The Deering Estate Selects Mira Lehr for New Solo Exhibition to Kick Off Art Basel Season in Miami

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The Deering Estate Selects Mira Lehr for New Solo Exhibition to Kick Off Art Basel Season in Miami
Installation view of the Deering Estate’s Great Hall. Two paintings by Mira Lehr: Pandora’s Blossoms, and Emerging from the Field of Reeds. Photo by Zachary Balber.

MIAMI .- The nationally acclaimed artist Mira Lehr, celebrated as “the Godmother of Miami’s Art Scene,” has been selected for several prominent exhibitions, art fairs, and events during the eagerly awaited return of Art Basel Season this year in Miami. The Deering Estate has chosen Lehr for its season opener, with the new solo exhibition Mira Lehr: Regenerative Rhythms. Curated by Melissa Diaz, the show features all new works by Lehr created in 2021 that have never before been exhibited. International recognition of Lehr’s artistic trajectory rises to even greater heights this year ― Skira Editore, one of the world’s leading publishers of art books, will host a private, by-invitation-only event during Art Basel Miami Beach to announce the new, 420-page book Mira Lehr: Arc of Nature, the Complete Monograph by Skira. Festivalgoers who attend the U.S. premiere of the Art with Me festival will come face to face with a new activation of Lehr’s creative vision in a dramatic setting right on the beach. The festival has chosen Lehr’s large-scale Mangrove Labyrinth sculptures for this year’s tribal gathering. One of Lehr’s recent museum acquisitions is a monumental installation that will be exhibited for visitors to the art fairs front-and-center at a prime location in the heart of South Beach ― Sacred Dreams by Mira Lehr is comprised of 183 aerial sculptures. It was gifted to the Jewish Museum of Florida on Miami Beach during the pandemic closure by the collector Dr. Robert Feldman, and is now on view as a permanent museum installation. A detail of this ceiling installation is the cover of the new Skira book about Mira Lehr.

Sixty years ago, when the pioneer eco-feminist artist co-founded one of America’s first-ever co-ops for women artists in 1961, it was hard to imagine during that male-dominated era how powerfully Lehr’s career would continue to take flight six decades later ― as such a force of nature. At the bold age of 87, she is creating more new art than ever before. The demand for Lehr’s work is evident in the lineup of shows, museum acquisitions, commissions, and major events leading up to Miami Art Week 2021.

The Deering Estate Presents ─ Mira Lehr: Regenerative Rhythms

Emerging from the Field of Reeds is the foreseeing title of one of Lehr’s new paintings in this exhibition, she created the work during the pandemic, and the title came to her months after it was painted. The Field of Reeds is the ancient Egyptian vision of the afterlife, a paradise mirror image of one's life on earth. Egypt’s real fields of reeds, in the Delta valley, were more like infernos. Reed workers lived a hard life and were chronically affected by diseases. The painting represents a singular departure for the artist ― none of her works ever looked like this before, and none have appeared this way since. This vision came to Lehr only once.

“These new works by Mira Lehr, never exhibited before, resonate in our post-quarantine pandemic period. Prodding us to consider our relationship with nature,” said Melissa Diaz, the Deering Estate’s Museum Curator.

“In the quietude of the long months of 2020, when much of the world was remaining indoors, the natural world appeared to undergo a regenerative effect. The flourishing plant and wildlife helped provide humanity a renewed sense of hope at the resilience of our planet. Through her six decades long commitment to the growth of the Miami art community, Lehr has become an icon of feminist and environmental art. The urgency of a single, vertical drip in Lehr’s paintings speaks to the intensity with which we face ourselves in this Covid world,” adds Diaz.

Emerging from the Field of Reeds, by Mira Lehr, 2021. Ignited gunpowder and fuses on wood panels (6’ x 4’)

Pandora’s Blossoms is another large-scale painting (seven feet by twelve feet) by Lehr that is exquisitely allowed expansive wall space in this show ─ majestically peering down at visitors in the Deering Estate’s historic Great Hall. During the gilded age, Charles Deering kept and displayed his vast collection of art here. In the early 1900s Deering’s collection was considered Miami’s most valuable treasure trove: paintings by Goya, Murillo, El Greco, Degas, Winslow, Whistler, Sargent, Casas and more.

This exhibition includes a selection of works that reflect Lehr’s ongoing dialogue with the power and unbounded quality of the natural world. Regenerative Rhythms invites the viewer to consider the patterns, textures and cyclical process of life, birth and regeneration. Layers and washes of pigments, burned Japanese paper, and handwritten text create a multidimensional surface through which to enter Lehr’s inner worlds.

Pandora’s Blossoms is highlighted in the forthcoming book about Mira Lehr by Skira Editore. In one of the essays in this monograph, by the New York Times writer Joseph B. Treaster, he is drawn to the fact that Lehr had never created a work quite like this. His curiosity is piqued by the way Lehr “harmonized the soft, rich colors with her explosive touches” of ignited gunpowder and burned fuses, alongside singed Japanese paper. The Skira book also features essays by Eleanor Heartney, Irving Sandler and Thom Collins.

According to the Deering Estate show’s Curator, Melissa Diaz: “Pandora is not a femme fatale responsible for the earth’s destruction, but rather a Mother Nature figure that brings forth new life out of death and decay. Instead of releasing the ills of humanity, the blossoms can be read as a renewed sense of harmony and life emerging from the cinders. The effect evokes the birth of something new from the ashes of destruction.”

U.S. Premiere of the Art With Me festival selects Mira Lehr’s Mangrove Labyrinth sculptures for this year’s tribal gathering.

Art With Me is an immersive festival that combines art, music, workshops, wellness, and cultural experiences into multiple day-into-night journeys that are curated to inspire change through creative encounters. The festival will travel from Tulum, Mexico to debut in Miami from November 26-28 at historic Virginia Key Beach Park. A select roster of leading visual artists and sculptors are invited, alongside headline musicians and DJs who will perform on three beachfront stages. Mira Lehr’s large-scale Mangrove Labyrinth sculptures will be featured, among the giant art installations chosen by the festival organizers to exhibit.

“I am thrilled that my Mangrove Labyrinth sculptures will be enjoyed by the festivalgoers at Art With Me, in the beautiful setting along the ocean’s edge,” said Mira Lehr. “Mangroves are the great protectors of our planet’s ecosystem. They surround and protect against flooding, holding back erosion and guarding the shoreline. Visitors to the Festival will feel like they are walking inside the root systems, and this emphasizes their guardian status.” The installation consists of six commanding sculptures, each constructed from twisted marine ropes that have been stiffened with steel rods, coated with resin and finished off with fire.

Rising from the floor to tower eight feet above the ground, this thicket of abstracted mangroves is meant to enfold viewers and evoke what it feels like to be within the dense tangle of roots that characterize actual mangrove forests. The festival is pricing Mira Lehr’s Mangrove Labyrinth at $275,000.

Lehr’s new works have also been selected to debut during the INK Miami Art Fair. Flying Horse Editions recently chose Mira Lehr for their 2021 visiting artist residency, and the new works she created there will be featured during Art Basel week at the Flying Horse Editions Suite located in the INK Miami Art Fair.

Pandora’s Blossoms, by Mira Lehr, 2021. Ignited gunpowder and fuses, acrylic, ink, and resin on wood panels (7’ x 12’)

About the Artist Mira Lehr

Mira Lehr’s solo and group exhibitions number more than 300. She is a graduate of Vassar College (1956) with a degree in Art History, under the mentorship of Linda Nochlin, the renowned feminist art historian. Lehr will be the subject of a new, 420-page international monograph by the leading art book publisher Skira Editore, to be published in the spring of 2022.

Lehr has been collected by major institutions across the U.S., including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art (Washington), the Getty Museum Research Center (Los Angeles), the Boca Raton Museum of Art, the Perez Art Museum Miami, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center (NY), the Margulies Collection, the Mennello Museum of American Art, MOCA North Miami, the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, and the Orlando Museum of Art. Her work is in the private collections of Elie and Marion Wiesel, Jane and Morley Safer, and Judy Pfaff, among others. She is included in the Leonard Lauder Corporate Collection in New York. Thirty of her paintings were commissioned for the collection of Mount Sinai Hospital. Her work can be seen in American Embassies around the world and is permanently on view in the Sloan Kettering Memorial Center.

Her nature-based work encompasses painting, sculpture, and video. She uses nontraditional media such as gunpowder, fire, fuses, Japanese paper, dyes, and welded steel. Lehr is known for igniting and exploding fuses to create lines of fire across her paintings. In the 1950s, Lehr studied and worked in New York as an artist, where she met some of America’s most prominent masters including: Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, and Helen Frankenthaler. She studied with James Brooks, Ludwig Sander, Robert Motherwell, and within the Hans Hofmann circle. When Lehr moved back to Florida in 1960, she was shocked at the lack of an art scene, especially for women. She co-founded Continuum in 1961, one of the country’s first artist co-ops for women artists. This helped the evolution of art in Miami.

About the Deering Estate

The Deering Estate preserves the 1920s era Miami estate of Charles Deering, Chicago industrialist, early preservationist, environmentalist, art collector, philanthropist and first chairman of the International Harvester Company. The Deering Estate is a 21st Century house museum, cultural and ecological field station, and a national landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, owned by the State of Florida and managed by Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department. The Deering Estate is located at 16701 SW 72nd Avenue in Miami. The Deering Estate offers complementary exhibition viewing nights, highlighting a variety of contemporary, historic, and visiting exhibitions inside the historic homes. Come and experience the #ArtsAtDeering. Exhibition Evenings are free of charge and offer the public a chance to interact with artists and curators and to experience a variety of exhibit tours and talks. The Deering Estate maintains the legacy of Charles Deering of supporting artists and creative innovation through its vigorous residency and exhibition program. The Deering Estate’s Exhibition Program has always been a platform for artists to explore the site and illustrate different facets of the history of the site and its surroundings. Cultural Arts Programming at the Deering Estate is made possible with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners, and The Deering Estate Foundation, Inc.

About the Deering Estate Foundation

For those who treasure the Deering Estate, who advocate for its preservation and wish to invest in its future, The Deering Estate Foundation provides opportunities for individuals and corporations alike to partake in membership, signature events, and one-of-a-kind experiences, all in service of providing vital funding and support to the Deering Estate. Through these efforts, the foundation fulfills its mission to uphold the legacy of Charles Deering's cherished 1920s-era property, to provide funding for the cultural, educational and recreational experiences it offers, as well as its significant scientific and archaeological endeavors to conserve its diverse flora, fauna and the eight native ecosystems that thrive on its 450 acres, and to ensure its longevity as a prized American heritage site. Established in 1989, The Deering Estate Foundation, Inc. is a community-based charitable 501(c)3 Florida Corporation and the philanthropic partner of the Deering Estate.

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