About Laurie Blum
Born in New York, January 28, 1953
High School of Art and Design, New York City
Philadelphia College of Art,
The New York Studio School of Painting, Drawing, and Sculpture
Laney College of California State
At an early age, I remember sitting on the staircase to listen to my mother play Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin on her grand piano. I found great comfort in music and felt all the arts to be closely linked together. Beautiful imagery filled my mind from the music.
At seven years of age, my Aunt Ann took me to see the Great Russian Bolshoi Ballet, on its first tour of the US in 1960, perform the Nutcracker Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Upon entering I was filled with delight when I saw the rich red carpets and the flowing, ruby-red velvet curtains. Entranced with the color and the beauty of the costumes, set into motion by the magnificent dancing, I was awakened to a heightened state of being and was ushered forward by this new sense of urgency to find beauty. I am deeply affected by Russian dancing, and vividly remember my father’s sisters dancing with a red scarf between them at a wedding. I derived a love and appreciation for cultures of foreign lands by the bright costumes, music, dance and happiness from these celebrations. Both my paternal aunts had danced in Martha Graham’s Modern Dance Company. As a child I was sent to Ethical Culture for my religious training where I learned about all religions.
From the time I was a child I had always been able to enter my inner garden: gazing at flowers for hours, and climbing trees seeking miraculous birds from my dreams that I had caught in my hands. People thought that I might be mad because I was obsessed with finding this inner garden outside me. Then, when I was fifteen, a friend gave me J. Krishnamurti's book: "Think On These Things: Commentaries on Living". What a surprise! He described my inner garden in chapter ten, "Inward Beauty". I said, “ I knew there was an inner garden! I’m not mad!”
My mother’s aunt was a student of the painter, Hans Hoffman, and she had helped to fund his school: The NY Studio School of Painting, Drawing and Sculpture (the old Whitney Museum). I had no idea of this when I attended the school.
In the winter of 1971, while studying at The NY Studio School, I was invited by a friend to visit Rome for a week and I experienced the Sistine Chapel. Again in the summer of that year, I was whisked off to Portugal, Spain and Morocco. In Morocco, the halcyon light gave the environment its gorgeous, pure, unforgettable, stain glass window color that I found in the sky and flowers of Tangier.
While painting at the Studio School in 1972, I had a revelation. Suddenly, the space around the model broke apart into large masses, islandshapes of color. After this experience I moved to California and discovered its stunning natural beauty, so magnificent and vibrant compared to the black and white and gray of New York.
In California in 1972, I became entranced with "Leyli and Majnun", the ill-fated lovers of Arabian legend. I began to paint from Nizami’s beautiful story about a human love that became divine, about the Lover and the Beloved. My paintings were filled with graceful gazelle (ahu) and other wild animals, which were Majnun’s only friends when he left the company of people to try to become reunited with his beloved Leyli. While in California I became interested in a silent Spiritual Master named Meher Baba, from India. My inner search brought me to India in 1973 where I spent 4 months on spiritual retreat. Meher Baba and his main disciples were of Persian descent (their parents had come from Iran) and they often quoted from Hafez who was Baba’s favorite poet. Baba’s closest female disciple, Mehera J. Irani, influenced me deeply, and became my lifelong friend and inspiration. When I asked her why I loved everything Persian: Meher Baba, herself, His disciples, Hafez, Nizami and all the symbols of Persian poetry, she told me, " the Persian language creates imagery that no other language can create; it's the Most beautiful language!" It is the most melodious and expressive of languages. I studied Persian for the next three years; its sublime vocabulary created and matched the living imagery inside me. I was fascinated by the symbols of Persian Miniature paintings, as they seemed to be a kind of secret language of love. When I asked my Persian teacher, Aloba, what the animals of the Persian Miniatures represented, he answered, “If I told you, it would be my painting.” I wanted to live in India because of the magical and “wine-like” atmosphere I imbibed there, but it was suggested to me that I go back to school. So, I returned to the US and went back to California.
During the time I was in Music History class at Laney College (Cal. State) in 1975-76, I was fascinated with Chromaticism. I discovered hidden connections between the color spectrum and tonal music and concurred with Leonard Bernstein’s characterization of music as having chromatic chords, which color and ramify the harmonies. Ever since that discovery, color has come to me, consciously, from the chords and from the atmosphere. I first noticed these intuitions when I painted Spectrum of Sound in 1988 and when I painted Tannhauser, 1989-1991. Here I painted each human form with one color corresponding to one tone and one emotion. In Spectrum of Sound I experimented with an idea of Leonardo Da Vinci’s: “…the surfaces of all opaque bodies take on the color of whatever is in front of them.” This idea combined with principles I had understood from Rudolph Steiner about color opposites inspired me in that painting. From Wagner’s Opera: Tannhauser, I learned order and structure invisible scaffolding for that painting — and it has guided all my paintings since. The color that I had experienced in Tangier, Morocco made its undeniable mark on my Tannhauser painting.
I had some very special guidance from several extraordinary human beings, close disciples of Meher Baba. In my twenties I was helped by such wonderful, illustrious souls as Filis Frederick, who knew Carl Jung, Jackson Pollack, and others. When I was nineteen, she told me, “Laurie, many artists tell me they can see images inside them and they want to bring them out into the world, but you can do it! I see it.” I was very close to Kitty Davy, grand-niece of Florence Nightingale. I was also very fond of Margaret Craske, who studied with Enrico Cecchetti, and brought the Cecchetti Method to America and taught at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. She had danced in Diaghilev’s Ballet and had seen Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova dance. Cecchetti had taught Pavlova, Nijinsky, Karsavina and all the great dancers. I would have enlightening conversations with Kitty and Margaret for many years that guided me in my life and even helped me with my children’s. It was an enormous inspiration when I learned of the collaborations of the artists of the 1900’s, who created stunningly brilliant ballet like Scheherazade: Rimsky-Korsakov conducted his music, Vaslav Nijinsky danced, Michel Fokine choreographed, Leon Bakst created the harem sets and Valentin Serov, Russia’s greatest painter, created a magnificent front curtain of an imitation of Persian Miniatures: “A violet and cyclamen mountain landscape against a turquoise sea with ships. At the base of a white tower on the left, Zobeida sits by a purple stream between a scarlet parrot and a white crane. To the right the Shah with his suite on horseback, with two leashed leopards, pursue a gazelle”
I imagined all those great artists of all art forms working together: like Picasso, Matisse, Roerich, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Pavlova, Nijinsky, etc.
During the decade, 1991-2001, I built a waterfall and garden. I called it my Persian-Inner-Outer Garden, and it is my largest three- dimensional painting. Listening to Alexander Borodin’s Russian Opera, Prince Igor, inspired a new painting called Abundance. Music from that Opera was made into the 1953 musical Kismet, whose song Strangers in Paradise gave me great joy when I was young. I loved to listen as a child, to my mother read from Tales of the Arabian Nights. Kismet had been described as a modern day Arabian Nights tale. That painting was not to be finished until 2004 after my second trip to Iran. In 2002, I made two trips to Istanbul, Turkey. There I painted the cityscape of Sultanahmet, the old section of Istanbul and the Bosphorus Sea, from my apartment window. To my delight, I learned that nearby, Topkapi Museum housed the Persian Miniature paintings from Nizami’s Leyli and Majnun, inscribed with Shiraz School Of Miniature Painting. The following year, July-Sept 2003, I traveled to Iran, which was to have a most profound effect on me. I stayed most of the time in Shiraz: “the City of Flowers and Nightingales”. In the Garden of Paradise (Bagh-e-Eram- part of Shiraz University), I had finally found my Persian Inner- Outer Garden! When I returned, by my great good fortune to Shiraz, Feb.-May 2004, I could be found daily painting in the glorious beauty of Garden of Paradise. I painted The Poppies, Cypress Tree with One Bird, Heart of the Cypress Tree, Cypress Tree with 2 Birds, The Garden Path,and others while listening to the music of Shahram Nazeri, and Ali Reza Eftekhari, Shadjarian, and Seyyed Khalil Alinezhad. On this trip I also painted at Hafez’s Tomb Shrine and Garden and at Sa’adi’s Tomb Shrine and Garden: Hafez Tomb Shrine and Garden #1 and #2, and the Mulberry Tree in Hafez’s Garden and Sa’adis Tomb and Garden. In each of the gardens the architects came forward to meet me. One gardener from Bagh-e-Eram asked me if I could give him one of my Persian music tapes because he hadn’t heard it before. In Hafez’s garden the architect presented me with a bag of delicious mulberries. All the workers introduced themselves to me and in Sa’adi’s garden, one guard brought me a handful of dried fruit and nuts just after I had painted nine hours straight and was so hungry. In Bagh-e-Eram, the gardeners presented me with a bottle of poppy seeds from the garden when I finished the Poppies painting. In each garden and park that I painted in, the police and guards would protect me from anyone who might disturb my work, they would sit and talk with me but kept the crowds away. I felt it was a great honor. I was so very deeply touched at the extreme generosity and kindness I received from everyone I met in Iran. I thought that the people of Iran had such a deep appreciation for art, nature and beauty, more than any other country I have visited. My experience of the outer garden merged with that of my inner garden. I always wished I could paint in the land of the mountains, trees and beautiful gardens that the Persian Miniature Masters once painted from, and now I was! On my first trip I met Mahmoud Farshchian at his show at the Shah’s Palace Art Museum in Teheran. I asked him if he lived in Iran and he said, “My roots, my heart, my life, my soul is in Iran! I said, “Me too! I see my heart turned inside out here in the beauty of Iran!” There was a silent communion of the heart between us. Our ongoing conversations continue to inspire me. I painted, “Conference of the Birds” when I arrived back in the United States from my second trip to Iran. Later that year, I returned to Iran for a third time. I was rewarded at the end of my trip with the first-exhibition-ever, in the Tomb Shrine of Hafez in Shiraz, December, 2004! The Shiraz Cultural Institute told me I painted with "the colors of Shiraz" and called my exhibition "SHIRAZ!" Comparing my art with the ancient Shiraz School, they told me, henceforth, they would be proud to call me a Shirazi artist. In 2005, I visited Topkapi Palace Museum again in Istanbul where I saw the original Leyli and Majnun miniatures. I was astonished to find the same lilac, mint and azure hues in these paintings, that I painted with! I had come full circle.
During the nine months I spent in Iran, I found the Iranian people to be warm, extremely clever, and very intuitive; they have an uncanny ability to see right into you. I feel the world will benefit greatly when the people of all countries can share in each other’s knowledge and feel oneness of the spirit. I enjoyed all the new friends I made and learned some Persian too. I love the food, and the music, especially the Daf (a large tambourine- like drum). Most of all, I love the natural beauty there because the atmosphere is so full of light. The mountains have extraordinary shapes, the waterfalls are exquisite and the trees are magnificent. They seem to be calling out to express their beauty to a world that has forgotten them. Welcome to my paintings of the Garden of Paradise and Hafiz and Sa’adi’s Gardens, please join me in my inner garden and be at home too!
To penetrate into the essence of all being and significance and to release the fragrance of that inner attainment for the guidance and benefit of others — by expressing, in the world of forms, truth, love, purity, and beauty-this is the sole game that has intrinsic and absolute worth. All other happenings, incidents, and attainments in themselves can have no lasting importance.
— Meher Baba