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The Eco-Feminist’s Call-to-Action: Mira Lehr Electrifies Art Basel Miami Beach

November 27, 2019 Visit Florida No Comments Email Email

The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU headlines Art Basel season with Mira Lehr: A Walk in the Garden featuring all new work created by the nationally renowned eco-feminist artist.

Celebrating her sixth decade as a pioneering artist on Miami Beach, the exhibition features ten monumental new paintings and 180 aerial sculptures that descend from the ceiling of the museum’s main sanctuary.

At the age of 85, Mira Lehr is creating more new works now than at any other period of her career. This new museum show for Art Basel Season emphasizes the artist’s reverence for nature and protecting the planet. The exhibition also honors the 60th anniversary of Lehr’s return to Miami Beach from New York, which led to her championing women artists in 1960.

“I am thrilled to celebrate my sixth decade as an artist in Miami Beach by showing my new work at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU for Art Basel season,” said Mira Lehr.

“Because this museum was originally built in the 1930s as the first synagogue on Miami Beach for Jewish residents who were discouraged from living north of fifth street, my story comes full circle as I look back on my own experiences as a Jewish child growing up in Miami Beach during the 1940s,” adds Lehr.

Mira Lehr recalls, as a child in the 1940s, walking by a frightening sign that said “No Jews, No Dogs” on her way to school each morning. “During the years 1947-1950, my family lived in the northern part of Miami Beach where not many Jewish families lived at that time,” said Lehr.

“I remember seeing that terrible sign every day on a building in a secluded neighborhood street and thinking: when I grow up I’m going to do something so great that will make the people who created this sign change their minds.”

“It makes me realize that although signs like that are not allowed anymore, there is an undercurrent of anti-Semitism that has always existed in the world. I hope that this changes as people become more evolved,” said Mira Lehr.

Now, more than 70 years later after witnessing that terrible sign that said “No Jews, No Dogs,” Mira Lehr has created powerful new work that calls attention to today’s pressing issues ─ saving the planet and protecting the environment.

“My creation of art has always been based on nature, but now I am more dedicated to ecology and saving the planet. We are all in a terrible dilemma now, the planet is suffering and is in danger.

People need to be aware of the danger that is threatening all of us, and we have to work together to reverse this situation,” adds Lehr.

This original new exhibition was conceived by Jacqueline Goldstein, the museum’s Curator and features 180 aerial sculptures.

In the 1950s in New York, Mira Lehr knew and worked with some of America’s most prominent leading artists: Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Hans Hoffman, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell, James Brooks . . .

Prior to her return to Miami Beach in 1960, Lehr studied and worked in New York as an artist, where she became friendly with some of America’s most prominent artists including: Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, and Helen Frankenthaler. She studied with James Brooks, Ludwig Sander and Robert Motherwell, and within the Hans Hofmann circle.


Blazing the trail for women artists

When Lehr moved back to Miami Beach in 1960, she was shocked at the lack of an art scene in Miami, especially the plight of women artists. “Women artists at that time felt stranded and hopeless in Miami,” said Lehr. “I was determined to change that.”

She then founded Continuum in 1960, one of the country’s first co-ops for women artists who were excluded from the male-dominated art world. Continuum grew and succeeded for more than 30 years, shining a spotlight on Miami Beach’s fledgling art scene, well before Art Basel would impact the area’s cultural landscape.

View Dreamscapes, the award-winning documentary film about Mira Lehr by the Simon and Goodman Picture Company, at this link. Her nature-based imagery encompasses painting, design, sculpture and video installations.

Lehr’s processes include non-traditional media such as resin, gunpowder, fire, Japanese paper, dyes and welded steel. She ignites and explodes fuses, which burn holes and leave imprints on her layered paintings.

Lehr has inspired new generations of young artists by serving as a mentor and collaborator. She has taught master classes with the National Young Arts Foundation and has been artist in residence at the Bascom Summer Programs. Her solo and group exhibitions number over 300.

Watch this short film showing how Lehr uses gunpowder and explosives to create art at this link. She describes her use of explosives as tying into the theme of creation versus destruction, which is integral to the cycle of nature.

“Mira Lehr has created a spectacular new series of artworks specifically with this museum in mind,” said Susan Gladstone, the Executive Director of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. “The exhibition is a result of Lehr’s personal visit to this museum, after she spent time here and reflected upon the emotions and inspiration she felt. Lehr has combined her art with that of the stained-glass windows and the play of light they create together. The result is truly magnificent.”

Lehr’s new aerial installation of 180 sculptures was inspired by the beauty and majesty of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. “I want viewers to feel like they are walking through an aerial garden of luminous, reflecting sculptures,” said Lehr.

One of Lehr’s new series of sculptures for this exhibition is based on the seven kinds of plants mentioned in the Torah. “It will be a holy garden, that takes people out of the actual world and transports them onto a spiritual plane,” adds Lehr.

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