Ludmila Pawlowska has been immersed in art her whole life.

She has done textile design, magazine illustration, painting, sculpture.The natural world had been the focus in her works.

But her mother’s death in 1997 launched her into a spiritual journey.

Her “Icons in Transformation” is one of the fruits of that journey.

The exhibit of more than 100 pieces has traveled the world and settles into St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church on Oct. 1.

Pawlowska was born in Kazakhstan, where her Soviet dissident parents were exiled.

It was there that she found a refuge in art. At 15, she moved to Moscow to study. Eventually she married and moved to Sweden.

Her mother died while visiting Pawlowska.The death was a blow to her. Searching, the artist began to travel. It was in the icons in Russian monasteries that she found purpose and inspiration.

They “were like a window to God,” she says on her website.

Pawlowska’s medium is varied: encaustic painting, installation and sculpture, collage. The exhibit also includes traditional Russian icons, which were her initial inspiration.

The works, she says on her website, “do not realistically represent any events or figures; rather they make sentiments and feelings visible or a moment of truth life. They can interpret subjects in their own way by using a wide plethora of colors, ranging from dark drama to the poetry of spherical light or just in intensive minimalist red/blue.”

Her galleries of choice as this exhibit has traveled have been churches and cathedrals.

“To those whose artistic appreciation is based on Western values, icons can seem strange, primitive or even ugly,” she said when the exhibit was at the Liverpool Cathedral in England.

“With just a few notes of explanation and using the sacred space at a cathedral, however, we may begin to see with the heart rather than mind, and discover in the icon a guide and instructor to the spiritual life.”

Icons in Transformation opens with a free Gala Celebration with the artist from 5-8 p.m. Oct. 1 at St. Philip’s, 4440 N. Campbell Ave. The exhibit continues through Jan. 7. Information: 299-6421 or stphilipstucson.org

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@tucson.com or 573-4128. On Twitter: @kallenStar