neurons and glia (and my father’s brain)

Are you in the neuron? Or is the neuron in you?


Steeped in the study of the human brain, I am in preparation for an artist residency at the Tempe Center for the Arts. Consequently I know my brain changes as I learn, while I draw, and even now as I write. I mean it is really changing.

And I guess I can say now my father’s brain is changing too. Dad’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. For awhile I understand (more or less) he has dementia – I now know (more or less) he has Alzheimer’s. And because my father has Alzheimer’s (the most common form of dementia) I decide to focus this summer’s residency on both the healthy brain and the  brain with dementia.

Where to begin….
The residency calls for me to work at the Tempe Center for the Arts (I am 1 of 3 artists that will be in residence this summer).  I can’t help but consider the public. Actually I am always aware of the public, but more in the form of viewer (of the completed work) and not necessarily as part of the process. I will engage with visitors in a thoughtful manner.

While I’ve drawn many studies of the brain in the last few years, now I feel the need for a brain basics course (101). I consider the primary building blocks of the human brain – neurons and glia (neuralgia).  I spend days looking at imagery including the drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal (The Beautiful Brain).

I draw and paint a neuron↓.

Neuron Study

I draw glia ↓.  I didn’t know there’s a variety of glial cells!

These particular cells are key in maintaining homeostasis. I think of them as a sort of maintenance crew (though they’re more than that). While I’ve found different ratios, overall it seems glia outnumber neurons 10 to 1 (I’ve also read 6 to 1, 3.75 to 1).

Oligodentrocytes

Astrocyte

 

Microglial cell

I enjoy detailing the small preliminary study ↓ (not finished yet).
Note: At this point I better understand where abnormal plaques and tangles, as seen in Alzheimer’s, form.

This week my mother sends my father’s brain scans to me. The day the disc arrives, I pop it into my computer. I recognize my dad’s head and  profile. I manage to bring in (and change) the color of the basic black and white scans. I see them light up and they’re beautiful. There are 4 images, 1 rotates while 3 are static. I figure out how to move through layers of the brain. What am I looking at?  I sober up.

I recognize general areas of the brain though I don’t know how to read the particulars of the images. I hope to find someone who can help me make sense of things.


We’ll be installing in a couple of weeks…
Tempe Center for the Arts

The Gallery at TCA presents
draw: the art of curiosity and innovation
May 25-Sept 1
This interactive exhibition celebrates a wide variety of creative media, styles and techniques that incorporate drawing. The “draw” experience includes fine art displays by local artists, exploration stations for doodling and art making, live artist demonstrations and multiple workshop opportunities for all ages.

Meet Artists-in-Residence through Aug. 3
Kyllan Maney, Monica Aissa Martinez and Bobby Zokaites
 → for more info


Last month I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with Dr. Jay Braun, ASU Emeritus Professor of Psychology. We talked about the healthy brain and the Alzheimer’s brain. Exercise, he says, is the most important thing one can do to maintain a healthy brain.

I’m off for a run now…


where art and science intersect

The title to this post is the direction I plan to take a 7-minute talk yesterday.  I discuss both art and science, but I never do say they intersect in my studio – every single day. It’s true. They do.

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I am among 4 people Michelle Dock invites to take part in a STEAM themed panel for the annual AZ SciTech conference, held at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. The general focus for the conference is STEM. I am there to bring ART into the conversation.

Michelle makes introductions. I walk center stage and greet the audience ready to begin -and the only person in my mind, at that moment, is Leonard Da Vinci. I let go of my opening line and talk about him. He designed a tank, a submarine, a flying machine and he brings perspective into the picture plane. He covers all the areas of STEM before STEM even exists. And he certainly covers STEAM. He is the archetypal Renaissance man, I say to the audience.

I don’t plan to begin my talk with Leonardo, but it feels right. Truth is, along with old and new medical illustration books, microscopic photographs and videos – his anatomy study is always somewhere on my drawing table.

From Leonardo I return to the 21st century and introduce my Cell/Map of Phoenix (no photo) and naturally follow with the recently completed Portrait of Sophie, a Study of Trisomy 21. Cell structure, the nucleus, chromosomes, DNA and genes are the connecting threads. I look at her for a good while before I can say anything. I’m struck by how large and bright the form stands on the screen in front of me.

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And because I have two minutes to spare, I gather my thoughts and end with my work on mylar,  Anatomy of the Thorax (anterior and posterior view),  influenced by a Gunther von Hagens’ dissection. I refer to him as the Body World’s guy. I can tell by their reaction, the audience knows who he is.  Do they know he’s influenced by Rembrandt? Gunther always appears in public with a fedora, in honor of the painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicloaes Tulip.

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Can someone tell me why it isn’t STEAM all the time? Art is a powerful language communicating via line, color, texture, form, repetition and all the other elements of design. It enters into all the other fields. If Leonardo was alive today, it would be no other way. Maybe that’s why he takes over my brain…

So … Where do art and science intersect? In my studio, on my drawing table, on my paper and canvas – each and everyday!

Also on the panel:
Michelle Dock, Tempe Center for the Arts (Moderator)
Catyana Falsetti (Forensic Artist)
Dianne Hansford, PhD (Special Modeling)
Konrad Rykaczewski, PhD (Biomimicry)


You have a few more days to catch STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics) at the Tempe Center for the Arts. It closes this Saturday, Sept 17th.

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.

a virtual artist residency

Back in June of 2013, Tempe Center for the Art’s Michelle Dock approached me with this project:

The Gallery at TCA is getting ready to collaborate with several local high school art teachers and ASU professor Dr. Mary Erickson to conduct an innovative art education project. We are calling the project a “virtual artist residency.”

She explained it would entail artists making themselves available via email to a small group of high school students during a 2-week period.

All of the participating students will be given a TCA workbook. The workbook will help them research the assigned artist, develop interview questions and ultimately lead to the making of their own artwork inspired by the residency. Each artist will be assigned to one specific art teacher and that teacher will assign the students to each artist.

Having worked with both Michelle and Mary before, I trusted it would be a worthwhile experience. Though I had no idea what to expect, I accepted. Art teacher Kathy David coordinated the email correspondence and we completed things the first week of December 2013.

Two months later I am pleased to introduce you to the work of Neilly, an IB Visual Arts student. Her list of questions to me were thoughtful and well-prepared. I had to step away from the computer regularly as I carefully considered my responses to her. I won’t give you all the details of the Q and A (because it really is 2 weeks worth of emails!) but I will share a few topics we covered and show you pages from Neilly’s journal.

Martinez Page 1b

Neilly began by asking about my Latino background, childhood experiences, and any traditions I might still uphold.  Who might be the audience for your work? she wanted to know. What is it like living in both American and Hispanic cultures? Neilly is Filipino-American.

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We discussed some works at length. A drawing titled Gluttony (2008) caught her attention and she questioned how the image reflected American and Latino culture. In addition she wanted to know the media. At her request we covered artistic influences and media specifically in relation to Mexican culture.

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She was curious about a community workshop I designed called  the “Who Am I?” project. The questions I ask participants to consider are: Who am I?, What am I?, What is this world and what is my relationship to it? What are ‘your’ answers? she inquired. Eventually I would learn her answers.

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We discuss my current body of work titled Nothing in Stasis. She made associations to the work of Gustav Klimt. She watched one of my process videos on YouTube and asked about the background music which I’d composed with another artist.

Clearly Neilly had done a lot of research about my work. I had to wonder if given the opportunity to communicate with an artist, at her age would I have been so astute? 


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Finally I ask about her work.

I’m thinking of painting a figure surrounded by persimmons, pomegranates, roses, and grapes – but I will be using a vintage television as my canvas.

We move into a conversation about humanity and technology and the nature of relating in this way. Interestingly enough at this point she brought up a painting titled The World Stage, a play in finite acts – and the phrase Summum bonum. I explain summun bonum is Latin and translates to the highest good.

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Here are parts of Neilly’s planning and completion of her artwork. I learn how I influence the final composition. She says it’s with the hands. Hands are powerful symbols.

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Before we end the residency Nelly asks about my thoughts on religion and spirituality. She shared her thoughts with me too. The conversation included qualities about humanity as well as the animal world. She shares with me a Japanese symbol called the Red String of Fate and her personal take on it after our residency. It was wonderful insight into what she might have gathered from our interaction.

Neilly and I had the opportunity to discuss general and personal things – that’s what art allows us to do. I am impressed with her ability to communicate and with her curiosity about the ebb and flow of life.

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As you may know I teach drawing at Phoenix College and I teach the occasional art workshop to art students throughout the valley. This experience was a very unique and rewarding one.

Neilly came to me very directed and well prepared. I thought we were going to be discussing materials and compositional elements and while we did do that, we covered so much more. It ended on my end as quickly as it began. I didn’t know what to think. I could not have imagined that a few months later I would receive these wonderful images and a video based on the outcome of the experience for her.

I am pleased to note Neilly has been accepted to the Brown University / Rhode Island School of Design dual degree program. Best to you Neilly. I trust you will do well. Bravo!

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black bird exhibition and bazaar

Final GalleryPostcard 4x6

2013 Black Bird Holiday Bazaar & Exhibition
Temp Center for the Arts Gallery
Dec. 7-Jan. 4

Gallery enthusiasts will enjoy this exhibition with a twist – a fine art exhibition and holiday shopping opportunity rolled into one. Patrons who visit the exhibition will have ample opportunity to purchase holiday gifts and original artworks made by some of their favorite Arizona artists. The exhibition will highlight some of the Arizona artists who have shown in Gallery at TCA exhibitions during the past six years. Holiday Bazaar items include small artworks, limited edition prints, home décor, jewelry, clothing and other holiday gifts.

Red House

Denise Yaghmourian
Red House
Fibers and mixed media

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Dennis’s Tee’s

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Julia Rosa Jones
Clothe Top, detail
turned wood and graphite

Sat 6

Mary Shindell
Satellite 6
Print

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Mary’s florals

rodent

Monica Aissa Martinez
Raton 
Mixed media on prepared paper
12″ x 12″

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– Monica’s art coasters


And then there’s the manikin’s! Here are two of five.

Manikin - finished #2

Mannequin
Christine Sandifur

 Click on image below for process shot of my mannikin.

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You Are Here
Monica Aissa Martinez

Dec. 7th – Free Public Opening Reception 6 – 9 p.m. in the Gallery
Gallery Hours:
10 a.m.- 6 p.m., Tues. & Thurs.
10 a.m.- 7 p.m., Wed. & Fri.
11 a.m.- 6 p.m., Sat

TCA closed on De. 25 & Jan 1.
*Purchases from the exhibition and bazaar are available at time of sale.

…lots more. See you in 2 weeks!


Tempe Center for the Arts
700 West Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, AZ 85283

View Map | Get Directions

raw @ the tempe library

Christy Brown organizes the Tempe Community Galleries exhibitions. She explains that in conjunction with the Tempe Center for the Arts Gallery’s Smithsonian “Green Revolution” exhibition (which opened last January), all the community gallery shows will have “going green” themes this year.


Raw opens today. The exhibition focuses on the work of three artists  who are choosing to move away from the use of harsh chemicals and synthetic materials in their work, and are instead working with raw, recycled or organic materials. I am one of those artists, as are Joe Willie Smith and Aimee León.

Artists
Aimee León
An artist and certified sheep shearer, uses natural raw wool along with recycled industrial materials. The show includes a number of her small and soft – object forms . Most are beautiful tactile vessels. I want to touch them all.

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Joe Willie Smith
A multi-media artist and musician includes works in metal.  He works with found objects and repurposed material. He talks in general about finding just the right piece and then in particular about the white form below – how he scratched/drew on it one early morning to catch both the light and shadow of the sunrise.

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I have several posts about Joe Willie’s work and our collaborative effort at sound making – which I’ve used as background for all the Nothing In Stasis videos.

Raw includes a number of my paintings and one small drawing. I work with organic material, primarily egg tempera and casein.  I like to refer to my mediums as egg and milk. This work below uses casein as underpainting, and egg tempera as the surface color.

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Vital Commotion #4

Delivery and Install
I plan to drop off work and head back to the studio to paint, but when I learn Joe Willie is in the exhibit and he’ll be dropping work off, I wait for him. And as it all plays out we spend the morning working with installer, James Sulac.  Before Christy leaves for the morning she mentions how the work might hang. She asks which side of the wall I want my work on and I tell her. But after Joe Willie arrives and we begin seeing how interestingly things connect, we suggest the work hang in the space mixing together. Below are a few install shots.

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I understand we connect in terms of the raw materials theme, but as I look at everything I appreciate Christy’s eye more and more. The organic forms of León’s soft sculpture connects to the light forms and color in my paintings and to [the appearance] of softness in 2 of Willie’s larger pieces.

And you probably can’t tell from these photos (below) but the colors and lines in Joe’s work connect to my use of the same design elements. The acid green of his sculpture (below) runs right through the mid-section of my painting to the left, and is high-lighted by reddish pink points in both works. Joe Willie decides grouping his smaller pieces salon style will enhance the grouping of shapes in my compositions, and vice versa.

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I regret not getting shots of another wall where León’s wall pieces hang along side Joe’s and my work, a similar soft glow of lavender and blue shows up. Somehow all the work organizes between fragility and strength.

It’s Raw and you’ll just have to go see for yourself.

vital commotion #6

WHAT: Raw
WHERE: Tempe Public Library
(Lower Level Youth Library)
WHEN: Now to Dec 4th

The Tempe Public Library is located at
3500 S Rural Rd
Tempe, AZ 85282.

As you arrive watch for the Museum marker below, on the corner of Southern and Rural.
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For more info on show and for artists’ statements click on  → Raw

arizona landscapes @ tempe center for the arts

“I stand for what I stand on.”
― Edward Abbey


What comes to mind when you think Arizona Landscape?  That’s right, this show is that, and then more.

Michelle Dock, Gallery Director of Tempe Center for the Arts, says of the exhibit:
It’s a diverse group of 13 Arizona based artists. Each of them have a different frame of mind, a different approach, different media that they use to make their artwork, but they’re all talking about  the Arizona landscape in one form or another.

Panorama from Point Sublime by Mark Klett

This is a long horizontal print by artist Mark Klett. I broken it into 3 parts to fit it into the post. Details are pretty wonderful.

Panorama from Point Sublime

Panorama from Point Sublime

Dock continues…
Some of the artist in the show have a very straight forward way of showing their landscape … we recognize the location. … they just present in a new way.

Business As USual by Craig Cheply

Homage to Ruscha by Craig Cheply

…Other artists are reinterpreting what the landscape  means, what the landscape can be… was…is going to be.

An Arizona Dinner Party by Roger Assay and Rebecca Davis

Little Colorado

Santa Maria River setting

The exhibit has something to offer for everybody.  Some of the artwork is really beautiful artwork that is calming, soothing. Some of the artwork makes you think and maybe have you change the way you’re doing things.  It’s a great way for families to come and enjoy some time, looking, at Arizona and learning about Arizona…the history and the society that  has developed here in such a short amount of time, which is only 100 years.

Heat, Dust, Vapor by Mary Shindell

Mary Shindell’s work includes grounded and abstracted, vertical cacti tubes. Hovering above eye level is a representation of a cloud of heat, dust, and vapor.  She incorporates sound into the installation.  Listen closely for a coyote or two.

Heat, Dust, Vapor by Mary Shindell

Arizona Landscapes opened on Feb. 11 and will run through June 9.
Gallery hours 
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.,
Tuesday through Friday
11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday
Admission is free

more at →Tempe Center For the Arts 

Below, videos of three of the artists in the exhibition. I planned to include only one, but each artist shares something unique to themselves.
Mary Shindell talks about living in AZ and her process, Mark Klett discusses important decisions that had to be made at one point-in-time, and Merrill Mahaffey shows you his bags (yes bags!) of pigment.


A side note:

Mary Shindell's model for the cloud formation completed for Arizona Landscapes.

It seems a good time for a quick mention that Mary, Carolyn Lavender and me, will be working together again in Jan of 2013… art and process, process and art. We’re excited to  bring new ideas and new work to a new exhibit in a great space (MAC). More later.