In these turbulent times, creativity and empathy are more necessary than ever to bridge divides and find solutions. Artnet News’s Art and Empathy Project is an ongoing investigation into how the art world can help enhance emotional intelligence, drawing insights and inspiration from creatives, thought leaders, and great works of art.
In the 1970s, as counter-cultural movements touting the importance of mindfulness, meditation, and self-exploration vis-a-vis mysticism, astrology, and tarot sprang up across America, defining a distinct personal aura became a widespread goal.
The artist Christina Lonsdale, creator of Radiant Human and author of an upcoming book of the same name, has been immersed in this culture since birth. Her mother was an artist, and her father was deeply dedicated to the practice of meditation.
Her father published an alternative magazine called Fountain of Light, and she spent part of her childhood on an idyllic commune populated by free-range animals and marked by wondrous blue skies and creeks.
For the project, the artist has been recounting her early exposure to an open-minded alternative lifestyle, recalling her coming-of-age in the California rave scene, and her ultimate enrollment in the Santa Barbara School of Intuitive Massage, where she learned about the aura and the physical body, which tied into her interest in social psychology.
Eventually, as the dawn of the Internet gave way to the full-saturation of web culture, Lonsdale began to explore the Digital New Age, which she describes as “a social community dedicated to personal transformation through technology and self discovery.”
When the artist encountered “aura photography,” which is made with the use of a very special camera that can actually capture a person’s individual essence and electromagnetic energy, thereby illuminating their true selves, she found the perfect marriage of art and science. For audiences, this means a deeper connection with the subjects.
Metal sensors help capture a person’s inner vibe inside a specially-designed “dome” that looks like a small spaceship, wherein energy can be viably concentrated. Using a hand-modified Polaroid camera, the wavelengths of a sitter’s spirit are translated into vibrant and otherworldly colors.
With her newfound tools, Lonsdale found that she was able to connect her formative childhood experiences with those of the burgeoning realm of social media to embark. Therefrom sprang the triumph of the Radiant Human project.
“As human beings, we carry electricity inside us,” Lonsdale said in a 2019 interview with Artnet News. “It radiates past our skin in what’s known as an electromagnetic field.”
What emerges, in Lonsdale’s words, is essentially the OG Instagram filter.
“Instead of doggie ears and Coachella wreathes, you have the color of your energy,” she says.
In the book, Lonsdale provides detailed case studies that describe what certain colors indicate about a person’s aura. Through hundreds of photographs, including remarkable images of celebrities such as Busy Philipps, Zosia Mamet, Chloë Sevigny, Joseph Altuzarra, and SZA, she pulls out the nuances of individuals’ personalities through the gradient colors of a Polaroid.
Sometimes, the auras are almost imperceptible, but it’s exactly those discreet and subtle changes that make up the whole of a person’s aura.
“Perceptions can pivot with the click of a shutter,” Lonsdale says on the project’s website, “illuminating our truest selves, and giving new light to what was there all along.”
Radiant Human: Discover the Connection Between Color, Identity, and Energy is forthcoming from Harper Collins this April.
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.