The inspiring art of Monserrat Moran, a Chicago-based artist born without hands

ByJayme Nicholas Localish logo
Monday, December 11, 2023
The art of Monserrat Moran, a Chicago-based artist born without hands
Monserrat Moran's eye-catching paintings of Frida Kahlo can take months to create; a single finger on her left arm helps guide her precise brush strokes.

CHICAGO -- How can you aspire to be an artist and paint without hands? Impossible? Not so much for Monserrat Moran.

Monserrat shared how she pushed past her physical limitations to pursue her passion creating art, capturing her indomitable spirit.

When they lived in Mexico, Monserrat recalled a difficult past. Her father abandoned her and her mother, her mother received medicine from a doctor who didn't realize she was pregnant. The result was phocomelia, a birth defect that affects arms, hands and legs.

Monserrat's mother remembers the pain her daughter experienced as a young girl at a birthday party where children stared and made her cry. Monserrat described herself as a shy child who was very self-conscious and tried to hide her arms by wearing sweaters.

We got glimpses of Monserrat's struggle with her condition but also the beauty that emerges not only with her art, but her relationship with her mother, and friends.

Monserrat learned how to paint in high school, then honed her craft by watching instructive YouTube videos of artists teaching others to paint. When she mastered that skill, she begged her mother to teach her to crochet. Her mother told her she would try, but believed there was no way Monserrat, without hands, could manage the fine motor skills needed to crochet. Once again, Monserrat overcame the challenge and learned to crochet with her feet, creating beautiful earrings and darling children's dolls.

"I have God in my heart," she said.

Monserrat prayed about getting a prosthetic for her leg to help her walk better and got emotional when recalling that, shortly thereafter, a doctor came into her life who gave her that gift. She thanks God for giving her "angels" including her mother and special friends Ambrocio and Nancy.

Ambrocio agreed to let Monserrat sell artwork outside of his restaurant, Cafe Catedral, where people often wait in line and have time to view her creations. He loves her depiction of Frida Kahlo and hangs the Frida she painted for him in his office.

Monserrat and Nancy have forged a special bond helping each other and supporting each others dreams. Nancy talks about Monserrat as a "wonder woman" who can do anything and "inspires her every day." Ambrocio talks about how "she inspires the whole community."

Monserrat admits some days she struggles with life but doesnt stay down for long; she returns to joy by doing what she loves most: creating art.

To support Monserrat and her art, you can find her on Facebook or on Instagram @monserrat.moran_art