Transforming Space and Spirit: The Value and Unique Healing Power of Art


Anyone who has lived with original art on their walls knows that it carries a vibe, energy, or frequency. There is a feeling in the room that seems to come from the artwork. The work feels almost as if it is living. It speaks, breathes, and projects.

If you have ever moved furniture, changed things around, or removed artwork from your walls, you immediately feel the void, the emptiness. It's eerie. When artwork is switched from one room to the next, your room has a new vibe. Original artwork is truly magical and profound in this way. This is why once you start collecting art, you don't stop! Once you know, you know.

A Table Shared: A Night of Stories and Surprises

Photo taken outside of Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona

John and I were represented by Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, from 2003 until 2016. Each year, they hosted a special dinner, inviting some collectors who bought our artwork. We would all go to a restaurant together and meet, allowing the collectors to get to know us and add more meaning to their purchases.

At one of these dinners, we sat across from a couple I was immediately struck with. I admit I began judging the couple based on appearance. She was very young, about 20-25, and looked like a Barbie doll, dripping in jewels—and then there was him. He was in his late 60s, looking a bit like Keith Richards, with a young rocker look and lots of silver bracelets.

I had them all figured out and built into a caricature of young babe with daddy issues meets a rich retired divorcee with a software company. They live in Scottsdale in the winter and throw parties.

She asked us how John and I met. Simultaneously, John answered, "We met on an art project," while I answered, "We met in a back alley of Waikiki drinking peach schnapps out of a brown paper bag." We looked at each other and laughed nervously.

John was trying to be a good boy, and I was trying to be relatable. Both are true. John's "art project" was me at 12 years old, tagging along with my friend, who was buying a drawing from John. Our next encounter was a few weeks later in the back alley.

The Mystery in the Tree of Life

Then the young woman said something that changed my life forever!

"Tell me about the tree! I have to know what is going on with the tree." They had bought one of our tree paintings from the gallery. It is a collaboration piece, but John does most of the drawing initially. Inside a giant oak tree are tiny little drawings from John's imagination. A whole world of imagery exists there.

"What do you mean, what is the deal with the tree?" I asked with genuine surprise.

"I'm asking what is so special about it? My boyfriend and I entertain a lot and have a lot of different people over regularly. At almost every party, for certain, someone stands in front of the tree and gets emotional. I've seen men weep. No one can explain it. Every time my mom comes over, she stands in front of it and cries and cries. She can't stop. It's like the tree has some kind of power. What is it?”

At the moment, I honestly had no idea. I knew God was at work and God was speaking to people through the tree, but other than that I had no idea. I said, "Well, the inspiration behind the tree is the Tree of Life. There were trees planted in the garden; one was the Tree of Life, and the other the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We were painting the Tree of Life. Maybe when people look at it, they see their life.”

She didn't look fully satisfied with my answer, but also not fully disappointed.

Years later, after I reflected on it, I realized what might have been going on. About five years after this dinner with the couple, John went through some personal difficulty. He was forced to deal with his childhood trauma after years of pushing it down and suppressing it.

One afternoon, when he was about eight, he was alone again and hungry, and there was no food to eat. He wanted to go to the town to find adults and get some food from someone, but he was told not to leave the house. He didn't know what to do.

He started walking to the town and was crossing the bridge by his house, feeling guilty for leaving. He saw a quarter and picked it up. It was a bicentennial that just came out that year. He decided to flip the quarter, and if it was heads, he would go to town and get food, and if it was tails, then that meant God wanted him to go home and be a good boy. It came out tails, and he went home hungry but feeling like he did the right thing. He was assured he was a good boy.

In this event, John made an agreement with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and for the rest of his life, until he was healed from his childhood trauma, he measured all things according to good and evil. He was either a good boy or a bad boy. It was like the good angel sat on one shoulder and the devil on the other, and God waited for John to make the right or wrong decision. John lived with a tremendous amount of guilt and shame his whole life. Every wrong move he made, every mistake, meant he was condemned. He was bad, wrong, guilty.

Drawing Our Own Deliverance

Five years after our series of tree paintings, John received a week-long spiritual re-adjustment and healing. God showed him that he had been eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, not the Tree of Life. Eating from the Tree of Life meant that God cared about a loving relationship and friendship with him, not whether he was making mistakes or doing "bad" things. Our decisions will either lead us toward life or death. The Tree of Life does not offer guilt, shame, or condemnation. It offers abundant life, wisdom, love, and grace.

The amazing revelation of this connection between the meaning of the tree paintings and the collector’s observation is that John and I didn't even know why we were painting them. John hadn't received the healing yet. He didn't even understand about the two trees and how his moment on the bridge with the coin deceived him into an idea about God that wasn't true.

Yet people felt John's deliverance. They felt the years of sorrow, guilt, and shame that this moment caused. They felt the deep power of grace and God's love. Perhaps even their own feelings of guilt and condemnation surfaced. Maybe they also had an encounter with the loving embrace of God.

God operated outside of time, and although John's healing hadn't even transpired yet, the painting still beheld it. Although John hadn't walked in his new outlook and overcoming, every stroke of his pen outlined his future deliverance. John was set free in the painting before his real-life liberty came to pass.

Empty Walls, Empty Spirits: How Art Transforms Us

"Return to the Vineyard" Elli Milan original painting on a wall

Original art has an incredible way of harnessing a message that can only be experienced. Art is emotionally charged and carries an entire realm of possibility. Art has the power to heal, release, and activate new revelation, setting a new path into motion. Art is transformative.

A room full of original art feels alive, wondrous, and inspiring. When we stare at the paintings on our wall, over time, we engage in an ongoing dialog, noticing small nuances of discovery as if it were our first time seeing it. Art provokes private questions within us that we are yet ready to form into words.

Each painting is a portal that describes our destiny. A painting stands in our future and calls us to it. The imagery, shapes, and colors all simultaneously bring our warmest memories back to us while drawing us into our futures. We see hope, life, and abundance.

When the walls of a room are bare, the space feels empty, desolate, and vacuous. Spending time in that room makes us feel a void that hosts a subtle gnawing depression. We yearn for color, texture, or something to satisfy us. If we live without original art for long, we grow numb to the void and become comfortable with just our own thoughts, drifting into complacency and satisfied with simple entertainment.

The art we own changes us. It speaks to our subconscious mind and builds a deep connection within us to the Divine. There is a Voice that speaks with us and reveals our destiny. The Voice unearths treasures about the very foundation of our soul: why we are here, what we are meant for, and what our purpose is.

Art does all of this? How is that possible?

It's the Divinity behind creativity. In order for a painting to come to life, the artist must co-create with the Divine and engage with the mysteries of light, form, color, line, composition, and texture. The power of creativity is transformative. It transcends logic or reason.

The power of art and its nature as a change agent is why paintings have been desired and collected for centuries. Art is not a fad. Collecting is here to stay. The feeling of empowerment that comes from purchasing an original piece of art is timeless, and the magic that art brings to a room is undeniable.

A Legacy of Healing: Transcending Time and Trauma

John and Elli Milan in their former studio

The experience with the Tree of Life paintings deepened my philosophies about the power of art. I always knew that art moved people to tears at times. I knew that art could provoke change or shift someone's point of view. I knew that art could heal. I have known for years that whatever pain an artist overcomes, she has authority in that, and the overcoming lives in the brushstrokes.

What I didn't realize is that the overcoming can live in the brushstrokes first. The painting can hold a future healing for the artist. Art has healed us, is healing us, and will heal us—all at the same time.

Share your story in the comments below!


  • Pat

    I love this story!
    Thanks for telling and sharing! I always feel warm and fuzzy with your stories. So authentic feeling!
    Best wishes to you and John and all your lovely family!
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Thank you Pat! 😍

  • Joanne


  • Helga

    Yes! I was moved by a light-art-piece! I was never interested in that kind of art but people told me to go look because it was worth it. So I went to the church where the artist had his exposition. I was amazed. In particular by one piece that brought tiers in my eyes. It was a heart that gave a purple light, locked with chains inside a cage. I was so emotional because I felt that was me. I never forgotten about it.
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Wow! Amazing!!

  • Andrea Haughian

    Love it! I’ve watched many you tube videos of you guys and was often intrigued by what Johns story is, it’s nice to get a glimpse…we share our testimonies to ultimately let ppl know the transforming power and love of God, help others and usually inadvertently we ourselves get has done that for me on several occasions. God has often graciously met me at the easel when I can’t pray, understand or read anymore He ministers to me there 💖 so awesome He knows each of us so well, what we need and when and how to use that not just for us but to impact those around us!
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Yes. These are beautiful thoughts. 🥰

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