ABOVE: Leaving New York for Miami Beach more than
40 years ago, Mira Lehr found artistic independence
and inspiration in South Florida, where she and
a group of other women artists founded a womens
ABOVE: A muted palette and translucent layering
in East Wall, 2002, evoke a meditative
BELOW: Lehrs love of nature
is evident in Dragonfly Summer, 2002,
an abstract comprising five panels.
|At first glance,
the work of Miami Beach artist Mira Lehr seems to
echo her surroundings. Lush, earthy and botanical,
her paintings reflect her strong, abiding love of
nature. She continuously cultivates this passion in
her garden, which she designed in collaboration with
celebrated landscape architect Daniel Kiley.
Although her immediate environment is a source of
inspiration, Lehr does not work directly from nature.
Rather, her imagery comes from a collection of memories
of shapes, forms and other things I like, she
Drawing on these visual imprints, Lehr embarks on
an intuitive, meditative journey to create each painting
a period that may take less than a week or
several months to complete. Painting in her studio
or garden, the artist works and reworks each piece,
listening to the forms within the painting to
determine her next step, she says, while waiting
for those blissful moments when she enters a state
Throughout the creative process, Lehr is thinking
of the space, the relationships, how one thing affects
another, she says. I just work until a
painting starts to tell me that the parts are well
Exuding an Eastern sensibility, her paintings express
the spirituality found in nature. Each piece conveys
a kind of quiet, calm, serene space, and I think
thats why people respond to my work, she
Inherently artistic, Lehr began taking art classes
as a young child. After high school she pursued a
career in art, earning a bachelors degree in
art history from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.,
because in those days you could not take studio
art as a major, she says. Her curriculum, however,
included studio art classes.
Upon graduation, she continued her postgraduate studies
at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Later, she returned to New York, and with the assistance
of a Rockefeller Scholarship, worked out of a studio
in Carnegie Hall.
In 1961, Lehr relocated to Miami Beach and soon became
a champion of women artists in South Florida. Influenced
by renowned feminist art historian Linda Nochlin,
one of her Vassar College professors, Lehr and a group
of fellow artists founded The Continuum Gallery, the
first womens art co-op in the Southeast, which
opened in 1966 and has since presented countless exhibitions.
I dont think of art as male or female,
and its never really been an issue with me,
she says. But I like the idea of giving everybody
a chance to be recognized. In the 50s, women
had really meager chances. I think we did a lot for
the art scene in Miami and for women artists in general.
The move south also gave Lehr the opportunity to associate
with well-known artists such as Robert Motherwell
and James Brooks. During those early years, Lehr focused
largely on figurative works, but she says, I
didnt know enough to do any abstraction. Then,
little by little, I started to see the spaces that
the model would occupy and the space became bigger
than the model in a way.
She uses a mix of acrylic, charcoal and rice paper
on canvas to create paintings that can be described
as a hybrid
of the figurative and the abstract. Natural forms
dominate the surface, but the backgrounds are deep
and complex. On closer inspection, they reveal a myriad
of contrasts natural imagery with abstract
gesture, dense planes with translucent washes, and
rich, abraded textures with a crisp, contemporary
I have a happy combination of the figurative
and the abstract, and thats always what I wanted,
Previously represented by Miami galleries Dorothy
Blau and Gloria Luria, she is now represented by Elaine
Baker Gallery in Boca Raton. Her paintings can also
be found in the permanent collections of the Bass
Museum, the Art Museum at Florida International University,
as well as private and corporate collections.
Currently, Lehr is working on an art book that will
make its debut at the Miami Book Fair International
in the fall.
For more information, please call Elaine Baker Gallery
at 561/241-3050, or visit www.miralehr.com.