black and white photograph of Miriam Sagan and Isabel Winson-Sagan, standing in a park
Photograph by Julia Goldberg

Maternal Mitochondria is a mother-daughter collaborative duo composed of writer Miriam Sagan and interdisciplinary artist Isabel Winson-Sagan. Since 2014 they have been working together in venues ranging from the Herekeke studio on Lama Mountain north of Taos, New Mexico to SIM house in Reykjavik, Iceland. In 2018 they completed a month’s residency and installation in a grain silo at Kura Studios, Japan. In 2018 they also created a suminagashi and poetry installation with two dozen participants in the Santa Fe Railyard Park. Their works include a chapbook, Spilled Ink (poetry, suminagashi, photography, 2016), and an e-book of photography and poetry, Swimming in Reykjavik (The Moon Press, 2014). Their artists’ book Souvenir is currently on display at Gerald Peters Projects Gallery. They share a studio in Santa Fe, and they are profiled in The Santa Fe Reporter and Ninth Letter.
Isabel Winson-Sagan holds a B.A. in religious studies and anthropology from the University of New Mexico. She is currently studying intermedia fine arts at Santa Fe Community College. Her recent shows include EnGENDERing Change in Alamosa, CO, Art as Advocacy: Promoting Equity and Social Justice for Women in Springfield, IL, and Bees and Wax, at Tubac Center for the Arts in Tubac, AZ. She also won “Best Woodcarving” in the Arts and Design Juried Student Showcase at Santa Fe Community College. Her portfolio can be found at isabelws.com.

Miriam Sagan is the author of over thirty books of poetry, memoir, and fiction. Her collection Seven Places in America includes residencies in the Everglades National Park, Petrified Forest National Part, Andrews Experimental Forest, THE LAND/an art site, and Stone Quarry Art Park. She has received the Santa Fe Mayor’s Award for excellence in the arts and a Poetry Gratitude award from New Mexico Literary Arts. She founded and ran the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico until her retirement in 2016. She blogs daily at Miriam’s Well.

Suminagashi Technique

Maternal Mitochondria often uses a technique called “suminagashi,” so here is a little description of what suminagashi entails:

Suminagashi, or “spilled ink,” is the art of traditional Japanese marbling. The effect is beautiful, but it is also a meditative practice to quiet and focus the mind. It is composed by allowing a basin of water to still, and then adding ink to the water. The ink can be traditional black calligraphy ink, or more modern colored ones, including acrylic. The pattern is composed by adding drops of ink within each other. As they expand, they create the traditional fractal look of mountains and rivers, or coastlines. The pattern can then by manipulated by blowing on it, using a brush, or even a hair to gently move it. It is said that a master of suminagashi has only a small amount of control over the outcome.