Sacro e Profano

In her "Sacro e Profano" art collection, a body of work dating back to 2001, Lina Russo dives into the timeless struggle between the spiritual and the profane, using both oil paintings and bas-relief sculpture carved out of resin to explore the hidden realms of holiness and the sacrilegious. These are works about transitions — via redemption, abnegation, and walking through gates.

These themes are not new. They are eternal, and in Russo′s hands they powerfully capture both the ascent to and the fall from secret worlds that are filled with passion and sexuality, motherhood and faith. Her bas-relief forms are partially shattered into fragments, the ghostly pallor of the resin imparting a haunting, timeless and ethereal beauty and power to the sculptures.

"St. Michael e la sua Ancella," an untitled oil painting in the same way "Il Giardino Dei Segreti" is a grand paean to Eros, an erotic tableaux consisting of amber-hued bas reliefs sculpted out of resin. Russo portrays its nude figures as being engaged in joyous and sensual dances and other erotic activities. In doing so, she offers a haunting and ethereal counterpoint to another piece that puts forth a gnarled, twisted sculpture of Jesus.

Russo′s work is at once both transgressive and redemptive. Take "Pope Magdalene." What could possibly be more iconoclastic or subversive than to seat the highly sexualized image of Mary Magdalene, the follower of Jesus who has often been portrayed as a repentant prostitute, on the pope′s throne, clad only in a see-through diaphanous gown? Yet, far from being an assault on faith, Russo′s "Pope Magdalene" shows the subject′s sexuality to be harmonious, nurturing and natural. In taking her seat on the papal throne, Magdalene acquires a timeless authority in service to her faith.

And so it is with passion, with grace, motherhood, crucifixion, and more..

It is this dissonance between the sacred and the profane and the nuanced way in which it is portrayed by Russo that makes this work so exquisitely provocative. As to whether these images show the path to transcendence or to a fall, the answer to that question may be in the eye of the beholder.

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