Lisa Paul Streitfeld, Curator/Critic

The Autumn Equinox 2007 took place on Sunday, September 23, 2007.  This date marked the set up for a five-day exhibition of THE ALCHEMY OF LOVE: AIR (SUBLIMATIO) at the Lab Gallery in the Roger Smith Hotel on 47th Street and Lexington Avenue.  This was the fourth and final chapter of an alchemical experiment reviewing the history of an artist’s sexual patterns as a prelude to a personal transformation reflecting the resurrection of pivotal feminine archetypes.  


At this time, Daniel Rothbart and I were anticipating a follow up to our Autumn Equinox 2006 performance, HUDSON RIVER: MEDITATION MEDIATION which took place less than 24 hours following a Solar Eclipse.   The opening performance of THE ALCHEMY OF LOVE: AIR (SUBLIMATIO) was expected to converge and culminate two separate collaborative projects, MEDITATION MEDIATION and the ALCHEMY OF LOVE, thereby bringing together myths and symbols from both to establish a new external form for a deeply personal language of expression.


The performance chart was created for sunset, 13 hours after the Autumn Equinox, which took place at 5:52 AM. 




My personal goal was to bring parallel fourteen-year explorations of the YOD and the synodic VENUS cycles to conclusion during an anticipated COSMIC convergence revealed in the performance chart.


The hoped for result was a new understanding of a holistic VENUS in relationship to a new icon of gender equality revealed in the realignment of Persephone’s partnership to Pluto explored in the September 23, 2006 performance of HUDSON RIVER: MEDITATION MEDIATION. 


The Autumn Equinox chart marked a convergence between a crucial triggering of my personal YOD and Venus making a final opposition to Neptune (4:05 PM on September 21) following the change in Venus direction on September 8 in opposition to Neptune.




The performance chart was set up for sunset with a 0 degrees Aries rising, putting the Sun right on the descendent, disappearing down 47th Street.  As we were running behind due to security precautions for the United Nations General Assembly meetings two blocks East, we included the set up in the performance itself.  Nineteen manuscripts in individual cardboard boxes were set up in five piles making the shape of a pentagram in the center of the gallery.  Five colored starfish were placed above the piles.  The colors were associated with the four elements comprising the five horns of the pentagram that Venus has traveled since 1990 through the synodic cycle: Aries (red/fire), Scorpio (orange/water), Gemini (yellow/air), Capricorn (green/earth) and Leo (blue/spirit).   In the center of the pentagram was placed the figure of VENUS in a black T-shirt with the star constellations representing the Evening Star.  Underneath was a T-shirt with my natal horoscope utilized in a narrative captured by the video projected on the wall.  The underlying theme of the installation/performance was explicit: reconciling the opposites of public/private and personal/universal.  My astrological chart on the T-shirt had the symbol of Aquarius as Water Bearer at its center.  The still images in the video projected on the gallery wall captured this universal image due to the fact that I was wearing it over my heart.  The Water Bearer image worn over the heart also serves to reconcile to the opposites of Leo/Aquarius. 


Beginning the performance under a 0 degrees Aries rising chart set the stage in accordance with the rhythm of my natal horoscope, which has 0 degrees rising.  Therefore the astrological wheel created in the gallery with a vessel due East at 0 degrees was set up in attunement with the sun setting due West at 0 degrees.  This configuration of balance created the opportune conditions for the Autumn Equinox that would raise the SUBLIMATIO phase of the Alchemical experiment to the level of the Hieros Gamos, in which all opposites are united in cosmic oneness.




The AIR (SUBLIMATIO) performance was timed to the Autumn Equinox.  This was the fourth and final chapter of THE ALCHEMY OF LOVE experiment in creating a multi-media blog-novel reflecting a journey of personal transformation through the collapsing of private/public boundaries.  The goal was to pass through the four elements to arrive at the Hieros Gamos. 


SUBLIMATIO was the material culmination of 20 years of alchemical experiments in inventive autobiographical writing in which the author becomes a protagonist in her own reality novel reflecting cosmic convergences.  Each day, writings from one pile would be reviewed and posted in the window.  Five days covered five horns to complete the synodic cycle in the rhythm of the order of the five signs: Aries, Scorpio, Gemini, Capricorn and Leo.


The real time experiment of blog entries followed by evening rituals had a precedent in several years of personal rituals in attunement to the Moon-Venus monthly conjunctions during the 260 day journey of Venus as Morning or Evening Star separated by a 60 day period in the underworld.  The ancients’ cultural narratives interpreted this rhythm.  It was my intention to do the same for a new millennium in which Venus retrieves her dark and light aspects, thereby integrating the opposites defining her attraction and creative potential.


The multi-media components of video, photography, assemblage, literature and physical performance all factored into a highly charged energy within the gallery space.  It was expected that the synchronicities arising from a space initially charged by archetypal energies summoned during VENUS: MEDITATION MEDIATION would both embellish and clarify the mythical narrative built up during the previous two MEDITATION MEDIATION performances (in 2005 and 2006), which, respectively, defined the resurrected masculine and the face of the feminine.




Aside from the personal journey of transformation, the intention set out for THE ALCHEMY OF LOVE was the establishment of an original art form for the rebirth of the authentic feminine in the culture.  This art form could therefore serve as a first time “enactment” of the Myth of Eternal Return for a new epoch.


The alignment of gender during the previous MEDITATION MEDIATION performances was preparation for the equal gender partnership promised by the Autumn Equinox 2007.  The opposition between Venus and Neptune in this chart meant personal love (VENUS in LEO) converging with universal love (NEPTUNE in AQUARIUS) in the signs representing the Aquarian Age goddess and her consort.  During the FIRE performance in January, the High Priestess declared the intention of THE ALCHEMY OF LOVE as calling in the Aquarian goddess, i.e. giving her a form of worship.


For AIR, the Leo/Aquarius integration was introduced into the installation by the assemblage VENUS, which contained multiple silhouettes of Inanna with her Lion companion surrounded by floppy disks carrying the data of multiple manuscripts attempting to narrate this mythology as it emerged in the closing decade of the 20th century.


Aquarius as Water Bearer was also represented in the work FOUNTAIN, a golden chalice overflowing with words extracted from the manuscripts comprising the pentagram.


The main intention of SUBLIMATIO was creating an objective form (a pentacle) out of subjective desire (writing about the search for perfect love).  During evening performances, rejection letters were placed in the window among writing from the horn of the pentagram focused upon that day.  The transformation of form reflected the sublimation of desire into self-expression and ultimately, wisdom.




The performance consisted of the following:


1.  Four vessels selected; one placed at each direction: EAST (Fire), SOUTH (Water). WEST (AIR) and NORTH (Earth)


2.  Beside the vessels are glass apothecary jars containing the element


3.  Nineteen manuscripts placed into a pentagram.  According to the date of the writing, the boxes are placed into piles, destination coded by color ink used for the titles and the color coded flier with pentagram depicting a 20 year VENUS cycle on top of each pile.


COLOR             POSITION               SIGN           ELEMENT

RED                       EAST                           ARIES             FIRE

ORANGE                NORTH WEST                SCORPIO         WATER

YELLOW                SOUTH EAST                GEMINI           AIR

GREEN                   NORTH                         CAPRICORN    EARTH

BLUE                     SOUTH WEST                LEO               SPIRIT


4.  T- shirt beneath the T-shirt with the night sky.


5.  Five vessels of the same size selected, one vessel under each starfish.


6.  Title pages for manuscripts placed in respective vessels


7.  Elements placed into four vessels: 


East – Fire (ashes)

South – Water (blue water)

West – Air (feathers)

North – Earth (salt and lavender)


8.    Yod created from pouring SALT mixed with pink rose petals and amethyst stars. The figuration created a chalice with the stem, or the Apex at the Aries point (fire vessel) extending into two arms enfolding two assemblages representing the monthly conjunction between the archetypal feminine: VENUS and LUNA.




1.  I wear SUBLIMATIO, a blue spiral dress created by Selma Karaca.


2.  Two large bowls placed beside VENUS.  One represents EARTH and is filled with white quartz stones.  The other represents AIR and is filled with feathers. 


3.  Two smaller bowls hold rose petals and salt.


4.  I dip the large vessel filled with tiny quartz stones to create a circle around the five manuscripts. 


5.  Call in the spirits of the four directions by lightening a candle beside each vessel corresponding to the four directions:







6.  Remove the black star T=shirt, Venus as Evening Star to reveal Venus as Morning Star, her current incarnation.


7.  Light the title pages with various names used on the journey and burning the pages in the empty vessel beside the pile of manuscripts.


8.  Combine pigments of gold, silver and copper and sprinkle around the circle to seal in the energies of Sun, Moon and Venus.


9.  Lift a vessel of red rose petals before the Leo pile and going around the circle to deposit the petals, representing Eros, into the five vessels containing the ashes.  This action symbolized the resurrection.


10.  Hold the alchemical egg, representing the Philosopher’s Stone.  The egg was painted in gold and silver wax representing the yin & yang and covered with copper, the Venus element.  The egg was split open and into five pieces, each placed into the five vessels containing the ashes and rose petals. This represents the birth as well as the leaving of the nest, where these manuscripts had been placed, in my childhood home.   The breaking of the egg was a manifestation of a dream.


11.  The feathers in the large bowl are scattered throughout the circle.


12.  Remaining stones in the large bowl are scattered in the window.  A bowl with my personal stones – a crystal and round sun and moonstones — placed in the center of the window.  Inside are salts, feathers and five cards with my image from the Earth chapter.  This represented the transformation from EARTH to AIR.




Throughout the course of the five-day performance, I traveled the northern arm of the Yod (representing Neptune) to begin the evening performances at the altar supporting the assemblage, Star of Tomorrow. The items on the altar represented the energies to be delivered to be into the ritual space. Here was placed ritual items such as incense, earrings.  The Neptune walk was an important ritual reflecting the earthly embodiment of the archetype through the objective aspect of the installation/performance piece.  It served as an external counterpart to the pentagram representing VENUS that contained my personal writings.  NEPTUNE was a linear extension into the world, particularly the commercial world where a little girl’s desire to be a star are contained in a plastic make-up set from a dime store entitled Star of Tomorrow.


Persephone was included in the performance mostly as an afterthought, yet she ended up being crucial to the unfolding narrative as personal and universal meshed within the gallery space.  On the first night, Monday, an African man from Liberia rapped on the window and declared I had created an African shrine.  We talked and he said he had a vision of us dancing together.  Clearly, he was hooked into the energy of the HIEROS GAMOS created in the space.  I agreed to go next door for a Seltzer with him and soon declared my desire to accompany him to Africa.  He decided we would travel there as man and wife. Here is a contemporary manifestation of the remaking of the Pluto-Persephone mythology in which Persephone makes a conscious decision to accompany Pluto into the underworld and he accompanies her as equal partner.




Aside from the personal journey of transformation, the intention set out for THE ALCHEMY OF LOVE was the establishment of an original art form for the rebirth of the authentic feminine in the culture.  This quest was reflected in my natal horoscope by Saturn (the timer) conjuncting my natal Pluto in an exact conjunction on Thursday, September 27.  The horror of nakedness (VENUS without identity) while moving from private to public figure mirrored the retrograde passage of VENUS from EVENING STAR to MORNING STAR.  The convergence of COSMOS and MATTER bared my passage from avant-garde UNDERGROUND performer to BOLD FACED NAME due to the 09/27/07 public recognition of my “naked” performance by the Daily News, the largest circulation newspaper in the nation on the precise day of the Saturn/Pluto convergence.


Naked is a popular euphemism for the exposed soul of a female reflecting a culture in transition and therefore unsure of identity on solid ground.  The narrative of death and rebirth was established through a video consisting of images created out of deconstructed manuscripts chronicling a personal journey of loss, shattered alembics, blood and resurrection to ultimately embrace the birth of a liberated feminine spirit.  Included in the narrative were images of my handling of a boa constrictor which referred to the shedding of skins essential to an identity change: viewed from the perspective of VENUS, this snake imagery was both personal and universal.  The narrative of the transformation out of the decay of EARTH into a new form was to be determined by the personal expansion into AIR to extract the SUBLIMATIO, thereby completing the transformation of LEAD (the shadow) into GOLD.  A video created from artwork and action narrative formed out of the integration of personal and universal symbol was projected 24/7 on the gallery wall.  This record of my “soul in transition” penetrated into my body during the night of September 27 when I slept in the gallery.  The timing of this submersion into my “soul images” was the trigger of Saturn (the timer) on my natal Pluto, an event that only occurs once every 27 ½ years.


This convergence between COSMOS and SUBLIMATIO was established the challenge that would make or break the experiment:  how to transmit this spiritual passage reflecting the artist (the worldly projection of VENUS) shedding her previous skin (Capricorn) to adopt a new identity (Leo) through art?


Spirituality in art and life is transmitted by means of symbol.  Four symbols established in AIR (SUBLIMATIO) would establish the foundation for a multi-layered real time narrative.  These symbols are: the circle, the cross, the pentagram and the Yod.  They are interpreted below within the holism of SUBLIMATIO:


THE PENTACLE represents the synodic cycle of VENUS as viewed from the earth.  This was the first symbol formed in the space, created by five piles of manuscripts arranged in the five horns of a pentagram at gallery center, reflecting the dominance of the theme of love & desire.


THE CROSS is time and space converging with Cosmos.  The symbol was created through the placement of four vessels in the four directions (EAST, SOUTH, WEST and NORTH) representing the four elements (FIRE, WATER, AIR and EARTH), thereby establishing a defined sacred space for the Cosmic interaction to take place.  The convergence of Cosmos and Space in “real time” establishes a mythology. 


THE CIRCLE is the wholeness of the Self, representing infinity.  The symbol was created during the opening performance by pouring stones into a circle surrounding the five points of the pentacle.


THE YOD, known as the Finger of God, was created during a ritual pouring of Salt mixed with Amethyst stars cut from cloth.  This esoteric symbol filled the space in the back of the gallery, extending from the FIRE (ARIES) point of the CROSS and creating a CHALICE enfolding two works representing the spiritual journey to characterize VENUS through tracking her synodic cycle.  The figure represented the merging of ancient (VENUS as Inanna) and contemporary (VENUS as the integrative link between multiple female deities) journeys of the Love planet through her synodic cycle.




When a contemporary VENUS – expressed through the female body or female body of art – is balanced between the opposites, the ancient myth of the innocent maiden, PERSEPHONE, falling victim to the patriarchy is presented in high relief.


At the time of the AIR (SUBLIMATIO) performance, this contemporary myth of Persephone was given expression through the bloodsucking media precipitating the downfall of superstar victims of addictions such as Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan and Britney Spears.  This final chapter of the alchemical process brings a detached assessment of the female journey to authenticity and independence through the materialization of esoteric forms (the four symbols) supporting the descent of VENUS from heaven to earth and the descent/ascent of PERSEPHONE to and from the Underworld.


The media reporting on the exposure of my performance as explicitly of the “flesh”—revealed – came a day after I was invited to go “underground” to handle the GOLD at the Federal Reserve Bank.  This transmutation of my shadow (my Saturn in Sagittarius conjunct Mars in the Ninth House revealed a fear of publicity exposing the rawness of my expression) was therefore rewarded by the invitation to the GOLD.  This outer manifestation of a triumphant inner passage from “Underground” to the Collective Consciousness established by the eclipse because part of a performance which duly recorded shifts of energy alignments in keeping with its reality blog-novel component. 


The outcome was incorporating the media response into the performance through the establishment, on the blog, of a dialectic regarding the public “performances” of media “wild woman.”  This public acting out of desire through the cycle of addiction (in my case the nonstop writing of manuscripts) is a contemporary Passion Play reflecting the natural cycles of ascent and descent of the planetary body ruling personal expression.  This transmutation of desire into form (the pentacle) was established through the public act of performance.


As a result, the acceptance of the contradictory nature of VENUS rejected by the patriarchy is reflected in a realignment of power between Persephone and Pluto in accordance with the official demotion of Pluto from planet into asteroid.  In the unfolding contemporary mythology of equal partnership between the sexes, the underworld couple rules from a place of gender equality and balanced partnership.   This reflects my experience in the New York underground, manifested in my collaboration with Daniel Rothbart.  Persephone’s underground descent is a conscious action stemming from a premeditated decision rather than uncontrolled impulse; she consciously pulls back on consciousness to engage in the unknown realm of equal partnership and her underworld experience feeds value and wisdom into the Aquarian Age VENUS.


All told, the conscious remaking of the myth of Venus and Persephone in the realm of an installation/performance bordering public and private assures a solid ground for the development of female evolutionary growth and the firm grasping of worldly power through collaboration between male and female.  Persephone’s determination to be “rooted” in the underworld partnership with Pluto in the internal/feminine EVENING STAR) phase of existence informs the relationship of Venus as MORNING STAR masculine/go-getter who attracts with her self-expression.  In contrast to the perpetual movement of Venus and her capability of blinding others with her dazzling light, Persephone’s experience provides a blueprint for equal partnership that sustains Venus in balanced relationship with the universe. 


For two performances of MEDITATION MEDIATION, the Autumn Equinox established the balance of day/night for uncovering the characteristics of a resurrected VENUS at the turn of the millennium made complete through her absorbing of the four elements through her underworld passage.  The journey through the four signs (Aries, Scorpio, Gemini, Capricorn) culminated with the fifth, Leo, as the celebrity shadow of the Aquarian Age VENUS incorporated as the spirit of the star itself takes hold in during the Autumn Equinox, 2007.


The hypothesis: Venus rising (September 9, 2007) in Leo opposing Neptune in Aquarius under a full Lunar Eclipse created the alchemy for the face of the feminine (4 degrees Pisces/Virgo) to take hold in the collective consciousness.  In my underground artwork, VENUS showed her true face as the merging of Solar (Gold) and Lunar (Silver) with her own metal (Copper).  This balance between Morning/Evening Star, light/dark, male/female is reflected in the Persephone/Pluto equal partnership. 


The success of the experiment was confirmed by the synchronistic appearance of a gentleman suitor from Liberia (the nation’s name originating in Libra, the balance) who incorporated the Hieros Gamos into his genetic make-up of half German/half African ancestry.  His manner expressed recognition, devotion and respect for the evolution of VENUS while courting PERPEPHONE as an equal partner.


The Aquarian Love Goddess has no obligation to take human responsibility for relationship.  Nor does she need relationship, as she retains the wholeness of the Hieros Gamos within her being and nurtures this symbol through the storehouse of her personal expression, reflected in AIR by the nineteen manuscripts making up her symbol of the pentacle. 


In contrast, Persephone’s power arises as a result of a fertile sexual union reflected in her symbol, the pomegranate.  This position of sharing underworld power demands responsibility arising from a profound sexual merging to create an icon forged from the duality of relationship reflecting the natural cycles of life/death/rebirth.


Innovating ancient images of a holistic VENUS in the context of an experimental engagement of newly emerging archetypes results in holistic models for a 21st Century icon – the Hieros Gamos.  In this artistic personal quest born out of equal collaboration, the separate identities of PERSEPHONE and VENUS are established through contemporary mythmaking.  as holistic models for a 21st Century icon – the Hieros Gamos.  The former is recognizeddoes so through deep sexual union and the latterr does so through the self-contained power of attraction between the opposites in her contradictory character.  These female archetypes were resurrected, explored, experienced and celebrated during the fourth and final chapter of THE ALCHEMY OF LOVE, thereby marking their place in the 21st century culture.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: