Joining the cornucopia of exhibits that are part and parcel of the Art Basel experience, Miami’s iconic mansion cum museum Vizcaya showcased site-specific installations from its Contemporary Arts Program (CAP), that will remain on display until October 2017. The sole performance piece: Mira Lehr and her New York collaborator Yara Travieso’s “Dido and Aeneas.”
Lehr, a doyenne of the Miami art scene for five decades, maintains a vibrant, fresh and ever changing vision. Her nature based imagery often takes shape utilizing resin, gunpowder, fire, Japanese paper, dyes and welded steel. “Dido and Aeneas” is a dramatic marriage of Lehr’s rigged rope curtains – with elements of copper, resin and mangrove seeds – moving in concert with a dancer to an aria from Dido and Aeneas, and performed by a soprano and cellist.
“It’s an exciting story of Dido and her suicide,” Lehr told us. “The aria is about wanting to be remembered for her grandeur not her fate. We equated that with Vizcaya which is always crumbling and being restored.”
This year, Lehr was once again featured in the Ink Miami Art Fair and the official Basel artist studio tour. She is represented by New York’s Flomenhaft Gallery, and is the subject of a coffee table tome, “Mira Lehr: Arc of Nature.”
She studied with Robert Motherwell, Buckminster Fuller and Hans Hofmann’s longtime students, Bill and Nieves Billmeyer. She was the force behind the first women’s coop gallery in the Southeast, the Continuum, and the Pritikin Center in Miami that her late husband, Cardiologist David Lehr founded. Today, the Spanish Indian Creek estate in which they raised a family is a grandiose studio and laboratory for her art.
Her life is about the work, she says. But she came of age, as a Vassar girl in the 50s, when women artists were considered “hobbyists.”
As a young wife, living in a sprawling Spanish waterfront home in Miami Beach, she missed the New York international art scene. So, she founded the Continuum Gallery, to bring it down. It became a fulcrum for a group of women, including Carol Fryd, Brooke Engel, Freda Tschumy and Pansy Schenck, of the MGM dynasty. “We all felt displaced from the art world,” Mira remembers. “So, we had workshops, and shared models in the studio.” They brought down such New York art luminaries as sculptor John Chamberlain, art dealer Betty Parsons and photographer Roman Vishniac, and studied yearly with the Billmyers.
“A lot of credit is given to us for being the first Art Center down here,” Mira told Hamptons.com. “I know the Miami Herald art critic, Helen Kohen, thought we were the initial push to get something like Art Basel here.”
In 1969, selected to be a participant with Buckminster Fuller on the first World Game Scenario Project at the New York Studio School, Mira did something even more remarkable for her time. She left Miami for a summer to study with the master. Yes, she came back and her family went there. But, for that summer, Dr. Lehr was the primary caretaker for the kids.
“My contemporaries thought I was nuts,” Mira remembers. “That was before women’s lib and the women thought I was wrong to leave. David helped me through my entire career. And he’d be really pleased to see the success I’ve achieved.”