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Art & Life with Monica Aissa Martinez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Monica Aissa Martinez.

Monica Aissa, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, my world is small in some ways and then big in others. I have six siblings. All of us appreciate the arts – visual, music, performance and writing.

In my childhood memory, dad is reading. He is the educator always being educated. He is a psychologist. His intellectual bent is balanced by summers as a lifeguard. He has an interest in Yoga. In the midst of work, school and family there is never a quiet moment. I smile as I remember my 11 year-old self jumping over him while he holds Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana).

In my childhood years, mom’s parents and a brother (aunts and cousins) live walking distance from us. We get together for big Sunday dinners. Both mom and dad have professional cooks in their respective families…food is a big deal.

Mom is traditional in some ways. She thrives best in organization (a clean house). She runs a tight ship.

She has a unique history. While raising all of us, going to school and working full-time, she spends most evenings participating in Spanish theater.  My brother and I spend many nights at rehearsal with her. For performances (with sell-out crowds) the Martinez kids usher and help out with the concession stand. For years theater is a family event, including an occasional onstage appearance for each of us. In that same period, mom has an hour-long Sunday morning Spanish talk show and is a published author (The Hispanic Link). If something works, she expresses, and if doesn’t work, she expresses. All these years later she still writes letters to the local newspaper editor.

Arts and culture, valued in the family, explain why each of my siblings and I are involved in the arts – visual, writing and music – we express/create in one form or other.

I complete my MFA in Las Cruces, New Mexico, my husband and I marry in the early 90’s, and within a short time we are living in Phoenix. The plan is to be here a few years. We find work and twenty-plus years later, this is our community.

I will mention that I am a long-time runner and Yogi only because this part of my nature influences my artwork. I continue to make art. I teach drawing at Phoenix College.

My father’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s as well as other family and friend’s experiences of health and wellness have directed some of my more recent work.

I am artist and educator.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I draw and paint detailed images of anatomy and physiology including microorganism, organs, systems and full life-size anatomical human figures. My work is influenced by medical and scientific illustration (including Leonardo) as well as mystical and spiritual teaching. In a nutshell – I am curious about what makes our body tick.

The human body is like a landscape of intricate structures, complex and full of variety. It’s a whole organization, made up of systems and connecting parts. I find it beautiful and poetic. As I go from shape-to-shape, work-to-work, I find myself searching deep within the nooks and crannies. Where is its source? Is there a narrative?

I am interested in both the physical body (the anatomical) and metaphysical body (the subtle). I am drawn to the language of myth and symbol, feminine and masculine, emotion and logic, circle and line, horizontal (heavens and spirit) and vertical (earth and body). I use line, shape, space, and color to represent complex connections between body, mind, and spirit.

I have a series of life-size human studies including my father and mother, myself and my husband, a niece, as well as a nephew’s daughter – representing four generations. I have studies of friends including children whom I’ve researched and recorded particulars. The works include some medical history and/or personal history represented symbolically. I like to think I am mapping or tracking history or perhaps organizing lineage and/or generations of people. I like to imagine the humans I draw in exhibition, lined up on a wall, like figures in an ancient temple. Each holds a sacred space on the wall and in the community.

I introduce and bring attention to a human being and the holding of form. I organize the parts and the whole. I gather information and formulate the narrative onto paper or canvas. 
Why? I want the viewer to connect to the individuals I present (represent). I want viewers  to relate, perhaps to see themselves. I also wish to create dialogue / educate – about the body, our relationship to it, our relationship to each other and about health and well-being.

What would you recommend to an artist new to the city, or to art, in terms of meeting and connecting with other artists and creatives?
There is always some art happening somewhere (everywhere) in the valley. In general, most artists are open to connect – go to their events and exhibitions and introduce yourself.

Visit the various arts districts – including the artist’s studio spaces and the various street festivals.

Join arts communities and associations or form them.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Visit my website:

Visit my blog which I update regularly:

The latter includes an exhibition schedule.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Monica Aissa Martinez

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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