I remember Cheryl.

The World Stage, a play in finite acts, 2004

Cheryl, who was a nursing student at the time, contacted me to ask about the painting. We went back and forth via email. She wrote to me about looking at it daily. Eventually she inquired about the price.

Fast forward to July 2019:

Hello, can you tell me If you have any upcoming exhibits in the Phoenix area? Do you have a studio that I can purchase prints from? I love the items from World Stage.  Thank you,  Cheryl A

Cheryl graduated and became a nurse. Eventually her children graduated from college. And recently she experienced a major loss in her life.

It was a pleasure meeting Cheryl all these years later. We spent a thoughtful afternoon together.

She will return to Estrella Mountain College in the Fall. This time she is in the role of educator. Full circle. And more new beginnings.

She now has The World Stage to look at everyday, along with a few other works.

Academia 2, Mixed media, hand colored Intaglio etching on Arches, 2008

I didn’t know what to expect when you walked into my studio yesterday Cheryl. Know that you have some of my favorite work that I’ve lived with for a good while. I wonder if you understand how I feel to know that someone thought about a painting for 10 plus years. I really had no idea the one painting was waiting for you.

Pride, the father of all the deadly sins, Casein and Egg tempera on canvas

La Persona, Mixed media, hand colored Intaglio etching on BFK paper, 2007

This morning in an email:

The Pride piece and The World Stage fit perfectly in my family room near my recliner. The colors are perfect and new for me.  I will place The World Stage over the “faux” fireplace. Looking at this piece gives me so much joy. It really is a lesson in patience. We can desire those little luxuries in life but not at the expense of our family’s needs first. It feels so good to finally “reward” myself for a job well done. It was worth the wait and has gained even more value to me.

Thank you so much Cheryl for a special afternoon. I’m really happy that you have my work in your home. I hope it continues to bring you joy. Good luck in the wholeness of your new life. I wish you all the very best.

Who Am I?, Mixed media, hand colored Intaglio etching on BFK paper, 2018


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

no woman is an island

Early October I receive an email from Julie Sasse, Chief Curator of Modern, Contemporary and Latin American Art for the Tucson Museum of Art.

I hope you will remember me from your participation in some of our Arizona Biennials. A group (anywhere from 20-45 people) from our Latin American Art Patrons are planning a trip up to Phoenix on Wednesday, January 9, with a first stop to see the Teotihuacan exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum, followed by a lunch. I’m not sure if your studio can accommodate a group, but I’m checking to see if that would be of interest to you and if your studio is located in the downtown Phoenix area. If you would be up for a visit sometime soon after 1:30 that day, our group would enjoy seeing your work.

Of course I remember Julie! I recall her support of my work. I will thank her in person. Yes.

All 45 members! of the LAAP arrive to the studio Wednesday afternoon. I share my art process and content with the thoughtful group. My husband, who is present, enjoys meeting members so much, he forgets he’s supposed to take photos! I understand completely.

I do have one photo. It catches a moment when I respond to a question about the portrait of my mother.

Soon after the photo is shot, I meet Nancy.

She approaches holding a small print. She wants to know about it. Is it available for purchase? The limited edition intaglio print titled Her Diagnosis – A Windy Liver is numbered 1/1 (1 of 1) because while it is a printed edition of 15 and is the first of the hand-colored series – each print is original. It holds a memory I have with my friend Maria. The border-lined text that makes its way into the composition as fragmented Spanish sentences comes from a song by the group Maná. The album plays in the studio the day I carve the words into the copper plate. And yes, the print is available.

Nancy, did I tell you the print along with 4 other hand-colored works, hung at the Phoenix Art Museum? The group exhibition called Local’s Only celebrated the art of 12 Chicano and Latino artists based here in the city. It feels right that you own it – in some way it is a full-circle experience. Enjoy the work and thank you so much.

As everyone returns to their bus, one woman stays behind taking a moment to share her thoughts about my work in general and she mentions her daughter, who is in medical school. She speaks to me in Spanish. I appreciate hearing what she says and how she says it – because she’s right.

One fun way to kick off this new year! A special thanks to Julie Sasse and the entire group of Latin American Art Patrons, for taking the time to visit my studio.


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 know you said your studio is empty but I’m wondering how exact that is 🙂 I’d 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 café 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 → dennischugh.com


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):
Communication
Focus
Order
Productivity
Progress
Team work
Construction
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’m 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 – the 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 giclée 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.

selfsustainingconfusion1

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? ↓ 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.

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copper plate with drawing on it

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a few pulls of the print

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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!

img_9421-1


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!?

tarantulawasp

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.