art in medicine – nothing in stasis

I spend the day with the crew at the University of Arizona’s medical school. I am in downtown Phoenix, at the Health Sciences Education Building, installing Nothing In Stasis, my most recent (years of work actually) drawings and paintings.

Walking in this morning, I see a group of students looking closely at my largest canvas that at the moment leans against a wall. I hear someone call out the name of a muscle. Someone else points out the thyroid.  I smile as I approach them and someone asks,  Are you the artist?  This is so accurate, she says. I hope so, I respond. I identify the figures in the painting and we talk about the content.

In between classes I catch students looking at artwork.  Either I am introduced by someone or I introduce myself. I completely enjoy it.

I shoot a series of photos ↓ while sitting in the corner working out a hanging system. Again, students are between classes. One young woman looks at one drawing and then another. She calls a friend over and says something to her as she points. I decide to walk over and introduce myself (all the while feeling like John Quiñones on What Would You Do).

The one female asks me if the surrounding organs signify something about the people depicted.

Yes! You’re correct!
Are they people you know?
My niece, my father and my mother. 

We discuss the compositions of my parents.  They clearly recognize and appreciate the details.

I don’t know how many students I connect with on this busy afternoon but each conversation brings insight.  Are you a medical doctor? My not so scientific response – No, but maybe in another life I was.

Before the afternoon is over I gather how meaningful the usual art works are  to the students, faculty, and staff. They have rotating exhibitions here. And for some reason this last month there has been no art on their walls. I am, in fact, putting my work up 2 weeks ahead of schedule. I clearly hear and see the art element is missed by most everyone.

I speak with Cynthia Standley,  who among other things organizes the Art in Medicine programming. We discuss the value of art in this particular educational setting. We talk about the connection between art and medicine (science) in terms of skill building: observation, critical thinking and communication. She notes how the skills enhance patient care. I note these are the very same skills I teach my drawing students.

I learn they have a partnership with the Phoenix Arts Museum as does our Department of Art at Phoenix College.

At the end of a long day, I sit and watch the natural light flood the now quiet area.

On a side note: When I agree to have a solo at the medical school, I am unaware they have a room with glass walls ↑ and they don’t know I have 2-sided translucent drawings. A medical school with glass walls…perfect!

My studio is empty. I have 60-plus drawings and paintings hanging in the Health Sciences Education Building at the Phoenix Bio-Medical Campus located a few blocks South of the Roosevelt Row Arts District.

The exhibition titled Nothing In Stasis will be showing to April of 2018. The area is open to the public and allows for visitors. An artist reception is in the planning for February’s First Friday. More info to come.


Health Sciences Education Building
Phoenix Biomedical Campus (PBC)
435 N. 5th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004-2230
Map (PDF)
Parking Information

the feet and hands, and some trisomy 21 markers

Steeped in the study of Trisomy 21, I lay in general structure for my drawing of Sophie. I learn the spacing between the first and second toe is one of the characteristics of Down syndrome as well as are flat feet (pes planovalgus). Other markers may include smaller hands and fingers. And sometimes a deep, single crease across the palm of the hand.

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Feet
I have to admit when I see Sophie’s feet, I can not wait to draw them.  As a Yogi, the feet are one of the parts of the body I am particularly aware of in every standing pose. You press the mounds of the feet, leveled and firm, into the earth – you root to rise. But what if pressing firmly into the ground (rooting) isn’t so simple. Low muscle tone (hypotonia) and loose ligaments  are contributing factors to a list of orthopedic problems associated with Down syndrome.

I’ve been in classes where Yogi’s spread their toes, an ability only hormonal change has made easier for me. Yes my toes have become more flexible as I age. In general, much of me is more flexible, but I know hyper-mobility is not a good thing. It may be caused (as in the case of DS) by low muscle tone and ligamentous laxity, and can be painful and lead to joint instability if not dealt with properly. A counterbalance to the musculoskeletal related condition is strength training (body awareness and directed effort).

Physical therapy is a regular part of Sophie’s life, her mom explains the afternoon we meet. No Yoga, she adds. Along with her big sister, Sophie also studies ballet. I’m surprised and have to smile when very spontaneously,  she grande jete’s across the studio and into another area of my house and then back again.

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Hands
I sketch the hands. The arms, in general, are not easy. I erase at least 3 (way more) rounds.  This one element in the image is deceiving as Sophie angles her hands back, giving me one more expression to figure out.

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Though her hands are on the smaller end, I don’t easily note other markers of DS. In Sophie’s case there is no single palmer crease. And if the 5th finger (pinky) curves inward, as it might in some cases, its subtle. Sophie’s thumbs are wider and flatter than average though the cause does not directly relate to DS.

I approach this study with the eyes of someone who is learning. I look more slowly and carefully than usual. I work to resolve nuance. In my Yoga practice yesterday, the teacher says attention is medicine. It is.

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Other stuff I learn…
The great toe, the first digit of the foot is called the hallux. The thumb of the hand is called the pollex.

About the red highlight on the toe(nails)…
In general I bring red into the area of the feet associating them to grounding energy. In particular, the red toenails tell the viewer Sophie regularly enjoys a fine pedicure (p. 23 of My Heart Can’t Even Believe it).

a heart in situ

Amy Silverman contacts me in February. She wants to have coffee and talk about our work and how it intersects. Our work intersects? Amy is managing editor of the Phoenix New Times.

We never meet for coffee though we keep in contact and on May 1st she comes to my studio.  Do you mind if I record our conversation? I’m impressed. Why don’t I think to do that when I want to remember things? Clearly we are trained different. We do a little catch up and then she tells me she’s written a book. She says it has science in it. We talk about my drawings and about how I write about my work. She refers to what I do as reporting. One thing leads to another and I make a plan to attend the upcoming book launch.

My Heart Can’t Even Believe It, A story about science, love, and Down syndrome is a story about her daughter Sophie. It’s actually about all of her family but in particular it’s about her youngest child born with Down syndrome.

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Amy tells the story of how her and her husband handle the birth of Sophie, and the life stuff that follows. She goes through medical details as they present themselves and as she tries to understand Down syndrome, also known as Trisomy 21.

She’s descriptive in a way that catches my attention. She takes what is complex science and makes it easier to understand (not easy, just easier). Her words have a visual impact on me. Every time she describes to the reader a physical symptom and/or procedure, my mind’s eye sees it (wants to see it).

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Amy and I first meet in the studio on May 1 and within a month (June 1st) I layout Sophie. I am working on a painting of my nephews daughter, my niece Pilar, who is 5. Because I have much to learn, I decide they’re good back and forth studies. I don’t have children and all of this is a type of learning for me. What is normal human growth and development? Do I use the word normal?  Will I use the words typical and atypical? Do I even use any of these words when I talk about a drawing?

While Amy writes about the more common features of Down syndrome and notes her daughter looks like other Down syndrome children more than like her own family, I see it different. Sophie is totally unique to my eyes. I look. And I have to look again.  I bookmark many things. As I work I go back to the book, to research material and to my notes. As with all my work – you learn as I learn.

Amy connects me with the Co-Director of the Pediatric Down Syndrome Clinic at Phoenix Children’s Hospital who generously makes herself available to me. I contact a research scientist who knows cell biology well. And I talk to a cardiologist who gifts me a couple of his medical illustration books by Dr. Frank Netter. One is about the thorax in general, while the other is about the heart in particular and includes the Atrioventricular Septal Defect that Amy describes in the early part of her book as a hole in her (daughter’s) heart. The book refers to it as Endocardial-Cushion Defect.

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The chapter’s name (the words above to the right) is where I get the title to this post. I have drawn the contour of Sophie’s complete body (studio shot in post). And as I go from part to part I can’t help but wonder how the 21st chromosome affects each and every one of her organs. Down syndrome associates to DNA (our blueprint) and an extra 21st chromosome, it is also called Trisomy 21. Right now – A portrait of Sophie, studying Trisomy 21 – is the working title.

I know the composition will include 2 hearts because the day I meet Sophie she tells me about her heart surgery – both of them. And she tells me about her feeding tube.

Thanks Amy, for bringing your work to my attention. And thanks Sophie for agreeing to let me map you. And thanks for the blue paintbrush you gifted me (If my memory is correct Sophie’s collection includes at least 300 paintbrushes). I refer to the color of the brush as turquoise (my favorite color) and Sophie corrects me, It’s more like aqua! She takes her mom’s cell phone and pulls up a color swatch. It’s true, the brush is aqua.

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Hey Sophie, do you know energetically, that particular blue is the color of expression and is found in the throat? It is.

For more about Amy and her book → My Heart Can’t Even Believe It.

my notes – working title

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Cell – comes from cella, meaning small room.

Cella – Latin for Small Chamber.
Cella – Inner chamber of a temple (in classical architecture).
Cella – a simple, windowless, rectangular room with a door or open entrance at the front (behind a colonnaded portico façade).

Egypt – Cella is that which is hidden and unknown inside the inner sanctum of a temple. Exists in complete darkness, meant to symbolize the state of the universe before the act of creation.
Christian churches – cella is an area the center of the church reserved for performing the liturgy.

A small chapel or a hermit’s or monk’s cell.

The cell is the basic unit of life. Discovered by Robert Hooke in 1665, he thought the biological unit resembled cells inhabited by Christian monks in a monastery.

A Cell.
Cella.
(like my studio, like the exhibition space)

cella

….writing notes and working out exhibition title…
almost there.

mapping a cell (using the city of Phoenix)2

 

science in artistic form – a symposium

This project is a call to action – for all of us – to pay attention to the artists among us, in all our communities, big and small. – Don Bacigalupi


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Friday, November 14th
I sit on the stage with a group of 4 practiced artists. We are in the Great Hall, at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art. This is the first day of a 2-day symposium and the house is full.
The panel discussion circles around connection between humanity and the natural world through the lens of art and science.

photo1The 5 State of the Art artists included in this afternoon’s mix of scientific study within artistic form are Dornith Doherty’s seed bank study of biodiversity (TX); Flora C. Mace’s three-dimensional botanical specimens (WA); Isabella Kirkland’s homage to species recently revealed to science (CA); Susan Goethel Campbell’s merging of nature and consumerism (MI), and (myself) Monica Aissa Martinez’s holistic and spiritual study of human anatomy (AZ). The panel is moderated by University of Arkansas’ Art History Professor Alissa Walls. The opening lecturer is Curator Chad Aligood. Sara Segerlin, in charge of public programs, makes introductions.

To give you some sense of the range of work the audience sees – here is one image from each artist – linked in to the State of the Art website. 

Millennium Seed Bank Research Seedlings and Lochner-Stuppy Test

Dorinth Doherty, Millennium Seed Bank Research Seedlings and Lochner-Stuppy Test Garden No.2, Digital Chromogenic Lenticular Photograph, 79 x 36″

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Flora C Mace, Big Violet (detail) Botanical glass, compost, and shell stand, 16.5 x 14 x 6″

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Monica Aissa Martinez, Male Torso – Anterior View MM on canvas, 45 x 35.5″


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Isabella Kirkland, Emergent, Oil and alkyd on polyester over panel, 60 x 48″

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Susan Goethel Campbell, “Clod” series, dirt and dried grass cast in packaging molds

Excited and nervous, I stand at the podium to speak. My sense of being an artist has broadened. I now have a more expanded sense of community as well as new responsibility. I am not completely settled into these new feelings. I know I won’t say everything I want to say, but I hope I can at least keep things organized in my mind. Ironically, I discuss connecting mind and body – clearly a skill I am learning.

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After the panel discussion artists continue into the galleries to connect with visitors in smaller, more intimate groups.

One person I sit and talk with notes a common trait among each panel member. She says we each carry a strong sense of commitment to our work. That is true of all 102 artists in the exhibition, I say. The conversation ends with commentary about how everyone appears to deconstruct their subject in order to reconstruct again – and represent it.

I speak to a mother and daughter about hereditary and environmental health issues. Her daughter is Latina, she tells me. Two works I show and (very) quickly run through in the lecture, allow for this conversation to take place. They relate, and I am more than pleased.

This is how it goes for the evening and some of the next day.


About my presentation:
Here are my slides and notations about some work.

Note: Because I am visual I would have done well to organize this image and sentence blog post before the symposium. Hindsight is 20/20. I will do it next time.

I begin with informing the audience about the questions I bring to the studio and to my work:

Who am I?
What am I?
What is this world?
What is my relationship to it?

Image #1 Male Torso – Anterior View (this work hangs in the exhibition and seen above).
Image #2 its counterpart  ↓ – Female Torso – Anterior View.

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My work is fed by my 2 practices of running and Yoga. I want to understand both the physical body and the subtle body. All my current work is influenced by scientific anatomy study (medical texts and illustrations) and Yogic philosophy.

My work expresses ideas of the masculine and feminine. I focus on balance of the two principles. These energies show up in many ways: literally as male and female, or symbolically as linear/organic. I consider associations of logic/emotion, rational/intuitive, technological/artistic.

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Image #3 – single organ renderings ↑
I’ve studied and drawn out all the organs of the body, one by one. I used to understand my organs as parts that made up the whole. That’s changed now – I see the whole within each organ, and everything is connected.

How we experience ourselves determines how we experience the world.

We are whole and interconnected.

Dependent and interdependent.

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Image #4 – Map of Phoenix
Cell as city, living organism / living organism.

A complex living organism.

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The legend helps clarify connections and unbeknownst to me at that point, will lay out the foundation for the course that I take now.

Image #5 – City as cell. State as organ. USA as system of organs. Planet as whole body.

IMG_1245Image #6 – Self Portrait ↓
Balances masculine (the brain/logic) in upper area, and the feminine (the pelvis: the enteric nervous system, immune system and genetic networks / gut, instinct, creativity) in lower are of composition.

Whole view of self – in balance.

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Image #7 and # 9 – A study of my niece Sara, and a study of my mother↓.
Mapping out areas of the body with consideration to hereditary traits and environmental factors (in health), as well as life-style choices.

In the drawing below I make a literal connection between the brain and the gut with the mapping out of the Vagus Nerve (upper right area).

sarappImage #10 – detail of intestinal tract
I look closer and closer at the life within – to understand what activates it all.
Where is the source of this life?

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detail of small intestines

A mapping of my mother (energy) ↓ depicts the work she did (speech and hearing clinician – in upper left area).

Includes organs and parts affected by Diabetes and RA.

Included is that she birthed 6 children (ground). I’ve added skin and bone tissue in the lower layers.

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Image # 12 detail of my mother’s torso ↓
The more I look for the life source – the denser the forms become.

Living organism within living organism … and it continues.

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detail

I bring in and comment on an anatomy series based on pollinators (bee, Monarch butterfly, bat) and possibility of their  extinction.

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Anatomy Study of a Bee

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Anatomy Study of a Butterfly

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Anatomy Study of a Bat

We travel into art history –  Egyptian, Aztec, and Mayan world’s and see depictions of these creatures. I hope generations to come will continue to observe them directly. They are being effected by pesticide and genetically modified crops, among other things.

Conclusion:
A disconnect between the mind and the body is not conducive to life.

A disconnect between the thinking brain and the feeling brain create vulnerability and may lead to destruction.

I hope to inspire you to experience yourself fully, enter the body/mind, connect and consider who you are. Locate balance.

I leave the audience with these words:

 I am a complex living and creative organism. 

Who are you?
What are you?
What is this world?
And what is your relationship to it?

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a sketch

 

The evening ends with Michael Moore speaking about his experience as an artist and as a farmer. I am unable to attend day 2 of the symposium because I teach a workshop on Saturday.

I am honored to be a part of this art exhibition – one that takes in creative energy from across our country. While I already have a strong connection to my community – that sense is broadened (coast to coast) – and with that my work will continue to expand and grow. And so will I.