Ludmila Pawlowska's 161-work collection will remain in Ormond Beach until May 24.
Ludmila Pawlowska splits her life into two categories: Before her mother's death, and after.
Art has been a constant factor since the Russian artist was six years old. Then, as an adult, she moved to Moscow for her art. She later moved to Sweden to continue pursuing art, and waited for her mom to visit.
And it was during that first visit that her mother died suddenly. That changed everything for Pawlowska. Before, she used to paint landscapes, flowers and different kinds of abstract objects.
“But then, I kind of tried to find meaning in my life," she said. "After her funeral, I went back to Russia and I visited different churches, different monasteries, and icons became a source of inspiration of unconditional love, new way of seeing the divine.”
And so, about 22 years ago, "Icons in Transformation" got its start.
The 161-work exhibition has been traveling the U.S. since 2011. St. James Episcopal Church, located at 38 S. Halifax Drive in Ormond Beach is the exhibition's 32nd stop, said Jan Lech, director of the Scandinavian Art Center, and Pawlowska's husband.
The exhibit is booked for the next two years, and will remain in St. James Episcopal Church until May 24. Free tours and viewings will be held on Sundays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Some of her art is also on display at the Ormond Memorial Art Museum.
The location didn't happen spontaneously. It plays an integral part of the exhibition.
“Mainly it’s in churches because it gives a different perspective — understanding of the art and spirituality," Lech said. "It’s a way of seeing the unseen through the contemporary arts.”
Icons and modern art
"Icons in Transformation" is composed of traditional Russian icons as well as contemporary art inspired by these icons.
But what are icons? Marcia Allison, an iconographer with St. James Episcopal Church, described them as symbolic images on flat boards, typically adorned with gold leaf. According to a pamphlet about Pawlowska, icons are "windows to heaven," depicting God through events that happened and people who lived a long time ago.
As an iconographer, Allison said there is little creativity allowed. She uses Byzantine traditions that have been passed down since the third and fourth century to create the icons.
That's where her work and Pawlowska's differs.
“It’s a way to combine the ancient and the modern and to reach the community," Allison said.
She was the one to reach out to Pawlowska, and the pair had been in contact for six years before the exhibit was able to come to Ormond Beach. With the exhibit finally here, in her church (Allison is also Rev. Roy Allison's wife), Allison said she was excited and hopeful to meet new people.
“I hope that people take away an understanding of connection with the divine," Allison said. "I hope that it inspires something within themselves — stirs some emotions up — maybe some questions, and above all else, a relationship."
The power of art
Many of Pawlowska's pieces start with a question, and often that questions is, "Why?"
“This is a journey of seeing," Pawlowska said. "A journey of searching."
Art saved her, she said, even though it's hard way of life rather than a profession. Some of the pieces, especially the large ones on pallets that hang from St. James Episcopal Church's ceiling take her years to finish.
Pawlowska describes the power of art by saying it's about giving and receiving. It's up to the viewer to interpret what she's made, and see beyond the images.
“Art never answers the question, but it helps you to understand who we are," Pawlowska said.