motor and sensory cortical homunculus

Last June, I studied and drew out a small image of the motor and sensory cortical homunculus.  I’ve wanted to come back to it.

I organize materials and prep a 42×42″ canvas this weekend (now I wish I’d gone bigger).

Consider the somatosensory homunculus a neurological layout, mapping areas within the brain that process the various parts of your entire body. Isn’t the human brain and all that it coordinates (you and me) incredible?!!

I touch my head trying to locate the exact spot where my hands connect while picking up my brush and painting detail. The deep center of the sensory strips come to mind as I run. And while doing Nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) in Yoga class, I trust I find balance within and without the body (internal left side of the brain influences external right side of the body, while internal right side influences external left).

The human brain is designed for movement, thought to action…

Cortical Homunculus – in process

I am brain and body.
I am sender and receiver.
I am neuron and synapse.
I am inside and outside.
Moving in space and standing still.
I am.


I see your beautiful brain…

© All Rights Reserved by Monica Aissa Martinez

micro to macro

“The task of the right eye is to peer into the telescope,
while the left eye peers into the microscope.” 

I understand this quote from artist (Sorceress of Mexico) Leonora Carrington more after a periodic table of elements makes its way into my drawing last week.


January 6, 2019
What are you eating these days Carolyn?

Raw honey is big. Radishes, apples, especially pink ladies, and I juice an orange nearly every day. Now we are in grapefruit season so I am adding that.  I also eat a lot of tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini and cabbage. And I eat a bit of radicchio everyday. Love it. And every day is guacamole. Potatoes are nearly every day. Sprouts are every day. Sage is nearly every day. Seaweed mostly Dulse everyday. And lots of asparagus and Brussel sprouts. Lots of grapes, raspberries, mushrooms and bell peppers. Greens every day. Haha, enough?

She doesn’t mention celery juice. Nor does she say anything about the cilantro she hands me as a snack almost every time I visit lately.

Carolyn is not necessarily raw Vegan, though she’s post radiation treatment and is still in cleanse mode.

Grounding the composition in fruits and vegetables, I gather bits of nutritional value for a few of them, to share on social media. They are like small vignettes with running text – easy and informative.
#FoodAsMedicine #MyQuickNotes #Education #InCaseYou’reCurious

#DrawingCelery. ❤️#JuicingCelery.#FoodAsMedicine Vitamin K, folate, potassium, fiber, manganese, pantothenic acid, B12, B6, calcium phosphorus, magnesium, flavonoids, carotenoids (VitA), non-starchy polysaccharides (pectin), apiuman (#anti-inflammatory!),  #antioxidant! #phytonutrient!

🐝 #pollen as #medicine. #Raw 🍯 is honey as it exists in the hive (contains pollen). 22 amino acids, 31 minerals and plenty of vitamins and enzymes. Micronutrients acting as antioxidants reduce inflammation, lower risk of ❤️ disease and some cancers. #BeesRock. #Raw ❤️🐝🍯

🍎medicine: Increases acetylcholine (an essential neurotransmitter 👈🏼), strong 💪🏻 antioxidant, she holds B-Complex maintaining ur blood cells and again ur nervous system, she offers good ole VitC, and plenty phytonutrients (protection from free radicals), some fiber, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Call her 🍎miracle fruit. 1 a day (or 2) x years = nutritional powerhouse. Avoid the seeds. These are #PinkLadyApples #justeatit

Tomato. 🍅 Or is it tomatl (Nahuatl)? This berry may have originated in Mexico. The Spanish encountered the 🍅 from their contact w the Aztec. #Mesoamerican #antioxidant #lycopene #vitaminC #potassium #folate #vitaminK Sketching tomatls in the am.

🥒 Cucumber medicine: Benefits skin, eye health, balances body’s PH level, eliminates bad-odor causing bacteria (bad breath), good for ur ligaments, cartilage, tendons, bones, hair, supports neurological function, has anti-cancer properties, supports normal flora and peel is beneficial too. I could go on. Who knew the list was this long! And it’s a fruit. Slice it, juice it. #Hydration #FoodAsMedicine Draw it 🥒 Paint it 🥒

#dandelion #greens #medicine #bitterherb Interesting thing about this ‘weed’ – every part of her is considered medicinal including root. This one came from my neighbors yard. #anti inflammatory #anti carcinogenic #anti-oxidative Easier to eat than to draw.

Drawing #radish today. #FoodAsMedicine. Holding #sulfur #vitC #fiber = anti-fungal, anti-cancer and digestion aid. Interesting thing about the radish – its companion plant is the cucumber. They thrive best growing near each other. #Ayurveda #TCM

I not only consider the elements found in the body but also the make-up of the food that sustains it. Enter: The periodic table of elements.

Red squares represent elements that compose our human body while fewer warm tones represent trace elements. I include symbol and atomic number.

I add in a few microorganisms, bacteria ↓ in this case.

And maybe archaea (pointing to time past) ↓.

And here are things 22 days later…


On a morning run, I listen to a lecture on the periodic table. The information really  does take my attention from microscope to telescope. Minutes later I come across side-walk chalk-art.
#Cosmic #BigBang #WeAreOne

art school in med school – we workshop

Arriving to the University of Arizona College of Medicine with a plan to meet with first year medical and health professional students, I take a moment to look out over a cloudy downtown Phoenix…noting lots of change in the last 12 months.

I’ve not seen Cindi, Director of Art in Medicine, since my solo-exhibition last Winter. We connect in the Health Science Education Building, catching up in the elevator as we head to a classroom.

She fills me in on the art supplies and she’s not kidding – good stuff awaits.

I’m pleased to see Rebecca, the director of the Clinical Anatomy Lab. Participating in the workshop a second time. She shares the idea she considers as well as the personal experience behind it.

I feel the excitement as students walk in and see the art supplies. An independent bunch, they pick out some things and begin to set up at a desk.

I make a quick introduction and give them general direction as I show samples of my work. We have a few hours together this afternoon, prepared and confident, there is no hesitation to begin drawing.

Students are near the end of their Clinical Anatomy Block and are preparing for the program’s annual Ceremony of Appreciation. The February evening will celebrate and honor their cadaver donors with a night of art, prose and music.

Those interested in visual art-making are here today.

Participants  use color-copies, computers and medical models to support their drawing. Most important they bring to the table a personal experience.

One by one everyone begins to draw. I move through the room to connect with them – they each share a thoughtful characteristic about their particular donor.

One student describes her donor’s hands. The drawing will hold the experience as well as  allow her to share it.

Another talks to me about the vertebrae of the neck. The top 2 bones are different from the others, she notes. Her composition is high contrast and I see her line work is fluid.  You like to draw, don’t you?  She nods her head and says yes.

I gather from conversation everyone is busy with a full schedule. They appreciate this time and place to focus on making art.

Soon the afternoon comes to an end. While no one completely finishes, everyone is well on their way.

I learn some new things….among which are the papillary muscles ↑ and the  chordae tendineae. Yes, we really do have heart-strings!

The last few months I start to consider everyone’s anatomy must differ. In particular, I consider the liver and wonder how its form varies from person to person.

One student confirms the uniqueness of every individual human body. We are different inside and out. She details the liver and the lungs and shares a general impression noting the human body’s truly organic nature.  Her peers confirm. It’s a wonder – what they describe.


On a side note:
I  continue to find connection between individuals interested in the arts and in the sciences. We share a quality of discipline and have careful observation skills, among other things.

As I walk around the room I find a model of the eye that’s been left on the shelf. It’s the  perfect connecting symbol for this art school in med school afternoon workshop.

Best to all of you – and to the dignity and honoring of each of your donors.


The evening before the workshop, in my studio I listen to Fresh-Air. An interview begins which honors another type of donor:
A Surgeon Reflects On Death, Life And The ‘Incredible Gift” of Organ Transplant

cortical homunculus

This last week artist friend Tim, who has an undergrad degree in Neurobiology, sends me an image of a figure. Cortical homunculus, thought you mike like it, he writes.  He explains…a map of the nerve receptors in the brain as related to scale on the body. I know the 2D version of this 3D form and immediately  make the connection.

Cortical homunculus! Why didn’t I ever look closer and why didn’t I note the cool name (words always pull me)?  Homunculus is Latin for little man, add cortical and you have a cortex man (a man in the brain!). The depiction basically represent a map of the body, more specific, nerve fibers from the spinal cord, that end at various points in the parietal lobe formulating a map of the body. I see mostly male (it is a little man, after all) though I do find female representations.

Initiated by Dr. Wilder Penfield who envisioned an imaginary world in which a homunculi (a very small humanoid form) lived. He and his colleagues set up experiments to produce a topographical brain map and a corresponding homunculi.

I enjoy working out the composition and now that I understand, I plan to draw more of them. No doubt, my versions will include the female in the brain!

I label as best I can considering the space I set up before I know all that I will include. One side of the homunculus maps the sensory nerves, while the other side maps motor nerves. ↓

Sensory Cortex (sensory body map)

Motor Cortex (motor body map)

Scheduled to facilitate an adult workshop in mid July, for my artist-in-residency, I now consider the color, line and text of the Cortical homunculus.

anatomy of arousal

“I didn’t hear words that were accurate, much less prideful. For example, I never once heard the word clitoris. It would be years before I learned that females possessed the only organ in the human body with no function than to feel pleasure. (If such an organ were unique to the male body, can you imagine how much we would hear about it—and what it would be used to justify?)”
― Gloria Steinem, The Vagina Monologues

 

“The clitoris is pure in purpose. It is the only organ in the body designed purely for pleasure.”
Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues


Christine, based in London, is completing a training (here in the states) to become a Fertility Awareness Educator. Interested in using my artwork (the reproduction system) as teaching material, she contacts me.

While the work is grounded in scientific medical illustration, it is also abstracted. I use symbolic color and line suggesting the subtle energy of the human body. As it turns out she is also a Massage and Craniosacral Therapy practitioner and understands why I explain – it may or may not work as traditional teaching material.

We share some goals, in this particular case, to educate and empower women.

I admit since beginning our correspondence, I’ve learned what (almost) feels like a new language! Christine asks if you were to draw something up from scratch for us – for example the internal anatomy showing the full anatomy of arousal, what is your rates? I respond in a practical way giving general information for a commission and prices.

Though all the while I’m wondering…what exactly is the full anatomy of arousal?

Eventually while speaking with her (where are my notes!) I realize I think sensual as she clarifies sexual anatomy. She explains more and I really do feel like I am hearing a foreign language.

She emphasizes the clitoris, crura (2 legs extending 9 cm into the pelvis), and bulbs of the vestibule (two – one laying to either side of the vaginal opening). She directs me to reference material, including images and books.

I respond to the information Christine sends. The plexus of veins and the arteries (like a hammock), and the nerves among all the forms also catch my attention. I know they will make for added (and beautiful) detail, shape and texture.

I am further educated by my friend Tara, a Pelvic Floor Specialist. I say to her, I don’t like pink, I don’t want to paint anything pink. She explains color indicates health (pink it is). Once again she lends me her medical pelvis model with ↓bladder, uterus and colon (I plan to include). And she too, provides me with reading material.

I start to organize a composition and I can’t help but recall The Dinner Party and the work of Judy Chicago ↓. I am further reminded of the politics of the female body as I continue to research other artist’s work.

Judy Chicago, test plate, 1978 National Museum of Women in the Arts (photo by C. Lavender)

Right now the study sits on my drawing table. I might add one more element. And then I’ll consider the title of the small painting on mylar.

I leave you with a few interesting facts…

  • The clitoris has at least 8000 nerve endings (a man’s penis has about 4000).
  • The clitoris and the crura are referred to as the wish bone because their structure resembles one.
  • One single gene on a Y chromosome and a clitoris (female) becomes…you guessed it…a penis (male).
  • Clitoris is Greek for key. It has only one job.

I plan to ask Christine if she wants to say anything about the anatomy of arousal. If she agrees, look for a future post.

There is so much to our body – take care to know it.

foot notes*

My feet. Still.
More complex than I under. Stand.
Layer upon. Layer.
Points of contact. Mother Earth.
Conductors of.  Magical.


*These are my notes, written as such.

My studio skeleton sits in parts, on my drawing table. I’ve pull the hardware out, separated and laid out the bones. I take a good look at the long and elegant leg bones before moving to the feet.

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Top photo: Femur, aka the thigh bone ↑, is the longest and heaviest bone in the human body.
Bottom photo: The Tibia, aka the shin-bone, and the larger 1 of 2 bones below the knee. It takes all the weight of the body. The fibula, aka calf-bone, which has none of the strength of the tibia, forms part of the ankle joint.

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Bones are living tissue, made up of calcium phosphate and other minerals and collagen (fibers of protein). Minerals make bones hard, collagen makes them flexible. And unlike the skeleton in my studio, hardware does not hold up the skeletal system. Muscles (with the help of tendons and ligaments) hold bones together (can I call the latter software?).


The feet are my current study. Intricate. Wonderful.
The human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons. A total of 52 bones in your feet make up about 25 percent of all the bones in your body. I gather this information before I begin working. That’s a lot of stuff to organize into one composition.

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Bones of the foot – Plantar View ↓.  The top sections (above my finger)  are phalanges (love! the word). Metatarsals are the longer bones (between my fingers).
(Prior to the 16th century Vesalius called the metatarsals ossa pedi (bones of the instep), and before that Galen called the area pedian (‘the flat’ of the foot).)

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Bones of the foot – Plantar View

See the round knobby bones my finger sits on ↑ (in the drawing I circle them in green). Those are sesamoid bones (derived from the Latin sesamum – sesame seed). These small bones form in response to strain. They provide (like a pulley) a smooth surface for tendons (that bend the big toe downward) to slide over. I mull over that for a good while …wow. Sesamoid bones are found on various joints throughout the body.

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The mid foot ↑, below the metatarsals, is the area of bones forming the arches. These include the three cuneiform bones, the cuboid bone, and the navicular bone. The hindfoot forms the heel and ankle.

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Plantar View – sole of the foot

To appreciate complexity, I work a 2-sided drawing (of my feet). One side presents the sole of the feet ↑ (bones, tendons and muscles) while the flip side shows the top of the feet ↓ (nerves, arteries and veins).
(I get why Vesalius wanted to draw the body and its layers at all various angles.)

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Dorsal surface – Top of the foot

Feet: science and spirit, physical and subtle.

I hear someone say the feet have a consciousness (*bring awareness and care to your feet). They (*you) can learn how to take care of themselves (*yourself).

Stand. Be aware. Bear equal weight on all four corners of the foot – big toe mound to pinky toe mound, inner ankle to outer ankle. Align the second toe directly in front of the ankle. Then go.

Feet guide the knees and hips, acting as anchors to the earth.
They absorb.
They help us to ground and recharge (more than 7000 nerve endings – think about that!)

 

 

 

 

no woman is an island

Mary leaves the studio with my house fly. It comes as a surprise when she asks about my bugs and ends up with this small mixed media painting on panel. She looks at two of them. I think she said she liked the creep factor in this work.

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I particularly enjoy this afternoon meeting with Mary Erickson. Our paths crossed years ago when I did some things with the Bilingual Press (ASU) through the Hispanic Research Center. More recently I know Mary through the Tempe Center for the Arts, where she is the coordinating consultant for online curriculum. We meet to discuss art, education, and in particular – STE(A)M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) –
yes both the bold lettering and color enhancement here are mine.

Before we get to work I learn things about Mary – mostly that she is a force. And she is generous. She shares much with me, including that she grew up on a farm. I get insight into how she processes. She tells me how she chooses to situate herself in meetings. As we speak I have to wonder, could I learn to maneuver through life in the way she does? I’d like to.

Our conversation includes health and body awareness (naturally), feminism, culture, as well as age, work and education. I learn the word andragogy, associated to adult education and learning.

We get to our discussion about art and education. She is designing curriculum for a STEAM inspired exhibition organized by the TCA that will include art installations, scientific displays, educational text panels, videos, hands on projects and workshops. My anatomy studies will be a part of the summer presentation.

We go back and forth looking at samples of my work and talking about process and materials while she considers lesson planning. What I forget to tell Mary is that I know of her curriculum through my sister who directed me there some years back – Creating Meaning in Art.

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More and more I realize how my work allows me to cross paths with interesting folks. Dr. Mary Erickson is one of those people. She is a Professor of Art at Arizona State University → more.
Thank you much Mary, for everything. I enjoyed our afternoon.


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