While in Montana earlier this year, Lola Schnabel met a cowboy who was so used to scanning his surroundings for predators that he had a hard time looking people in the eye. “He was so graceful,” she recalls. “He had so much care for each branch on the tree.”

The experience left the 30 year-old artist, filmmaker, and eldest daughter of Julian contemplating what it would be like to have such a profound relationship with the universe. “As someone who’s grown up in the city, I found it intriguing—this idea of connecting to otherworldy things,” she says. Subsequently, Schnabel has been on a spiritual quest of late, practicing celibacy for the past six months, and spending three hours a day doing yoga and meditation in preparation for a 10-day silent retreat in India. And from the looks of “Love Before Intimacy,” her first solo painting show, which opens tonight at The Hole, she has been channeling all her energy onto the canvas.

Oversized and sweepingly expressive, the five works on view depict mystical scenes of young love set against the striking landscape of a remote Greek isle. “It’s about giving yourself over to another person,” says Schnabel, who, inspired by the Spanish Romantics, worked with a limited palette of five colors. In addition to paint, she also used strokes of plaster weld and copper plating solution to create unusual textural and alchemic effects. “I wanted there to be an element of not being in control,” she explains. “An element of magic.”

“Love Before Intimacy” is on view December 16 - February 4, 2012 at The Hole, 312 Bowery St., theholenyc.com