She founded, in 1960, one of the first artist co-ops for women. Mira Lehr was among the first to blaze a trail for women artists who were excluded from the male-dominated art world.
Today, sixty years later, Mira Lehr is recognized as "the Godmother of the entire Miami art scene."
She was shocked at the lack of an art scene in Miami in 1960 when she moved back to Miami Beach from New York, 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."
Now, at the age of 85, Mira Lehr is creating more new works than at any other period of her career.
Sixty years later, Mira Lehr has created powerful new work that calls attention to today’s pressing issues ─ saving the planet and protecting the environment.
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. The exhibition is now on view until February 3rd, including Miami Art Week.
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.
This new museum show for Art Basel Season emphasizes the artist’s reverence for nature and protecting the planet.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Working with imagery from the natural world, Lehr creates layered abstract compositions with unconventional materials. The 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer referred to her as "the mistress of light.”
The lush flora of her Florida home has a profound influence on her aesthetic vocabulary. Art historian Irving Sandler describes her use of imagery: “What makes Lehr's work different is the specificity of her references to nature. I was trying to think of any other artist working in this tradition who did it quite as explicitly as Mira does, and I couldn’t come up with one."
Mira Lehr is a graduate of Vassar College (1956) with a degree in Art History, under the mentorship of feminist art historian, Linda Nochlin. In the 1960s, she collaborated with famous American painter, Robert Motherwell. In 1969 she was selected by Richard Buckminster Fuller, the renowned American architect, author and systems theorist, to participate in the first World Game Scenario Project at the New York Studio School.
The exhibition is now on view until February 3rd, including Miami Art Week.
Meet the artist Mira Lehr at the annual Sunday brunch event during Art Basel Miami Beach. The event is on Dec. 8th at 10:00 a.m. at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, located in South Beach at 301 Washington Avenue. Reservations required to attend. Free for Art Basel VIP Card holders with RSVP. $18 for museum members; $25 for non-members. RSVP required in advance here.
The artist will also present a new exhibition in 2020 (Jan. 24th - May 10th in Orlando at the Mennello Museum). This other show will be called "High Water Mark." Click here for more info about that other exhibition.