milagros – small holders of light

The word milagro is Spanish and translates to miracle. Milagros are Mexican folk charms. I like to consider this series of small representations of organs and creatures my version of milagros.

The small holders represent active attention to a subject. And from this point of view they become an offering of prayer or a focused request/focused action for care and well-being.

Coming across the small metal frames, over a year ago, I naturally want to fill them. I find time here and there and one by one the series comes to be. The small 2-sided drawings represent a front and back or an internal and external.

Each milagro is made to hang in space and hold the light.

I spend Saturday afternoon arranging the new series for this coming week’s Third Friday reception. The work is available and hangs to March 15th – on the MANTLE at MADE.

MADE art boutique is a unique locally owned retail and community space in downtown Phoenix.

The MANTLE at MADE features a small works solo-exhibition each month by a visual artist. The reception includes cookies and wine – every Third Friday of the month. I’ll be there this Friday.

MADE art boutique also carries my coasters.

Directions and more → MADE


kidneys in solar plexus area

I research a long time, before and during my painting and drawing work. I’ve shared lots of that with you.  I sort of traverse time and space looking at both ancient and modern culture. I’ve studied pagan ritual, yogic practices, and various Christian religions, and specifically Catholic symbols and rites.  The latter is most familiar to me, because it’s part of my personal history. I am still drawn to rituals of Catholicism, especially those mixed in with the Native (US and Mexican) Indigenous Peoples.

I’m working/reworking the life-size figure/self portrait…painting I thought I’d completed, for next month. Today I redid the entire solar plexus area of the composition, yet again. The whole area is slightly off and it bugs me. I’d been working on small sketches of body organs and was realizing more and more, the large figure’s anatomy is off in some places.   Though I lean towards abstraction in general, cause I don’t want realism. Right now, I do want precision because human anatomy in its simplicity and complexity is pretty wonderful. It really is like a little miracle.

While re-working the kidneys this afternoon, I’m reminded of milagros (Spanish for miracles). Milagros are small religious charms, used in Mexico and other areas of Latin America. They serve to petition saints for guidance, help and protection. Milagros are made in many symbolic forms, from ears and eyes, legs and arms to angels and animals. These religious charms get tacked on to the surface of altars and statues of saints, crosses…etc. They act as prayer reminders or as thanks to a particular saint for prayers answered.

I have a few wooden crosses with many milagros attached to them.  Here are a pair of silver kidneys. And beneath it is my study of the kidney.

kidney "milagros"

my kidney "sketch"

It appears to me, despite my research and wondering out into other cultures and studies, I come back to what is most familiar.  In this case…folk art familiar. And then I put it out again, with a significant personal twist.

ear "milagro"

my inner ear drawing

Above is an ear milagro and beneath it is my inner ear drawing. I call the little work Oido, Spanish for ear.  Check out that ear drum and cochlea…such great shapes. I added the little form to the face of my large painting as an after thought.  I couldn’t, after really looking at the intricate parts of this mechanism, leave it out.

"milagro" of arm and hand

my arm and hand finished painting

Despite all the intellectual research and connection that I shared some of in an→ earlier post,  here/now I make one very direct and simple visual association.   I know I saw it before, but why didn’t I think it was worth mentioning?

It is.

The tie-in to the sacred is key. The body = The Sacred.

cross with milagros

These milagros, little miracles, are the ground work, probably for most of the art I have made in the last couple of years. I realized this so clearly today, I  had to make note of it.

a day, a week, a month, years…of a life, in pictures

Last February I attended a 2 day lecture/roundtable discussion hosted by  SMoCA. The subject was the People’s Biennial.

People’s Biennial I learned, is an experimental, local community-based exhibition that will come to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, in the fall of 2011. Curators, Harrell Fletcher and Jens Hoffman were present and looking for … remarkable, under-appreciated work by anyone and everyone, especially people who may not be considered a part of the art world. This could include a child who makes dazzling science fair projects; a sign painter who creates fascinating window displays; innovative motorcycle designers; etc.

I immediately thought of my friend Dave, and his calendar drawings.
David is a Cardiologist. He has 26 years of calendars, that he filled with colorful, narrative drawings.

When Dave was 8,  his dad brought home a calendar, a hardcover, desktop ledger. Father asked son if he wanted to use it. Dave began the usual gesture of crossing off days, sometimes writing a note.  One day, a friend, who had a bent towards comic book art, drew a series of pictures in the calendar. Eventually those sketches would trigger in Dave a desire to begin drawing an image a day. Gradually they evolved into a portrayal of the day’s events or his reaction to them.

As Dave says, it quickly turned into a compulsive obsession. More importantly, it became a time for reflection of his life. He’ll admit the act of drawing became the best part of the day. The images eventually become portrayals of his inner life. He layed out symbols of his own codified language, meant to be hidden from the casual viewer, but clear in meaning to him.

Impressing me most, is that this went on for nearly 26 years. As his life got busier; family, work, and needed rest took over, and the drawing came to an end.  I can’t imagine drawing time coming to an end.  Clearly our intentions are different, but it still makes me think. I prefer to imagine, that like Louise Bourgeois, who just died at the ripe age of 98… I will pass in my studio, at a ripe old age, and maybe… drawing.

My first visit to their home, was to discuss a family portrait Dave and his wife, Dominique were commissioning from me. I saw a years worth of drawings, matted and framed, up on their wall. Through them, I learned a bit about the couples personal history.  He then pulled out a box that contained all the years of these calendars.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, a real hidden treasure.  I have on the occasion, spoken to Dave about sharing them.

Last Saturday, at SMoCA, one of the curators from the People’s biennial was present for an open call, to consider work. Yes…Dave took his calendars. I find them to be wonderful visual statements. Framed of course, they’re cool. But the box of them, are an incredible statement, a marking of time; a day in the life, a week in the life, a month…26 years in the life of an ordinary man. They cause me to wonder about my husband, my father, my brother, male friends, every man…and his every day life.

I communicated with Dave this morning. We continue our conversation, he says …  “On Sunday I actually sat down with the calendars to try and organize them a bit more and browse a little bit.  Although they go  from 1970 through 1996, they start thinning out about 1990 and then the last 3 have only a few random drawings….although I knew it was coming to an end because I was so busy, it took almost 3 years to admit to myself that “no, I am not going back to fill them in…”  Stubborn, eh?  Then the last page of the last calendar has the statement:  “The Last Calendar”.  That felt very heavy…”

They’re very light actually, and remarkable. Good luck Dave.

* The commission: I did take some of Dave’s calendar art and reproduced them as framework and compositional elements within the family portrait. Click here to see the post.

JULY UPDATE: Dave’s calendar art was accepted into the People’s Biennial!  


Gallery 4, SMoCA
October 15, 2011- January 15, 2012
Seven Arizona artists  are featured in People’s Biennial: Gary Freitas, Jim Grosbach, David Hoelzinger, Beatrice Moore, Joseph Perez (a.k.a. Sentrock), Andrea Sweet and Paul Wilson.

Congrats Dave!