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The Arts Scene: Milagro clay sculptures a good fit for Valentine's Day

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The BOXX Gallery in Tieton had announced a Valentine’s Day pop-up exhibit, so I thought it was worth a drive up there for a visit. I was also intrigued by some of the artwork it had posted on Facebook.

What caught my eye online and in person were some clay ceramic pieces created by artist Michelle Wyles.

Wyles told me she calls them milagros, so I wanted to understand a little bit more about the origin of the word.

Although I do speak Spanish (for the most part), the only other time I had heard the term was when it was used as part of the title of one of my favorite movies, 1988’s “The Milagro Beanfield War.” This use of the word milagro was the name of a fictional town in the film.

Milagro means “miracle” and usually refers to small metal religious charms. These charms were nailed or pinned to wooden statues of various saints, the Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ, or hung on altars or shrines. One could also carry them for protection.

Milagros could be figures, body parts or animals, and can be in the shape of hearts, which are known as sacred hearts. The latter can represent concern over a heart condition, a human heart, or as we often see, love.

In Wyles’ interpretation, the milagros represent sacred hearts, but this time they are not small metal charms but are clay sculptures 5 to 6 inches tall.

I enjoyed wandering around the BOXX and seeing works by artists such as J. Alexander, Stephanie Clevenger, Jane Gutting, Noel Moxley, Leo Adams, Janice LaVerne Baker and Shery Pickering, but kept returning to these heart sculptures.

Not only were they centered by a deep red heart, but they radiated a glow as rays of ceramic petals burst from the center. Seeing my friend Teresa Pritchard with one in her hands, I decided I could not leave without one.

Many of the pieces in the exhibit are a nice size for a Valentine’s Day gift.

If you are interested in picking up a work of art for Valentine’s Day, you can visit Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The BOXX Gallery is at 616 Maple St. in Tieton.

• David Lynx is executive director of the Larson Gallery at Yakima Valley College. He writes this weekly column for SCENE. Learn more at

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