Into the Heart of the Rose

A rose is a rose is a rose (so wrote Gertrude Stein). But a rose, in the hands of Boston-based artist Lori Schouela, becomes a symbol of unity and harmony, an unexpected artistic medium, and an up-close look at the intricacy of nature.

Lori calls her rose-petal paintings, several of which are on view in the Mahkeenac Dining Room at Kripalu, “an exploration of the rose based on the essence of this beautiful object.” To create them, she first deconstructs hundreds of roses and arranges the petals on a sheet of Mylar (a shimmery plastic film), spiraling out from the tiniest bud to the fullest bloom.

“When I work, I imagine that I’m experiencing the rose from the inside,” Lori says. “The process is a quiet, meditative experience. I’m not trying to change anything. I’m looking deeply at what’s there and what wants to show up. It’s like finding stillness in a pool of chaos.”

Using an eye dropper so she can meticulously control the tone and depth of color, Lori pours acrylic paint on the petals, working with one section at a time. Over the following days, the paint gradually dries, and when Lori carefully removes the petals, imprints of their shapes remain. A museum-quality print is created from each original, using high-resolution photography and digital color correction.

“The organic quality remains on the print,” Lori said. It’s as if she’s capturing the soul of each petal and mapping the universe of the blossoms.

Ever since she was a child, Lori has been fascinated by beautiful objects. She loved to cut out pictures of things that spoke to her—romantic things like roses, luscious velvets, and furs—and collect them in her treasure box. “I was always looking for the magic in life,” she remembers.

Lori’s art reflects yoga philosophy—she’s been coming to Kripalu for many years, and her husband, David Schouela, is a Kripalu Yoga teacher—and her view of spirituality as a deep connection with something larger than ourselves.

“In the end, it doesn’t have to be a rose at all—people see spheres in the paintings, the earth turning, birds, skies, the ocean,” Lori says. “My work is a metaphor for life, and for opening our senses to the beauty that surrounds us. It’s about connecting with that ethereal vastness that we are all a part of, where stillness and tranquility lie. My work keeps me questioning and exploring how to tap into that. By opening into the rose, I’m opening into the magic of life.”

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