Environmental awareness isn’t just harnessing the power of reducing, reusing, and recycling. It also exists as visual empowerment through artists’ unique perspectives. Eco-feminist artist Mira Lehr is a pioneer of using art to harness environmental understanding, and Miami’s Kimpton EPIC Hotel is honoring her with an extended exhibit.
The series emphasizes the threat of climate change through an experimental exploration of the central theme of fire. The works are abstract, yet jarring, and showcase the arid risk we face as a detrimental result of climate change. This evocative Earth Day exhibit highlights the power of art to both show and tell what the future can look like if we continue on our current climate trajectory.
In honor of Earth Day, the Kimpton EPIC Hotel, one of Miami’s leading boutique hotels, has extended the new art exhibition Mira Lehr: Continuum (on view now through April 25th). The nationally acclaimed, eco-feminist artist is celebrated for being an early pioneer in utilizing the power of art to champion environmental awareness.
“I feel the urgency of our global climate problems,” says Mira Lehr. “It is a privilege to be on the Earth and I believe we are meant to be a success on the planet.””If we can expand our thinking to cross borders and transcend places, our united vision for the planet can raise our awareness. It is this sense of hope and purpose that calls me to action through my art,” adds Lehr.
When Lehr was selected in 1969 by Buckminster Fuller for his Spaceship Earth campaign and his groundbreaking World Game project, it was a year before the very first Earth Day. The idea was “to make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time, without ecological damage” – the mirror opposite of war games (hence the name, World Game). This was one of the world’s first educational simulations to tackle sustainability of global resources, and Lehr was one of only two artists chosen to participate. This was a turning point for Lehr, and saving the planet has become the life-long passion of her artmaking.
Lehr is also being honored this year by Skira Editore, one of the world’s leading art book publishers, with a new 400-page book about her life and career as an artist. Learn more about this major new international monograph honoring Mira Lehr at skira.net/en/books/mira-lehr-arc-of-nature-the-complete-monograph. She is celebrated for co-founding one of the country’s first art collectives for women artists in 1961, Continuum, and this is the title of the new exhibition. It thrived for more than 30 years, and influenced the evolution of Miami’s art scene (always with an eye to using art to raise awareness about saving the planet).
Critics praise Mira Lehr as the real-life Mrs. Maisel of the male-dominated art scenes in 1950s New York and 1960s Miami. Now, at the bold age of 87, Lehr is creating more new work than ever before.The Hotel created its new EPIC Art initiative to advance the works of local artists and provide its visitors an insider’s look into the destination’s vibrant art scene. The all-new works in this exhibition have never been exhibited before and were created by Lehr in 2022 and 2021. “Mira Lehr blazed trails as a woman artist in the 1950s during the male-dominated art scenes in New York and Miami’s mid-century era,” says Ericka Nelson, general manager of Kimpton EPIC Hotel and director of operations for Kimpton’s Florida hotels.“Today, Lehr is recognized as one of the early influencers who helped Miami become an epicenter of creativity and diversity, and her art continues to inspire new generations throughout her six decades of propelling the art movement forward. The launch of our Hotel’s EPIC Art initiative has infused the visual arts into the guest experience ‒ paying homage to the extraordinary creative talent that has served to make our city a cultural destination,” adds Nelson.
In December of 1960, Mira Lehr moved her family back from New York to Miami Beach. “I was shocked at the lack of an art scene in Miami in 1960, especially for women artists,” said Mira Lehr. “So we decided to take matters into our own hands and banded together our group of women artists to form Continuum as a working co-op to showcase women artists when no one else would, and it thrived for more than 30 years,” adds Lehr.
“We learned on our own how to create opportunities for ourselves, to display our work via DIY exhibitions throughout the 1960s, the 1970s and 1980s, an era in the art world that would be difficult for today’s young artists to imagine.” The term Continuum is equated with being limitless and with the idea of boundlessness, and this current time has been a powerful period of creativity for Lehr. New techniques and discoveries have paved the way for new visions and experiments in her art, and this exhibition thrives on that sense of newness for Mira Lehr.
“I am grateful to have been selected for this art exhibition, and to share this new series of my art during Earth Day 2022. Some of these new works definitely represent a departure point,” says Mira Lehr. “I no longer feel as though I have those Masters of art history sitting on my shoulders, watching what I am doing. I am more of an explorer now. I can now create in a more powerful way.””I find that this realization often comes late in life, after a long career and I believe my sixty years of work has made me, in Hans Hofmann’s words, ‘search for the real’ in a more profound way,” says Lehr.
To emphasize the peril of climate change that we are now experiencing, Lehr experiments with the use of fire. “This natural element of fire, often controlled and abused by man, is a major medium in my work and my interest in the environment has become a driving force.”“Drawing with fuses and loose gunpowder on top of subtle hand drawing, I set the entire work ablaze, embracing the risk that such a gesture could destroy my entire painting. Afterward, only a trace of the flame’s path remains, bringing an exciting energy to the work and the suggestion of destruction,” says Lehr.
In her essay for Skira Editore’s new book about Mira Lehr, the art historian Eleanor Heartneystates: “The 20th century opened with a burst of optimism, as advances in art, science and technology seemed to presage the birth of a marvelous new reality.””In the first two decades of the 21st century, by contrast, the news has been relentlessly grim at times. It takes a brave person these days to hold onto hope for a better future ‒ yet Lehr is not, however, a starry-eyed romantic,” adds Heartney.”She is well aware of the challenges that face us, and she has the advantage of a long perspective. In the over sixty years that she has been active as an artist, Lehr has lived through any number of social upheavals,” says Heartney.
“These paintings reflect Lehr’s conviction that the current crises are planetary in scale, and she has shifted her work into new, more activist directions and explorations that push the limits of painting, experimenting with a wide range of new techniques and materials,” says Heartney.“Such innovations have allowed Lehr to reach out to new audiences, to create whole new worlds that draw viewers into an awareness of their relationship with the natural world. But like all her works, they resist literal readings, instead inviting viewers to create their own narratives about the worlds they conjure.””She leavens her message with a seductive beauty that is designed to inspire contemplation about what is at stake,” adds Eleanor Heartney.