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

memory lounge

I spend Friday afternoon at SMoCA facilitating a workshop for Memory Lounge, an arts program in Scottsdale organized for people living with moderate stages of dementia-related illness and their care partners.

I walk into the studio, happy to see Laura, Curator of Education and Kelly, docent and workshop helper. We greet each other warmly. They’ve both helped me to prepare for today.

Participants, having eaten lunch together, arrive for an afternoon of art. Laura, greets the talkative group as they begin to fill the studio. She makes general introductions.

A visit to one of the current exhibitions is a part of the afternoon plan and soon with Kelly as lead, we head to the gallery.

Everyone takes time to look at the art work. Kelly is a natural as she informs the group about (the extraordinary) Cuban Printmaker, Belkis Ayón.

We return to the studio. I introduce myself and clarify my area of interest in human anatomy. I show examples of what we’ll be making – Milagros, I explain, are like...are small votive offerings, in the form of a body part – yes we’re making body parts! Think charm or amulet.

I feel a hesitation to speak because we’re here to have fun. I don’t want to explain too much.

I explain general idea and intention. Before I know it everyone is drawing and moving at their own personal pace. Some people get right to work (like this gentleman ↓ below, who is also the first one to finish) while others talk through their plan and spend time deciding form and color.

I enjoy seeing one very colorful ↑ ear emerge. As I comment, the participant points to her husband’s ear. He sits next to her ↓ drawing his own hand.

Three hours fly. Everyone will leave the Memory Lounge with a small memento holding  the afternoon we create together.

I wish I had a recorder to hold some of the reaction and response. The laughter I hear along with fragments of comments and sentences are wonderful.

A daughter’s expression (there with her father) –  “Slow deep inhale in and slow exhale out. Just breath.”

I See Heart

The goals of Memory Lounge : Social interaction, living in the moment and engaging in the arts.

#MakingCommunity #MakingMilagros

This project arises from an August afternoon I spend with my mother (who is then having a heart procedure). She is caregiver to my father who lives with Alzheimer’s Disease.

I spent this last summer researching Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
#support #education #cure.

el último dibujo en una serie de cuatro

“I stand in awe of my body.”  Henry David Thoreau

This is the last collage in a series of four.

A collage (From the French: coller, to glue): is a work of formal art, primarily in the visual arts, made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole.

To create this new whole I choose from: a hand, feet, liver-stomach-gallbladder-spleen, bladder-uterus-fallopian tubes-ovaries, large brain, large inner ear-and drum, ovary, heart, nose, small brain, taste bud, eyeball-tear gland-tear duct-middle ear, palm, male pelvis, testis, rib cage-shoulder blades, and kidneys. I’ve drawn all these great shapes and then some, in the last few months.

I love the color of this one eyeball ↑, and I am still so drawn to the intricacy and shape of the ← inner ear.  Shapes and colors work well together.  And I want the hand ↓, it’s the outline of mine, with lots of added detail (for the sake of depth and color). With these decisions, I pick out the heart and nose and I go back to the first grouping of the six senses. Same idea, different configuration.  Seems like a good way to close the series.

I have enjoyed the labor of making these small intricate works. Such orchestrated structure, how can any of it possibly be random? How can the wonderful inner ear with its spiral shape, loops, and drum be random?  Now I have to go finish the life size figure.  I have a feeling these little works will influence change in that. I have to the end of the summer to complete it, so that’s okay. You’ll see all the finished work in September, at TCA.

I liked the work very much. I loved the study of the body. But like I said before, it brings me right back to spirit. I wonder if you see it. A measure of life is present here and now. It’s the Vital part, in A Constant Vital Commotion.

what’s permanent – what’s impermanent

“The body is a sacred garment.”  – Martha Graham

traditional milagros

Laying out and assembling a few compositions in my studio. I’m careful because once I glue the various parts down, the design is permanent. I appreciate that I can shoot digital images and actually see how compositions might work out before I commit.

… one larger collage or four smaller collages?
… on white paper or on black paper?
… English titles or Spanish?
… matt or float?

How beautifully organic this impermanent body is.

my milagros

mis milagros

Four small compositions (as I’d originally planned).
White paper.
Both English and Spanish titles.
Tightly spaced.

6 senses = 1 spirit

traditional milagros

I think I’m almost at the end of this series. I never was looking to understand each body part so much as I was trying to understand, trying to locate what makes the body tick, what makes the mind tick.  What makes me tick. With this last collage, representing a grouping of  body organs depicting the six senses, I find myself searching deeper within the nooks and crannies.

You may already know some of my influences for this work: Mexican Milagros, Yogic and Tibetan philosophy, and lots of anatomy study. I find the body, its structure and its capabilities, exciting. I respect it fully, but maybe it contrasts what I am most interested in knowing.

I’m finishing up four small collages depicting various organs of the body. The one below is in the midst of being composed. It starts out based on the 5 senses, until I decide to add the sixth. I hope to show the completed composition (along with the three others) next Fall in an exhibition about identity.

I’ve always been interested in the subject of identity. I’m sure I’ve shared this before, maybe not…I’ve investigated self as female,  self within relationship (to male counterpart), self as Mexican-American, and as American of Mexican descent, self as (noisy) mind, and self as body.
Now, with more clarity, I’m looking to understand spirit. My spirit, your spirit or more simply, just Spirit.

I hear spirit is easy, simple, playful, never-changing, pointed. Or it’s none of that.  I’m investigating and be sure I will continue to express, in some form or other.  Cause  in some way, I’m just getting started.


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.