PHOTOGRAPHER John Micheals
SUBJECT Petra Aurelia Langerova
You see before you Petra Aurelia Langerova, a captivating woman with deep, mysterious waters swirling beneath the surface. Her unique style could be described as abstract-modern with flashes of the surreal. But it's the many ways she expresses this style that point to her true bohemian nature.
Upon entering Petra's home, one encounters a number of curiosities. Most of the art works on the walls are random objets trouvés that she has transformed: discarded card stock from denim pattern-makers, balls of packing straw, little bits and bobs of antique lace... Petra somehow has the ability to give a beautiful second life to things that look like rubbish to other people.
Maybe being raised by a Slovak family with long cultural and intellectual history has something to do it. The Patriarch of the family, her grandfather, was an activist, idealist, scholar, and philosopher. As the founder of a Slovak human rights organization, he devoted this life to fighting for humanity and justice. This led to his exile to Vienna. From Vienna, he communicated to his family regularly via letters, directing his family's religious, moral and philosophical training. Petra actually never met the man during her childhood, but he had a huge impact on her upbringing and beliefs. She was named by her grandfather, who felt her name would be an integral part of the woman his granddaughter would become. "Petra" is Greek for the word rock, and "Aurelia" is Latin for golden.
Her Father functioned similarly in her family, upholding as an ideal the pursuit of creative inspiration and purpose. He is a rare breed of craftsman and sculptor, who devotes his life to creating and restoring the architectural detailing in many of the older Royal family homes of Eastern Europe.
With the men of the family busy, Petra's mother and grandmother raised the next generation. Her mother, a ceramic art teacher, chose to let her children grow up in a way that would give them a mindset without boundaries, and the freedom to explore their imaginations. She reinforced the ideals that her husband lived by: follow your heart's desire, and pursue creative expression as the utmost priority in life. Her Grandmother, with her traditional Catholic beliefs, directed Petra to lead a life on the moral high ground, daily reinforcing messages that Petra's grandfather sent in the mail. And while one would never know it by her constant expression of individuality, Petra has a twin! This fact is only hinted upon in the rare occasions Petra mentions the emotional pangs and dreams she and her sister experience while the other is going through difficulties on the other side of the world.
Some of Petra's tales sound more like fables than real life:
There's the story of Petra at age 17, when she decided to visit a friend in London whom she had met while wandering Slovak streets. The two of them had made a verbal agreement that they would meet in London on a certain street, at a specific time in a year. With the near arrival of that date, Petra told her mother she was going to London. She climbed on a boat alone as her mother waved goodbye, and landed in Glasgow, Scotland. From there she hitch hiked her way to London. On her arrival in London she paused momentarily and thought, "How did I get here? What am I doing in this foreign city?" Shortly thereafter, her friend showed up just as they had agreed, and the girl whose dirty, dishevelled appearance she had pitied when they first met was actually British aristocracy!
Petra's ability to break through boundaries has led her into some unusual life experiences. In need of a place to stay, she moved in with a friend's Muslim Pakistani family who adopted her and her first child as honorary family members. She often found herself wondering how this family could let her into their lives with such generosity and kindness. Not only was Petra an active family member, helping with the cooking and daily chores, but she ended up becoming someone that all the family members could freely confide in!
Petra's audacious spirit has her constantly looking for new experiences in life. Her biggest adventure started when she was a year away from graduating Architecture School in Slovakia. Luck handed her a chance to study in United States and her curiosity could not turn down an opportunity to see the world. After she finished her year study, instead of heading home as per the original plan, she headed to New York City. Upon arriving at the airport, she didn't have a penny to pay for the cab she rode in. Again, she paused to ask herself, "How did I get here? What am i doing in the foreign city?" But she was too inspired to be discouraged. To this day, she has yet to return to Slovakia to finish her Architecture studies. Life in New York has taken it's own course, and Petra's swum along with it!
Her intuitive heart, romantic abandon, and exceptional upbringing has made her who she is today - a fair-minded but shrewd businesswoman, an amazingly talented designer, and a wonderful role model as a single mother to her two children. She raises her kids in her family's proud tradition; to inspire creativity, freedom, and fearlessness with a plan for making their future a bright adventure.
Looking at her, I get the feeling she is living out a beautifully written, intriguing tale with a preordained destiny. But regardless of destiny, Petra will continue to march into her future looking straight ahead. And on the path behind her will be a trail of golden dust.
I hope my readers found this portrait as inspiring as I find my dear friend, Petra. Please feel free to add your comments and suggestions about how to lead a golden bohemian life.