EFEBy Ana Mengotti Miami

At her 85 years of age, artist and ecofeminist Mira Lehr, whose exhibition will be part of the next Art Basel fair in Miami, believes more than ever that if you live long enough and work long enough, amazing things happen - and she's not afraid of playing with fire if the result is a work of art.

In the garden of her beautiful 1929 home in Miami Beach, which previously belonged to her parents, Mirabelle, her real name, was handed a lighted cigarette by one of her assistants and used it to light the gunpowder trickling through one of her latest works.

Surrounded by smoke and the small flames lit by the cigarette, a thoughtful Lehr looked like a priestess performing an ancient ritual to anyone watching that demonstration of a "relatively new" element in her art.

Another novelty, she told EFE in an interview, is having introduced handwriting into some of her works, which have to do with her concern about the planet, about the destruction of nature that she so adores.

"I want people to be aware of how beautiful nature is, how precious it is for us...and I don't want to see everything ruined on this planet," said the artist just a few days after inaugurating at the Jewish Museum of Florida her exhibition dubbed "A Walk in the Garden," which combines large-format paintings and an installation made with 200 pieces of colored resin hung from the ceiling.

Hers is the Jewish Museum's principal show for the Art Basel fair in December.

"Initially I was attracted to the beauty and the look of nature," she said, so in her early works such forms as flowers and leaves are clearly seen. But as time passed she gradually turned to abstract art, toward the "essence" of nature and its structures, she said.

In recent times her work has acquired a political side, due to the need she feels to express her concern about climate change and because she believes art can help others understand that the planet "needs to be preserved and protected."

For example, her back patio has been flooded, the sea level is rising because the climate is warming, she said, pointing to the waterway behind the house that is her home and also her studio.

In one of her latest works, beneath the abstract forms with a characteristic texture achieved with layers of fine paper glued onto the canvas, are words like "Antarctica" and "glaciers," written in a beautiful calligraphy.

They are there not only to transmit a message, but also because "I like how it looks," Lehr said, adding that if it "didn't look good I would not do it, because the work is visual. You know I'm not a conceptual artist."

Of her artistic playing with fire, she said what really interests her is that blazing element of nature because it is "very dramatic," something that occurs instantly and creates beautiful, avant-garde forms.

Her works that include the igniting of gunpowder play with the ideas of construction, creation and destruction, the essence of nature.

Mira Lehr said she would like to die "in my studio with a brush in my hand after discovering something amazing." EFE ar/cd