Spiritual Transformation Portraiture by Alexandra Lauro

Alexandra continues to be moved and inspired by the process through which one passes in order to be spiritually transformed. This fascination lends itself to the paintings that she is currently working on.

In these mixed media pieces on wood board, Alexandra’s aim is to portray “the false self” (in Trappist monk Thomas Keating’s words) or “the small self” (in Zen Buddhist terms) as it disappears and as some other self begins, ever so slightly, to merge with eternity. In each of the three portraits below, one observes the tension between the face and the background, the visible and the invisible, the hard lines and thick textures fading into the indeterminate and the unconditioned. On the one hand, they suggest that as human beings we remain creaturely through and through, each of us needing, in the end, to make our peace with our creatureliness. On the other hand, each awakened creature longs for eternity. Each is struggling still, none yet enlightened, with finitude and infinity.

As I see it, in this project Alexandra is reinvoking the tradition of the medieval icon: the icon being that “threshold,” in Ivan Illich’s words from The Corruption of Christianity, that draws the eye past the represented object in the direction of what is most real. A “gateway” (Illich again), the icon beckons us to venture to the other side.

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In the first portrait, the woman looks preoccupied. With what? With her thoughts. The eyes and lips suggest something more, pointing to her wariness with her self-preoccupation.

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Unlike the woman in the first portrait, the man above is determined. There is the suggestion of sorrow in his eyes, yet for all that it is the expression of someone who has lived through, without being weighed down by, past distress. His face represents someone capable of bringing oneself back to the sacred gaze, neither being complacent with oneself nor admonishing oneself for having thoughts. He returns again and again. A different reality awaits, abounds, is here: washing down the board, the colors in the background hint, very gently, at no-thought.

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In this young man, I find a certain masculine or “husky” meditative countenance, the lines of the grid nonetheless implying incompleteness. The abalone shell reveals, even while the textures of his clothing deny, his desire to merge with eternity.

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