our body tells our story

Milagros –  ( Spanish for miracle ) small charms, generally made of gold, silver, copper or brass which the faithful believe are endowed with spiritual powers, which when offered can support well-being. They also act as gifts of gratitude for prayers fulfilled.

Milagros came to the new world with the Spaniards and are now used as symbolic decorative objects, as well as for meaningful spiritual gifts. For example, if a friend is about to have a foot operation, the gift of a foot milagro, is proper.

Milagros are part of a magical and symbolic past, and are an ongoing part of folk art and culture.

I’ve discussed the 6 coaster sets I designed this last year. I learned friends who bought them sometimes broke up the set and gave 1 or 2 to various people, as gifts. Or they didn’t necessarily use them as coasters but displayed them as small art works (practical or not). I like this.

One thing leads to another, I continue to design more. This particular commission takes a turn and becomes even more meaningful. I’ve enjoyed putting it together. I have permission to write about it, with some information remaining private.


After Christmas I deliver Body X-ray coasters to Veronica. Lupe, Veronica’s mom, is present and recovering from lower back surgery. I happen to have a ‘small of the back’ coaster in that grouping.  I take it out and show it to her. I want her to know I’ve studied the back, understand the area has many (many, many) nerve endings, and I sympathize. She looks at it, shares how she may have injured herself, tells me about the surgery, her recovery, and her good doctor. Overall she’s doing well. I’m impressed as it’s only a few days post-surgery.

I explain my general interest in the body, my small drawings and their initial association to Milagros and how they end up printed on coasters. The next day Lupe calls.

I like your coasters, and what you said about your work. Veronica told me to look at the art and think about the idea behind it and stay open. I’m wondering if you can make some for me? Valentine’s Day is coming, she notes.  And might I design a set of 4 coasters, one representing a particular health issue each one of her children overcame, for her to gift them. She would also like 4 back body’s, for her doctor. Though the transparent X-ray look does not appeal to her.

I can do this. I have the artwork I tell her. It would be a different story if I didn’t. And yes, I can make them opaque so they become more like drawings.

She gives me a bit of information about each situation. This could be good…for them…to share, to connect. I suggest she make 6 instead of 4. Coming from the fact that I am a daughter and would include mom and dad in a plan like this, it would be nice for her children to have her and Hector, their father, in the grouping, I believe. She’s healing from a surgery, and last year her husband had angioplasty.

the Milagros – the Stories
Veronica, first-born.
She’s had no major surgery. Lupe says, She’s in tact. I find the words “in tact” interesting.
From my many years of yoga study, I’ve understood the connection between mind and body. Long before something shows up in the body, it’s seeded in the mind. Illness in general, tends to express imbalance of one form or other. Keep in mind I’m simplifying and generalizing. I’m not an MD. As artist, the symbol interests me.
The healing process is about returning to balance. I had a few images representing grounded qualities but we go with this one to honor Veronica’s mind. I think she’ll be pleased with it. I hear her laughing already.
Daughter #2.
Lupe tells me Tina’s womb was removed. Hysterectomy? I ask. Again, Lupe’s choice of wording is specific, and she repeats them. This is personal (it’s all personal).
Energetically the reproductive system connects to creativity. She has children. Her work to find continual balance might appear in the spirit as it expresses in the life she leads. The pelvis detail below is abstracted and colorful. It’s been described as looking  ephemeral. Symbolically it’s about life and movement – generating spirit – creativity.
Daughter #3
Teresa’s thyroid is removed after the birth of her daughter. I’d actually visited with Teresa briefly the day before and this information genuinely surprises me. As her and I speak, I especially note the quality of her voice, her expression – her communication and choice of word are very clear, strong and fluid. The energy of this area associates with personal expression. In the drawing below the thyroid is the turquoise butterfly shape made up of small circles. I find it to be a particularly beautiful gland.
Javier, #4 and only son
He’s dealt with inner ear problems. Though I feel for Javier because the discomfort of this sort of physical imbalance is not comfortable. I love that we’ll include the middle ear. I love the spiral form. I know it like the back of my hand. I’ve drawn it from various angles. The energy connects to being open, knowledge, and emotional intelligence. I send images of a number of inner ears. Lupe chooses this one because she likes the blue. The energy is blue and sits across the mid section of the head, and includes the eyes as well.

Hector, husband and father.
I know Hector had surgery last year. He described the day he got up and was heading to a job when he realized something was clearly wrong. I remember thinking he was very logical about the experience. He recognized the seriousness of things and went to the hospital asap. Heart energy is about hope and trust, giving and receiving, love and all that good stuff. Healing and balance are found in one’s connection to others. I draw the heart a lot because the structure, a live pump, fascinates me. It does so much for us, all day. I like this one because it’s clear, the arteries show up and they are doing their job.


I mentioned she’s recovering from recent back surgery. I love the composition I choose for her. It has rhythm and fluidity. A favorite because of the repetitive elements in the spine, the elegant curve of the pelvis and the bright blue color representing water. The energy represents family, structure and order, and standing up for oneself. Movement, ease, and acceptance of change will support its balance.


Lupe also wants a set of 4 for her doctor. Included is the image above and the 3 below. I spent last summer sectioning off the back of the body. Looking and painting, painting and looking. I drew both male and female. I notice from the posterior view of the torso, the difference between the genders is mostly in size. The spinal column represents life flow. In yoga they say a healthy spine is a flexible spine.

It reminds me that life ebbs and flows.


thorax pelvisrearview

I packaged the sets up in a particular order and sent them to her last week. She’s not waiting to Valentines Day. She’s handing them out even as I write.

IMG_3684I wanted to write about this project because for me it symbolizes a family, their connection, vulnerability and their faith. Also because this may give you insight into some of my fascination with isolating organs of the body and drawing them until I know them.

After I got the okay to write the post, Lupe dropped me a note to tell me Tina’s 11-year old daughter, Abi, said the images were graphic – exclamation point.
Leave it to a child, Lupe says.

Abi is right, they are graphic. In art-speak the word graphic implies a visual presentation on some surface. Graphics can be functional or artistic. They are graphic Abi. And they are also gifts that represent gratitude.

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