“Leela” (left) and her inspiration, “Portrait of a Lady in a Green Dress.” Courtesy Timken Museum

The Timken Museum‘s artist in residence has unveiled a whimsical, life-sized paper sculpture that provides sharp contrast to the one of the museum’s classic Italian Renaissance paintings.

“Leela,” by San Diego paper artist Bhavna Mehta, will be on display in the museum’s rotunda near Bartolomeo Veneto’s “Portrait of a Lady in a Green Dress” from 1530.

Mehta was inspired to create her sculpture while visiting the Timken in December and seeing the Veneto painting in its ornate frame.

In the sculpture, Leela’s head is full of ideas and dreams, with dragonflies and butterflies buzzing about and making her the center of her own universe. “Leela” means “cosmic play” in Mehta’s native language of Gujarati from India. The name comes from “leelo,” which means “green.”

“It’s a powerful image offered by these two women, similar, yet so different,” said Mehta. “I dream that behind the scenes, when the museum closes its doors for the night, the two women meet and get to know each other.”

Museum Executive Director Megan Pogue said the goal of the project was to “offer our summer visitors a lighthearted yet inspiring experience.”

“We are honored and delighted to have Bhavna as our artist-in residence this summer,” she added.

The free museum in Balboa Park is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4:30 p.m. “Leela” will be on display through Sept. 16.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.