The time of quarantine, paradoxically, has been a productive one for Miami artist Mira (pronounced My-ra) Lehr, who experienced a burst of creativity. It was quiet and peaceful and with no outside disturbances, she was able to focus on her art.
“I was at home like everyone and motivated,” she remembers. “There was more time to reflect, experiment and dream in my studio sanctuary.”
She says one thing led to another and before she knew it, Lehr, who is 86, had enough new works for her latest exhibit at the Rosenbaum Contemporary Gallery in Boca Raton, Mira Lehr: Planetary Visions from Spaceship Earth.
The show has been extended through Feb. 6, due to strong sales and popular demand.
Now in her eighth decade and with a career that spans more than six decades of artmaking, Lehr is creating more new work now than at any other point in her life ─ with a heightened sense of urgency about the planet and climate change.
“This time of concern about the earth has changed everything,” says Lehr. “And I don’t think the planet will ever be the same again. We’re on the brink of making it ─ or not making it.”
Her latest exhibition features a selection of 20 new works created during quarantine by Lehr, spanning nearly 2,000 square feet. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of Lehr’s founding of Continuum, one of America’s first women artist co-ops, which she founded in Miami in 1960.
Also in the 1960s, while living in New York City, Lehr met and hung out with many of the abstract expressionists of the time (such as Robert Motherwell, Roberto Juarez, James Brooks and Nieves Billmyer) and became an original participant in Buckminster Fuller’s first World Game Scenario Project at the New York Studio School.
Memorably, she was dubbed “The Mistress of Light” by the late 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer.
“The title ‘Planetary Visions’ refers to the need for all of us to remain focused on a shared vision,” she says. “We are a one-world landmass island, surrounded by water, flying across the galaxy on our Spaceship Earth.”
“What happens in one part of our world affects all of us, and the pandemic proves this like never before,” she says.
Lehr has been painting since she can remember and attributes her “nature” and abilities to a higher power.
Lehr is primarily known as an eco-artist, for her beautiful, ethereal Japanese-like “Dreamscapes” and her use of gunpowder to ignite her work and singe the layers of the Japanese rice paper she uses.
“I’ve always had a special affinity for the Japanese aesthetic and sensibility,” she says. “Although I’ve never studied it formally, I organize my spaces like the Japanese in a simple way that’s both beautiful and profound.”
“Everything is in the right place,” she says.
Lehr says her newest paintings “have become darker, more mysterious, encased in a layer of resin that creates the appearance of a layer of ice that seems to cover the surface, separating the image from the viewer.”
“Time appears to stand still, waiting for the moment to search for solutions for our world,” she says. “These glossy surfaces also conversely carry us in ─ because the reflection is an invitation to be involved, to be aware.”
Her plea? “Help our Spaceship Earth.”
It’s a plea that reached sympathetic ears in Howard Rosenbaum, owner of the Rosenbaum Contemporary Gallery. “We were attracted by Mira’s unique use of different mediums combined together, as well as her environmental message,” he said.
Additionally, Lehr’s work is on display at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, Skolnick Surgical Tower and Hildebrandt Emergency Center and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Miami, and her painting Cosmic Energy hangs in the lobby of the Evelyn Lauder Breast Center of the Sloan Kettering Memorial Center in New York City.
Her recent solo exhibition headlined Art Basel Miami Beach in 2019 at the Jewish Museum of Florida, and received national and international critical acclaim. She was the recipient of the Vizcaya Museum Lost Spaces Commission, where she was commissioned to create a site-specific installation by the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens as part of Vizcaya’s centennial celebration.
Lehr is also finishing up the second volume of her two-volume book Arc of Nature, focusing on her work of the past five years.
Eventually she hopes to establish a foundation and make her works available along with her memoirs and first-person accounts of the time she spent with Buckminster Fuller and the abstract expressionists.
After a career spanning more than half a century, does Lehr feel as though she’s “made it?”
“No,” she says emphatically. “I’ve never felt that way. I am just going along a good path.”
“There is always more to learn and so much more to give,” she says. “You have to be humble.”
“I am constantly sketching images and writing down ideas,” she says. “One thing always leads to another and for that I am so grateful. If you are excited about something, it’s not work. It’s a joy.”
Rosenbaum Contemporary Gallery is located at 150 Yamato Road. The exhibition may be viewed on-site during regular gallery hours (Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.) in accordance with current Covid-19 safety guidelines. Additionally, reservations for private in-person viewings may be made in advance by calling 561-994-9180. Private zoom viewings are also available, exclusively with the gallery owner for his personal walk-through online of the show.