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). Several of their artist’s books will be on display at a local business, Grey Matter Floats, for the month of November in 2020. 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 Feminist Art in the Trump Era at Axle Contemporary in Santa Fe, NM, The Sacred & Liturgical Art Exhibition, Springfield Art Association, Springfield, IL, and Women’s Works 33rd Anniversary, The Old Courthouse Arts Center, Woodstock, IL. Her cover design for 100 Cups of Coffee by Miriam Sagan was a finalist in the 2020 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. 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 calligraphy ink, or more modern ones such as oils. 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 be 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.