another ex-voto


Margarita left a message on my answering machine last summer. My siblings and I  would like to commission you to create an ex- voto for Dolores. Call me.
This is the beginning of a lively creative process with the Marquez family. Before the work is complete, about 9 months later, I hear memories, events, and stories about my friend Dolores. I learn about the strong Marquez family connection.
The siblings had already commissioned an ex-voto from me, in celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of their parents. This new one will be in thanks and celebration of Dolores’s 50th birthday.  I want input from all of them. The process begins one way, and ends in another. Busy energetic picture becomes clear intimate portrait.

Margarita begins: I have been praying and thinking about the gift for Dolores. Thoughts that come to mind…Her children, Elisa and Jose, are very special to her. As are Family, the Arts, wines, good book, gathering with women, simple, elegant, classy, colorful art.

Leo’s organized and detailed addition follows:
The “royalty” photo  of Dolores and her sisters as the center of the piece, with the four sisters  pointing to her <<ELISA,  please attempt to steal photograph, photocopy, then return to your  Mom’s desk…cue Pink Panther music>>.
Elisa is Dolores’s oldest daughter.  We are instigating thievery, but I am certain Dolores supports the Pink Panther twist.


my processing all the info

Mom and  Dad’s wedding picture or otherwise symbolized.  Elisa and Jose on the  Brophy (family) chair.  The crown with jewels, of course,  since the artist dreamed about it.
I’d dreamt about Dolores being handed a jeweled crown. The crown symbolizes honor, position, and also transition. It’s appropriate.
Leo continues, Our Lady of Sorrows (for Dolores) or  Our Lady of Guadalupe (for Latin America).
I knew ‘Our Lady of Sorrows’ would be in the image, the connecting element to the first ex vote.
Other images:  musical notes and treble clef, books (authors Allende and Alvarez for sure, which others?), Latin American folk art (papel  picado, ceramic cross, paper flowers, Frida, etc.), passport or bus or  airplane for travel (overloaded Mexican bus might be fun), wine, coffee,  Scrabble (since she is a woman of letters).
A woman of  letters? Wonder what this means?
Leo goes on, Other  themes:
Independence (orange Volkswagen??  Keys (could be car, could be apartment)
Indignity (starting  at age 11 months with birth of twins, beginning her  “reign”)
Beauty (she taught  the rest of us about makeup and high heels)

About the shoes…I learn, on a visit to Dolores’s home, she has many of them. I say to her, Wow…you sure do own lots of shoes! She replies, with a smile, I love shoes! Intrigues me. I have mixed feelings about shoes. A free foot is a happy foot, but a cool shoe, is after-all, a cool shoe.
Leo continues:
Culture (museums,  docent stuff)
Music (recorded,  live)
Girlfriends (very  important to her, starting with the 5 in her immediate  family)
Leo is organized, I’m impressed. Margarita indicates many of these same symbols in our conversations.

Aurthur chimes in:
If there was a way to include the picture of Dolores as a toddler digging into the can of Nestlé’s chocolate mix…. Ok, maybe not for an ex voto…
…and about the “smelly boys”?  I’ll have you know that I took no less than 5 baths last month, at least two of them willingly…  a new record!
One of the sisters had made reference to the “2 smelly boys,” the 2 brothers. Should I get permission to include the comment here? Nah! Anyone with a brother gets it.

content forming

content forming

Mom and Dad contribute prayer, an important element in an ex-voto,
Thank you Dear Lord for the gift of our beautiful  Dolores.  Everthing she is reflects Your Goodness.
Thank you Dear Lord for the gift of Dolores.  Her life reflects Your Goodness.
A combination of the two goes into the art.

Mom notes: For Michael we can use the Volkswagen with a Marathon Run’s sign and traveling labels since he’s traveled to Mexico, South America and Europe. For Arthur, we can use Scrabble and a computer. The computer is his really passion and love.

Lots of ideas and images. The composition is active. I gather all information and make a decision. Simplify. Rather than include everyone as figures and stories into the ex voto, I will represent each one as a symbol. The figure of Dolores will be the focal point. It will become a puzzle for her to piece together. I inform the Marquez clan about the change and ask each to send me a symbol representing themselves. I don’t want them to discuss their choice with anyone. All of them will be surprised.

Gathering up this second round of information is as interesting and amusing as prior communication. The set up is clear and specific.
Mrs. Marquez’s sends out the word. It’s her blessing for my new idea….

Hi Monica and my children and grands,
You have been very patient with us trying to get our ideas.  I think that the artist should be given the freedom to create and not be hindered by ‘opinons’ or whatever from us.  Giving you ideas is ok but  us trying to guide you may not be in our or your best interest.  I say let us give you the symbols of each and you run with it, we have “helped” you enough.  The Good Lord has blessed you with lots of creative juices…go to it girl!!
It’s signed,

Ahhhh….the power.

Margarita: My mom is soooo funny and truthful!!!!  My image is one of two things…  a sewing machine or a piece of fabric with needle & thread.



Arthur: Dolores and I love to play Scrabble.  A Scrabble tile or two would be a perfect symbol for me. BTW, I love the idea of symbols for each of us…




In the past 10 years or so, I’ve become somewhat famous, in Marquez circles, for my stick people.  For the 40th birthday parties or for other celebrations in my family, I’ve retold stories using my stick people.




Martha:  I am a Registered Nurse.  The symbols I thought about were an oil lamp, candle, or healing hands.  I educate patients and promote natural remedies like good nutrition, exercise, massage, and change in thought to uplifting positive thinking.  The glowing hands might symbolize me the best.



pattysboots2Patty:  I wanted to use boots like shown here in black but make them pink like in the other picture.  I LOVE pink.  The “boots” are when we went on a trip together and I was SO excited that I got some boots.  (long story but Dolores knows) .

Dad:  For my symbol, use a lightning strike, for electrical engineering.

Mom: My symbol can be 5 little somethings and 2 little somethings representing the 7 kids, since that is all I did for the first 20 plus years of our marriage OR a  cane to represent my work in the field of aging.  Use whatever fits for your creation.
I chose the 7 little somethings (stars, inspired from Sandy Brophy’s needlepoint).

Michael is last but not least. A man of few words.  A VW is fine for me. Said and done.

This is exactly how this ex-voto came to be.

I include things from my own memory of Dolores. The dress, a reminder of the first time we connect here in Phoenix.  She arrives to one of my art openings dressed very elegantly, in black. The luminarios, I admire a string of them across her back door. The photo collage of her mom and dad, in the upper left corner, is from the anniversary invitation. Her kids, Elisa and Jose,  painted in as she is, are central to her life. Her home, the final design of the ex voto, represents sacred space. Family in book representation, clearly the book ends on either side of her, support from beginning to end.

The original image of Dolores presented her in long hair. Having already completed her in the work, one Saturday afternoon in February she came to dinner. She arrived with a new hairdo!  I’d hid the ex-voto, as well as all the photos and notes before she arrived to our home so she would know nothing. A secret. The day after the dinner I redid her hair in the artwork. It was a slight retouch, indicating the ex-voto was on its way to its current completion.
She’s cut her hair again since then.  Transition…it’s what life is all about.

Happy Birthday Dolores.

1 thought on “another ex-voto

  1. Happy Birthday, indeed! What an amazing gift from an amazing family (whether by blood or otherwise). I am humbled by the generosity of memories and awed by Monica’s talent in translating them into this beautiful work. I will treasure it always. I am truly blessed.

    Thank you Monica,



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