Painting the Space at Aquarius

Flanked by two examples of her own work, artist Vesna Delevska looks comfortable in the soft, warm light of Aquarius Wellness and strikes a thoughtful tone as she speaks about what drives her to create the emotive depictions of nature that so easily move others.

“Colors reflect feelings so it is the most important aspect in my paintings,” said the 38-year-old in a light accent that hints at her Balkan roots. “The more color, the better.”

Even in the room’s restfully muted illumination, that philosophy becomes clear. Deep swaths of moody blue dominate a dark, acrylic forest scene behind her while soft fuzzy streaks alive with bright ambers, verdant greens and fiery ochres accent tree leaves. But most notable are the butterflies. Clad in the iconic black and orange hues of the stately monarch species, they are rendered in perfect clarity to contrast with the indistinct haze of the jungle canopy lending an eerie illusion of depth as though the gaudy insects are ready to pop off the canvas and flutter about the room.

Yet, for Delevska, crafting the beauty of imagination into tangible masterpieces is all in a day’s work.

“It’s like therapy,” she said. “I enjoy getting lost in it.”

And getting lost in a therapeutic environment is just what this place is all about. Even before Delevska’s paintings were decorating its walls, the treatment studio at Aquarius was the perfect gateway to step into another universe, one where the hectic bustle of everyday life gives way to an oasis of calm. There is a reason owner Andrew Goodman likes to call his unique enterprise “a sanctuary for the senses.”

“To me, those evoke an idyllic scene of tranquility and peace – almost like the Garden of Eden – free of all the trials and tribulations that exist in our modern world,” Goodman said of the paintings.

Indeed, Delevska’s art is merely the most recent addition to Aquarius where a skilled team of licensed wellness professionals offer services ranging from skin care treatments to massage therapy to acupuncture, all of which promote a personal, integrated approach to spiritual and physical health that leaves clients looking and feeling their best. At Aquarius, attention to detail is paramount and even the design of the studio adheres to a holistic ethos where every element of the décor fits into a comprehensive picture. It is a meticulousness that brings a sense of serenity to each session and has earned Goodman and his crew glowing five-star reviews on Yelp.

“This is the epitome of what a massage space should be,” raves one. “All of your senses are touched from the moment you enter and you can instantly feel your stress level decrease.”

Goodman recalls finishing a recent massage where the client compared an Aquarius session to passing through the door to the mythical land of Narnia.

“Vesna was painting this in Chesterfield as he was saying that,” he noted, gesturing at a small rendering of a peaceful woodland path which now hangs on the door to the treatment studio. “We wanted it to be suggestive of what people will find when they come in here.”

What they’ll find may not be the fantasy world of C.S. Lewis but it is certainly impressive, a fact to which Delevska herself can attest. She’s received reiki work here to balance her energy. She said she feels the sessions helped her to dream more.

“I could tell my focus improved in my painting,” she said. “I could tell when I was present while painting or when my mind is running in different directions.”

Direction doesn’t seem to have been a problem for Delevska, who began painting at age eight in her native Macedonia before eventually going on to be accepted at that nation’s school for applied arts. A blend of realism and abstract impulses, her style still displays influences from the frescos and mosaics of her homeland.

Though her father was not a professional artist, she credits him as her first inspiration for picking up a brush.

“I just watched him paint,” she said. “I started, got more and more involved and my teacher in school noticed it and asked my parents if she could submit work or take me to competitions.”

Arriving in the United States just after high school, she studied psychology at the University of Oklahoma before eventually graduating with a degree in visual arts and design. After a brief stint in Kansas City, she arrived in St. Louis where she’s spent the last decade continuing her love affair with paint.

“It helps me to experience things that I could not experience in any other way,” she said.

Today, her work can be seen at her studio in Chesterfield Mall where she runs Vesna Art Gallery. She’s also painted various scenes around the St. Louis area, especially the city’s south side where some of her murals adorn utility boxes in the Carondelet and Holly Hills neighborhoods as part of an urban beautification program. Locales from private residences to local businesses have benefited from her expertise.

She encourages others to experience the menu of relaxing wellness services that Aquarius Wellness offers to patrons.

“A lot of people don’t realize that self care is a necessity for our daily lives, so I wish that it would become a place that more people visit,” she said. “It is…so amazing.”

Vesna Art Gallery is located at 88 Chesterfield Mall. She can be reached at (816) 352-3764. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon – 4 p.m.

David Baugher is a St. Louis-based freelance journalist, editor and author who has written three books, two of them on local topics related to the history of the Gateway City. His work has appeared in various publications on a wide range of topics from technology and science to religion and law. He can be reached at david@davidbaugher.com or by phone at 314-608-2637.