My Inner-Outer Garden, New York Exhibition by Shari Keller, Ph.D.

05/23/08
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by Shari Keller, Ph.D.

As featured in NY Arts Magazine

Gardens have always held a deep significance for Laurie Blum, as indeed they have for the great Persian mystics whose poetic visions are memorialized in her paintings. Years ago, Blum created her own Persian garden, replete with a rare assortment of rocks, waterfall, and pool. Since that time, she has traveled the world to Iran, where she discovered in the secret alchemy of gardens, a passageway to the mystical interior of one’s self. For those who seek with the “eye of the Heart”, Blum’s Broadway Gallery exhibition depicts the ethereal Immanence of the Divine garden.

Laurie Blum has made three trips to Iran and the Middle East in recent years, each time painting in the gardens and scenes represented in this exhibit—the garden of Hafez’s tomb shrine, the tomb of Sa’adi, the Garden of Paradise (Bagh-e-Eram), Majnun Tree, and the cypress tree (sarv nav) to name a few. Blum has noted that she considers Shiraz to be the most beautiful place on earth. Significantly, Shiraz is also the burial place of Hafez, the great Sufi sage and poet who has had a profound influence on Islamic culture. Hafez captured the ineffable in rhyme; to this day in Iran, his poems are regarded as sacred oracles, transfiguring visions of a mystical Absolute.

Blum’s fanciful yet direct style is ideally matched to the mystical quality of her subject, and reveals her profound grasp of the subtleties of the inner garden. We become intoxicated by the stillness of the place in her expressions of “Hafez’s Tomb”. We are transported by the almost tangible fragrance of the roses in Blum’s depiction of “Nightingales and Roses”, just as the nightingales are who sit among them—nearly lost in their own rapture. We are struck by the majestic nature of the “Cypress Tree” through Blum’s several depictions—the cypress being a symbol of inner strength and poise in the poetry of the Muslim Mystics. And her “Conference of the Birds” , inspired by Attar’s story of the mythical Simurgh bird, bespeaks, with such enchantingly innocent excitement, the quest of the soul to find its maker, only to be guided, in the end, to look within.

Laurie Blum’s painting medium is gouache on paper, which gives an effervescent quality to her work, bringing to the eye a sense of a subtle, dancing light across the paper. Her use of color adds to the viewer’s experience of entering a mystical garden full of life, vitality and possibility. Her striking Shiraz-style greens and blues, her sharp contrasts in color and tone, capture the vibrancy of the meeting place between the two worlds—the Visible and the Invisible—which is what the Persian garden, finally, symbolizes.

Laurie Blum has always found inspiration in nature as well as in the spiritual qualities of her subject matter. She had long sought the opportunity to paint in Iran. Having been granted that opportunity, she also received the honor, by the Shiraz Institute of Cultural Affairs, to be the first painter to exhibit her work at the tomb shrine of Hafez in Shiraz, Iran, in 2004. Her Broadway Gallery exhibit has also been displayed in Meherabad, India and in Myrtle Beach, S.C. It will be displayed in Istanbul, Turkey, in Teheran at the Shah’s Palace Art Museum, in Esfahan, Yezd, and again in Shiraz, Iran.