Painting visual 'aromas'

Luminous fruits take on new life in L.A. Hecht's "Watermelon Cake and Grape Frosting."

Shaker Heights native Laurel Hecht, who celebrates life through her art, invites the viewer to accompany her on the journey. "Art means to take you to a place you want to go … it's about transformation," she says.

In Hecht's world, sparkling blueberries dance under a brilliant white magnolia blossom in "Magnolia Blossom and Blueberry River"; A budding petunia bends to whisper to a mature blossom in a dance of vibrant blue and magenta in "Flowers Can't Keep Secrets"; and pastel mists rise under a "Moss Moon." The pieces exude confidence and joy.

Hecht admits to being addicted to the front porch of her 1840s Greek revival farmhouse in Ithaca, N.Y., where she is surrounded by myrtle, day lilies and sweet woodruff. She draws inspiration from her surroundings: two-and-a-half acres of lawn, flower and vegetable gardens, orchards, woods and a creek.

"Being around nature puts you back into balance," says the artist. Her latest meditation practice is taking a fold-up chair into the woods and becoming infused by the surroundings.

Opening June 1, a collection of Hecht's paintings will be featured in a show titled "Open Your Majesty" in the Humphrey Auditorium Gallery of University Hospitals. Described by the artist as a self-guided performance, the images in the show flow from earth to sky in one direction and vice versa in the other.

The work Hecht chose for the show comes from a series of paintings the artist has been working on for over eight years titled "Aromas." The title, she notes, indicates that art should include all of the senses, not just the visual. "'Aromas' is another phase of myself; it's about understanding nature through the senses."

New to this series is the introduction of butterflies to Hecht's paintings. "I've done birds before, but they were grounded on the earth," explains Hecht. "The butterflies indicate more of a transformation. Right now, I'm kind of involved with the idea of rebirth."

Hecht visited a butterfly farm in Belize where she was awestruck by the elegant insects. Initially captivated by one "ice-turquoise colored species," she recreated it in a painting - and then used poetic license for the rest. "Someone who studies (butterflies) would probably say, 'A butterfly like this could never fly,'" Hecht laughs.

But her goal is to let the imagination soar.

"Open Your Majesty," 19 paintings by Cleveland native Laurel Hecht, will be on display at the Humphrey Atrium Gallery, University Hospitals of Cleveland, 11100 Euclid Ave., from June 1 through July 31 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. There will be an opening reception with the artist on Sunday, June 1, from 2-4 p.m.

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