The Art of Dharma Lefevre
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on January 12, 2016
Dharma Lefevre’s art is myth, the pantheon of dream, and she’s following her bliss.
They’re canvasses of goddesses who gaze with aggression and fearless passion, burn with raw urban power and trigger imagination and introspection.
Dharma doesn’t call them pictures.
“They’re stories,” she said.
Fire gave these stories life.
Five years ago, the North Fort Myers artist attended a spiritual festival in Bonita Springs. She confined herself to the sidelines where she pondered her life and her lack of story.
An illness had brought her to the edge of death. Living in pain, she was friendless, purposeless, alone. She still felt like that smudge on the wall she had been in high school.
Making art was the last thing on her mind, and, frankly, a life of creativity seemed impossible.
As the band World Collision pounded its tribal rhythms, women flooded the dance floor and mesmerized the festival crowd with spinning wicks of fire.
Fire spinners. They were powerful and beautiful. Alive.
Dharma remembered staring at the dancers, lithe, potent and fierce, and saying out loud, “I wish I could do that.”
She was heard. A woman, “a beautiful Amazon,” said, “Get up.”
This stranger strapped fire palms to Dharma’s hands, and Dharma danced. It was from this stranger, this goddess, Dharma learned fire.
“She literally lit up my soul, and my whole world was given back to me,” she said.
And then she began to paint. And she hasn’t been able to stop.
“I told Dharma if she was going to do a show at CasaShanti, she had to know people come here looking for authentic connection,” said Zachari VanDyne, director of CasaShanti, the Fort Myers meditation center.
In other words, Dharma’s gallery night could not be a performance of meaningless sales and marketing. This night had to be an experience.
Dharma was once asked by a group of Fort Myers artists: “What would be the ideal location for your first solo show?”
“A Tibetan monastery.” To Dharma, the choice was easy. It was the only place she thought her goddesses would be properly revered.
By 7 p.m. on December 19th, scores had gathered at CasaShanti, and the storytelling began.
“When I tried to get a show, I was told my work wasn’t Florida art. I was told these women, these goddesses of my life, didn’t matter.
“But they are far from ancient. These women are all my story. And they’re helping me tell my story over.”
When she was a small child, Dharma’s great-grandmother enthralled her with tales of ancient history, world religion and mythology. She was “Grandmother Spider,” the weaver of Dharma’s world.
Devonne Labonte, the stranger who gave her the gift of fire, is Dharma’s goddess of fertility, belief and emotion. She is “Ix-Chel,” a Mayan goddess who gave birth to Dharma’s fire.
It was Devonne who stood in front of Dharma and showed her the beauty in each woman, both goddess and human. This taught her women’s role in the universe, and how women forget they are each other’s sisters.
Dharma realized her mission with her art was to build bridges through women to the divine.
Thus, Dharma became “Pele,” the Hawaiian goddess of fire with the power of the volcano. Her life force creates and destroys.
“In order to progress as an artist, to progress as a human, I had to destroy the negative, the old. We all destroy for the whole reason of creation,” she said.
As she spoke, guests entered their own stories. Two strangers, now friends, sat beneath “Grandmother Spider.” Holding hands, they shared private tales and secrets of family beneath the weaver of the world. Another man sat in meditation posture, serene, before “Green Tara.” She’s the beginning of enlightenment, and he was inviting her in.
A bonfire burned at CasaShanti’s front door, and people who never pondered art before surrounded the flames and pondered art together.
Meanwhile, a fire spinner dipped wicks into the bonfire flames and whipped spirals across the lawn.
Dharma had found her monastery.
That night, I chatted. I connected, and I was visible. Two hours later, my introverted self’s extroverted work was done.
The back gallery became my refuge. The blue eyes of “The Lady of the Lake” hypnotized mine. Her gaze hovered bodiless in the dreamlike floral swirls of an ecstatic pool. I floated with my favorite persona of the Arthurian legends, an enchantress, a woman of magic and power navigating multiple worlds.
“The Lady of the Lake hides.” Dharma’s voice smacked with enough sharpness to pull me out of myself. She was guiding her second round of visitors through the gallery.
“She looks like you,” someone whispered over my shoulder. “It’s uncanny.”
Zachari and Dharma cut the wall cord on the first painting I’ve ever purchased, and they handed me myself.
If you want to go: Stop by CasaShanti during the month of January to see Dharma’s work. Dharma will be appearing there again for more storytelling on January 24th at 1 p.m. For more information, Facebook CasaShanti or visit www.CasaShanti.us.