At the time I went to visit Mira’s studio this past September 2022, she had a beautiful solo show at Addison Ripley Fine Art Gallery in Georgetown. (Full disclosure, it is the same gallery that also represents my work here in Washington D.C.)
The show titled “Mirror of the Floating World” was a large body of work of new oil paintings on canvas and paper. Although most of the work was at the show, Mira agreed to have me visit her studio to talk about her practice as well as the new body of work that was at Addison Ripley Gallery.
Mira’s studio is located on the lower level of her rambler style home in Chevy Chase, D.C. Once downstairs, you first enter into a smaller room that is her study/library area, and where she teaches her students online. Connected to this room is the main studio with light bathing the space from the opposite end where there is a door to the backyard. Her studio has a kitchenette that has been fully occupied by canvases, mediums and art materials, and like all good painters, a very well paint-splattered sink.
Taking up a large central part of her studio is her paint table the size of a small dining table. I was in awe as every inch was covered by a tube of oil paint of every size and color. She toured me through her other materials including her brushes -pointing out her preference for 2 inch brushes (see photo). I also learned a new way of keeping brushes clean – safflower oil! Instead of using solvents, Mira uses containers of safflower oil with a strainer at the bottom of each container for the pigment to settle. She transfers the brushes in stages from 3 different jars and this system keeps her brushes supple never having to wash them. Her canvases are ‘baby-butt smooth’ thanks to canvas maker Angel from the Bronx. I personally have ordered from Angel now and love the quality of the stretchers and the exquisitely sanded gesso. Totally pristine. If you want to know more about this maker, you will have to contact Mira directly!
Mira paints in thin transparent layers. Her abstract work consists of overlapping circles and lines delicately painted with deft control of the hand and wrist. One painting in progress was on the wall – her preferred way of working – opposed to an easel or laid flat on a table.
Her colors are airy, light and ethereal using peaches, yellows, pinks and light blues. To contrast the tints and values of the colors, elegant black calligraphic lines gracefully intersect through the shapes in a compositionally unifying symmetry that at times evoke a stained glass window or kaleidoscope. The overall effect of the paintings are visually inertial as the shapes resonate and move over the edges of the canvas. I am a big admirer of artists who are able to scale up and down their work so easily as Mira does. Her ongoing motif of the circle grows and shrinks with the sizes of surfaces she chooses to paint and draw on.
As with many artists I follow, it has been exciting to see Mira’s evolution as an abstract painter. Looking at the drawings she makes recall at times, of one of my favorite artists, Hilma af Klint, one of Sweden’s most celebrated 20th century artists. And sure enough, Mira had a book of her work in her studio. Like af Klint, Mira is inspired by the spiritual nature of human existence. Writing about Mira’s work, curator and critic Sarah Tanguy:
“We are transported from the material immediacy of the work to an ethereal communion of the spirit. We draw joy from the life that grows within.”
As a follow up to my in person visit with Mira, I asked her to address a few questions about her art practice:
IM: As a full time working artist, how do you maintain the discipline to go into your studio?
MH: I love the solitude of my studio and look forward to it every day even when I’m experiencing difficulty resolving a piece or trying to figure out a new way forward. After an exhibition like my recent one at Addison Ripley I usually take some time off from the studio to allow new ideas to percolate. During this time journaling and reading are a focus.
If I’m out of the studio for any length of time, though, I miss it and feel out of sorts. There is nothing else I would rather do than be in the studio.
IM: How do you find inspiration for your work?
MH: Inspiration for me comes from reading about art, poetry, philosophy, physics and psychology. Poetry in particular has been something I turn to quite often. The essential quality of poetry is very much linked to what I’m reaching for in my work. Also I’ve had a great interest in contemplative practices for many years. It is curious how something like meditation can affect our ability to be present…to see more clearly – with a deeper understanding and empathy for others. My work is meant to slow down the viewer and to accentuate a state of presence and a sense of quiet.
IM: What is next on the horizon for you?
MH: I’m preparing for an exhibition in 2024. It’s been postponed a couple times because of covid so I won’t go into any more than this.
IM: You are currently included in the exhibition at Addison Ripley called NFT+ Art. What are your thoughts on NFT’s?
“I’m grateful to be included with so many other wonderful artists in the first of many NFT + Art exhibitions at Addison Ripley Fine Art. There has been much written in the past year about NFT’s and it appears this is the way of the future. Linking the art object, in my case a painting, with a minted NFT in one sale is, I think, a new and exciting idea. An aspect of NFT’s that is especially beneficial to the artist is that the artist can earn a percentage of any resale of the work in the future. As we know, ordinarily in the art world this doesn’t happen. This coming Saturday, January 21st, at 11 AM Christopher Addison is hosting a discussion at the gallery about ART + NFT by DTMS. I hope anyone who has an interest in NFT technology or has questions will join.”
To learn more about Mira Hecht, visit her website at www.mirahecht.com