Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

           

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Blog

Guest at a Cadaver Lab

Sienna Morris

Yesterday I had my first interactive experience with a cadaver. As an artist who is self taught in science and art, this was an incredible opportunity. A friend who attends the University of Western United States knew about my interest in seeing or dissecting a human body, with interest in the spine and brain. He offered to have me along for a cadaver lab review as his guest. I had no idea this was an opportunity afforded to folks. I can be your plus one to a cadaver review? Yes please! I will RSVP to that!

Before going in I was nervous about the experience. Just like when I was preparing to dissect my first eyeball in the Art Lab, I was concerned I wouldn't have the stomach for it. That maybe I would be repulsed or that I would somehow freak out about the dead body on the table and ruin the learning experience afforded to me. Again, just like in my Art Lab, I had nothing to worry about. The whole experience was rather beautiful really. The people who were there, including my friend, were gracious with their time and experience, answering my questions and teaching me about the systems as we reflected muscles and exposed hidden nerves. At first I kept my distance, afraid to be rude by touching the body, which of course I wanted to do, but they urged me to experience it for myself.

"You should feel the difference between a nerve and an artery. Here, squeeze this."

They asked me what I wanted to see and I told them I most recently was studying the spine. The cadaver was initially supine, facing up and I said something along the lines of "but I don't want to be a bother. I'm sure I can learn a lot as is." They laughed and were very eager to turn over the cadaver and explore the back with me.  They were as excited about this experience as I was, it seemed. One of the students there had the same awe and love in his eyes as I did. "Isn't this amazing and beautiful?!" He asked, eyes wide as he moved the cadaver's arm around, exploring the brachial plexus. I agreed, elated to find that we shared this sense of awe and passion. I hadn't expected that, and was so pleased to nerd out with the students.

They supported me investigating, palpating, connecting dots and talking over what we were looking at. In very little time I felt rather comfortable with the cadaver (while continuing to be very careful and polite of course). The nerves! Oh my goodness the nervous system is so much more beautiful in person than could ever be illustrated in the books I've been reading. Tracing the nerve's paths from the spine, running beneath the muscles, branching, splitting, innervating... ah it's gorgeous. Seeing the brachial plexus branching from the cervical spine and casting off across the shoulder and down the arm was beautiful. This, I expected. The brachial plexus is gorgeous no matter where you see it. However, I was surprised by the beauty of the reflected muscles in the leg, seeing the thick multitudes of nerves branching through the thigh and calf. This image has implanted itself firmly in my mind, and I would be very surprised if this didn't lead to a drawing or two in the future. I am inspired to create a piece on the leg and arm, reflecting the muscles and exposing the nerves as they innervate the muscles. The hand has always been something I've wanted to draw. In time, I will, and this experience has added to my passion to do so.

Once they flipped over the cadaver, we explored the intrinsic muscles of the back,  reflecting the erector spinae muscle so we could locate and palpate the transverse processes of a lumbar vertebrae. That was a particularly cool moment. I mentioned that I currently have a shoulder injury to my rotator cuff and they eagerly went about pointing out all the muscles involved in the rotator cuff and again, urging me to feel and explore it myself. So now, here I am, not only exploring a cadaver and getting a hands on experience of the body, but I'm relating it to my own and to my personal experience.

The person leading the review had wandered off earlier when I mentioned I was interested in the spine and collected smaller specimens from their permanent collection. There were four sections laid out on another table for us to explore. We picked up each one in turn and talked through what we were looking at. I saw the cauda equina in the lumbar region and asked about how the spinal cord moves in daily life and how the spinal nerves exit the spinal cord and exit at each vertebral foramen. In the cervical section there was a beautiful dissection of the spinal cord revealing the meninges. At one point I touched a dorsal root ganglion. It was larger than I had imagined it would be. In the cervical region we could make out the grey butterfly with its rather angular horns that's notable of that region. There was also the lower half of the skull to explore, where we could see quite clearly the home of the cerebellum.

The experience was incredible. It was a room designed for curiosity and I was surprised how at home I felt there.

This is an example of some of the unbelievable experiences I've had over the past two years for my anatomy and physiology series. Being that I'm self taught, everything I've done this past two years was a first, and to me, every part of it was amazing. This experience is one I'll never forget, and which helped to reignite my interest in the body. I hope to be able to return as a guest in the future, and am particularly excited for their quarter focusing on the brain.

Next week is my solo show, "Inside" at Red e Gallery, exhibiting my entire series so far on anatomy and physiology, and where I am revealing my finished piece on the spine. I feel this cadaver lab experience is perfect to have had before this reveal. I hope to see you there so we can nerd out together in person.

Here is a sneak peek of my spinal column drawing. It is 32"x40", making it one of my largest pieces. It is drawn witih active range of motion for each vertebra, bone mineral density, dopamine for voluntary motor control and ATP. The spinal nerves are drawn with equations relating to signal creation and propagation. The detail image below is from the cervical region of the spine.

Here is a link to the event on Facebook.

Connecting

Sienna Morris

Fire Dol" 24"x36" -Limited Edition. This is a big deal for me. This is my friend, Brad Hackworth , and I drew this piece with him in mind. He is letting me share this story with you. He was in a bad house fire with his sister when they were both small children. It was a traumatic experience which never left him and which had long lasting physical and emotional effects for them both in different ways. It's not surprising that images and notions of fire would bring up bad memories and that generally speaking fire would make him uncomfortable, stressed or anxious. This piece is about how the body responds to the painful stimulus of fire as a reflex to keep us safe. It features the grey butterfly of the spinal cord drawn with chemistry and physics relating to the neural event, which I think is beautiful. The background is fire. My goal was to draw this piece so that even he found it beautiful. So that he could see this piece and feel something positive towards fire and our relationship to it. That is a difficult goal to achieve, but it was the driving inspiration for creating this. He texted me when he saw the first large print (which he himself stretched on canvas for me)

Brad: "Sienna, no joke, these are the most beautiful finished pieces yet. I'm in love with them."
Me: "Really? :)"
Brad: "Yes, I was actually moved When I looked at the finished result."

This is what art is about for me. To reach and connect with people, to push our own boundaries and open up our lives to more beauty and perspective. In some ways, art and music can do a better job of that then any amount of speaking. I am so grateful this piece connected with Brad. It means the world to me and is worth more than any amount of material success. Thank you Brad for your connection to this work. <3

 

Little Worlds

Sienna Morris

Creating artwork is my most natural state. Just about everything else changes, but that remains, and it's fundamentally the same experience for me regardless of the project. 

I fall in and everything else falls away. A new world opens up and I stay there until the story stops speaking to me, or until my body gives out. 

Most artists would probably relate. You don't notice that your leg cramped up an hour ago and that you forgot to eat after working on your piece for 12 hours. The need to sleep and the experience of being tired changes shape. Extreme levels of being tired somehow add to the process, seemingly opening up your mind  hand connection, and you sink into the flow even deeper. It's not until you can no longer see the page in front of you that you cede to your body's exhaustion and put down the pen or brush. Those moments when you're so tired that you're in the surface layers of a dream mind are kind of magical. Parts of your higher brain function fogs out, and things like doubt, fear and anxiety simply can't function there. 

I think this is similar to how people feel when they're high. A disconnect from the normalcy of their daily self, and a reconnection to the quiet self that remains. Automatic, visceral. 

I prefer to work to music. To be fair, it is usually my Portland Cello Project playlist on Pandora, but it can change based on the piece. I have a weakness for Billie Holiday, classical  and Dido, . Then there's those pieces that for some reason require Tool or NIN in the background for them to come out. This is less frequent as that music tends to keep me at the surface, but there are pieces that need that music to function.

The music acts like the foundation for a new fictional world I make for myself. I usually create for long periods of time. I dislike short sessions because I never really get into the flow before they're over. (My etching "Oxytocin" was primarily drawn in three sessions, two of which were 24 hours straight and the third for 36 hours straight, save for bathroom breaks or to refill my coffee or shove an apple in my mouth. My usual session is about 8 hours).

I let people know I'm working and to leave me be for a while and then I go. As I create, my mind opens up and works on building worlds while I draw or paint, to keep my mind busy, I guess while my hands work. When I'm deep in a session, it doesn't really feel like I'm choosing to do much, it's just happening.  These worlds I make in my mind are like watching movies that you can be in, kind of like dreaming I guess, but complex and linear. Usually scifi or fantasy in nature. There's lots of time travel, space travel, epic characters, powerful people found in small, unassuming lives. Sometimes these worlds are smaller, more casual, but these are less frequent. I've watched the birth and death of a single character in a single session. For complex or long story lines, I pick back up where I left off in my next drawing session if the story wasn't finished.

One of my favorites that I often revisit, involves a planet where all the galaxy's religious idols live, made immortal by worship. Those that have been long forgotten or mentioned only in historical myth on their target planet grow feeble and slowly fade off. This era on the planet is post revolution after their people fought to establish ethics and to end involvement on their followers home planets, to no longer cause natural disasters or disease to gain believers, to allow the lives of their followers to go on uninterrupted. The main character is a young girl with immense power who had gained it naturally and without establishing a  following. Social upheaval ensues. It ends up being a coming of age story that involves the honor of a people and the shaking of belief and purpose. I really like the main girl. She has a quiet strength and a unique mind that is not easily manipulated. She's 9 at the beginning of the story. 

These aren't stories I think I'd be able to tell others well. I've tried writing one or two of them down, but they come out convoluted and incomplete. I think for me, some part of the drawing is intermixed with the story, so it's hard to tell it without it. 

Afterwards you feel both exhausted and refreshed, if that makes any sense at all. 

Anyway, people often ask me what it's like to draw my pieces, so I thought I'd write it down. 

The research part is completely different. It's very cerebral and involved.  That's another story. 

Here are some videos of me drawing, as well as some photos of "Oxytocin", which I mentioned earlier.