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Art and soul, saints and shrines

Detail from altered book by Cindy La Ferle
Mexican milagros. Roadside shrines in Italy. Wooden santos tucked in the niches of Catholic churches.... Religious shrines and icons have always fascinated me, and I seek them out wherever I travel.

When I began crafting mixed-media assemblages, I happened to be reading Beverly Donofrio's memoir, Looking for Mary, which inspired me to alter a small vintage photo album with Blessed Mother holy cards and found items (shown below).

I’d already started scouting yard sales and flea markets for castoff treasures to use in my altered art projects. And if luck was with me, I’d stumble on cardboard boxes or plastic bags stuffed with dashboard saints, broken rosaries, tattered hymnals, and religious medals. 

The beauty of these spiritual relics – and the comfort they once provided their original owners -- was never lost on me. While I’m not Catholic, I wanted to treat these discarded items with respect and give them new homes in my art.    

Combining elements of the sacred with the ordinary, I've made shrines and reliquaries from vintage advertising boxes, Altoid tins, key racks, miniature photo albums, and scrap metal.
For inspiration, I look to the art of Renaissance Italy and modern Mexico -- or I might let a particular “find” from my stash of relics influence the outcome. Either way, my hope is that my spiritual pieces will evoke a sense of mystery and move viewers to find their own meaning in them.


"Our Lady of the Lost & Found" by Cindy La Ferle

"Our Lady of the Lost & Found" (detail of mosaic tile wall) by Cindy La Ferle

"Tin Can Icon" by Cindy La Ferle
"The Book of Mary" by Cindy La Ferle

"The Book of Mary" (interior view) by Cindy La Ferle

"Altered Santo: The Saint of Recycling" by Cindy La Ferle
"Reliquary" by Cindy La Ferle
"Reliquary" (detail view) by Cindy La Ferle
A collection of altered board books and albums with spiritual themes, by Cindy La Ferle

"Pocket Shrine" by Cindy La Ferle


  1. This stuff is beautiful, Cindy! I love garage sales, too, as well as thrift stores. I have often thought how meditative it would be to re-purpose my finds but as of yet, I have not done that. I'm still in the working full time/trying to edit a book and oh, yeah, I have a husband and two kids! phase. That said, giving myself some sacred space to create tangible objects would be so soothing for the soul. Perhaps I'll finally learn to sew. "Perhaps" doesn't make it happen, but I have to be sure it fits in my schedule. Will percolate! Meanwhile, sorry for always leaving a weird Google link. I can't sign in with my Word Press account for some reason. Andrea

    1. Andrea, thanks so much for your comment. I think you should keep an eye out for projects you'd like to work on when time allows. That said, I didn't start doing this type of artwork until my son was off to college -- so I totally get your dilemma! Remember: Being a good mom is a work of art too.

  2. Cindy, your pieces are so very cool as well as inspiring! Glad I popped over and looked closer! I'm hooked- I'm your newest follower! ")

    1. Jackie, I really appreciate your kind words. I've been enjoying your creative, colorful pieces too.


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Self-portrait exhibit

Self-portraits created by members of the Berrien Artist Guild are exhibited throughout the galleries at the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, Michigan, now through September 27th.

The concept for the Box Factory exhibit began with the belief that every artist should attempt at least one self-portrait. My own "Autobiography"-- which was built around a photo taken of me in 1978 -- is included in this show. Whether you're creating a self-portrait or writing a memoir or an autobiography, the process begins with "I" ... so I had some fun punning around when I added an image of an eye to this piece. Did you spot it yet?

A three-part tutorial on how I started this mixed-media project is included on my blog, Cindy La Ferle's Home Office. Click hereto read the first installment.