CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
New York | PeopleMay 9, 2008

One Thousand and One Dreams Tantra

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Last year at this time I was preparing to take a trip to Andalusia, Spain when suddenly I came across a blog talking about the spiritual importance of water in the Islamic architecture of the Alhambra. In the same blog, I saw a picture that had a huge emotional impact on me.

I saved the link and left for Spain. On my way back, I would contact the artist. He certainly lived in Europe, I thought to myself, and when I return I'll find out more about him. On my arrival in New York, for some reason my hard drive got burnt and ended up losing all my information including that particular link. One year later, at a dinner in New York with artist Mattia Biagi and some friends, Yasmina Alaoui and Marco Guerra were right there in front of me.

Still, I had no idea about them being the "the famous link" persona. I found out after dinner only before going to sleep, when I checked their website on the business card. There it was -- the picture that haunted my spirit was back, talking to me once more.

I am now in the elevator of their loft on Green Street down in Soho. As soon as I arrive I am welcomed by a noisy small dog. The light is just amazing, the afternoon spring sunlight filters through a Moroccan embroidered white cotton curtain, the window is open. Nobody is around, just the sound of an old record player emanating traditional Persian music almost as if prayers are sung around that space to prepare me -- for what exactly, I don't know.

Yasmina, dressed in a cute child-like light blue cotton dress with white lace and cowboy boots, welcomes me and invites me to sit. Marco, with a large smile on his face, comes in after a few seconds, eating a green apple and offering me one. The dog goes sun-bathing on the roof. Yasmina coated him with suntan lotion and without listening to details about the dog's tan, I look at the majestic life-sized artwork that covers their high-ceilinged walls.

Marco Guerra is a Chilean New York-based fashion photographer whose works have appeared in the biggest magazines such as Conde Nast Traveler, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue . He tells me that outside his career he is inspired by poet Pablo Neruda's poetry, and the intersecting lens of photographer Edward Weston, and Tina Morotti.

He also undertakes personal projects like film and a passionate ode to love and women. He confides to me he secretly keeps in a drawer away from everyone else his own world of personal photography, a search devoted in expressing the mysterious, the haunting, the sensual and the sculptured nudes of the human figure evoking the timelessness and exoticism of mixed temporary cultures passing through his life as in a message.

That message finally understood, he confides to me, thirty years later he'll exhibit in a powerful and meaningful retrospective solo exhibition. But in India there is a saying: "You make the plans and the elephants (deities over there) laugh about it."

Yasmina Alaoui -- North African, precisely Moroccan -- is an artist herself. She studied Fine Arts in Paris and lived there for 10 years. She then got her BA in Fine Art from the college of William & Mary. Until she met Marco Guerra, her main expressions were intricate drawings evoking her cultural heritage, a blend of Islamic calligraphy, Henna patterns and primitive naive arts.

Yasmina and Marco meet in New York and decided to live together. One day, almost by accident, the One Thousand and One Nights miracle naturally fits into place. Maybe by coincidence, maybe by spiritual drive, maybe by excessive longing for the sake of merging one with the other breaking the safety of the other's boundaries, Yasmina firmly decided to ask Marco the access to his secret drawer.

Each drawing begins with black and white nude photography by Marco. Layers of complex ink drawings by Yasmina are meticulously added like a spider working on her web, and then digitally fused with the portrait in a breathtaking media solution.

The sun is setting above the Soho rooftop. Marco talks about his "Letting go" -- he's still a little stiff about the effort he provided when Yasmina asked her aiming and direct question... I do not listen to him anymore ...for a minute I pause, sipping my cold water, looking at the sun reflecting when my gaze stops at a miniature Indian painting they have on a corner of their staircase....

I realize that, like in Tantra philosophy, the entire universe is a manifestation of pure consciousness. In manifesting the universe, this pure consciousness becomes divided into two poles or aspects, neither of which can exist without the other. Shiva and Shakti come immediately to mind.

One aspect is Shiva -- masculine, retaining a static quality and identified with unmanifested consciousness. Shiva has the power to be but not the power to become or change. The other aspect -- Shakti -- is feminine, dynamic, energetic and creative. Shakti is the Great Mother of the universe, for it is from her that all form is born.

Like in a miniature universe, a legendary collection of tales from the Middle East or the realism of South American poetry are found in the cosmos and can be found within each individual, and the same principles that apply to the universe apply in the case of the individual being.

Shiva and Shakti, King Solomon and Bithiah, Marco and Yasmina, unite above the crown of the head with pure consciousness. This union has the aim in all cultures -- Islamic, Indian, Shaman, or Kabbalistic, it doesn't really matter -- to blend into a resolution of duality and a fusion with the Absolute.

By this union, liberation is attained while living and is considered in Indian Tantric life to be the highest experience: a union of the individual with the universe. The ultimate bliss is a transcendence of dualities: male-female, energy-consciousness.

Yasmina is up checking on the dog. Marco wakes me up from my wandering thoughts, "Are you okay?"

"Yes Marco." I answer, "Thank you. There is a message for me, I think I must prepare for a trip."

"Yes of course...and where are you going?"

"May I see that portrait again?"

Joelle's Tips:

To purchase Yasmina Alaoui and Marco Guerra contact: /

June 5 Exhibit:

Opera Gallery 115 spring street NY NY 10012 1 212 966 6675

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