As freezing temperatures and accumulating precipitation keep the student population inside for the most part, the sheer beauty of Swarthmore’s campus can be nearly forgotten by many of us. Even as we settle into the lively ambiance of spring, we often take for granted the landscape and life forms we pass day to day as we head off to class.
You may have wondered what the several poles lined up between Sharples and Magill walk are for. They are the foundations of what sculptor Stacy Levy is calling the Crum Creek Meander. The exhibit is part of this year’s Cooper Series which offers lectures, performances, and exhibitions that expand upon the cultural and intellectual life of Swarthmore.
Levy is a sculptor that works primarily with natural patterns and ecological processes such as water flow. Much of her work sets out to demonstrate nature’s narrative and the changes that occur at a particular site. “My work is all about showing how nature works. Showing the changes over time that are sometimes difficult to see.”
The Crum Creek Meander will be designed such that sheets of vinyl resembling water will be attached to poles to form a curtain-like serpentine structure. It will be approximately 300 feet long and illuminated at night. It is intended to reflect the flow patterns of the Crum Creek and remind students how near they are to this waterway with a life and story of its own.
Though this project is on Swarthmore’s campus, much of Levy’s work sets out to remind city-dwellers of their relationship to nature and nature’s responsibility in their lives. Through works such as the Bushkill Creek Curtain Project (Easton, PA), Levy draws people’s attention to a particular site with the hope that they will consider it more profoundly. “As they cross the bridge they’re not just thinking about what they’re going to get at DD, but they’re gonna pause and admire their incredible stream. Because I’m gonna add something unusual for them to look at. And maybe they’ll always look over the edge of this bridge and think about the changeability of nature but also the permanence of it too.”
Levy uses industrial materials to construct her works, stating that just as nature is not separate from us neither are these materials. She holds that looking at something through a different medium can illuminate things that were not noticed before. When one talks about nature using industrial materials, it forces one to rethink the natural environment. “The Crum Creek is not the same creek that it was a hundred years ago. In a sense, it isn’t as natural and it’s just worth considering the repercussions of us living in nature.”
Levy graduated from Yale University with a BA in Sculpture and studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. She relates that the use of vinyl for this project is somewhat of a nod to Christo and Jeanne-Claude of whom she learned as part of her art history studies. The duo created The Gates, a Central Park exhibit that ran in February 2005. The project used several thousand sheets of vinyl and stretched over twenty-five miles of the park. Levy explains that revisiting others work serves as inspiration for some of her projects.
In addition to the Crum Creek Meander, Levy’s installation Waterways will be exhibited at the List Gallery from March 5th to April 5th. Levy will make a map of the Crum Creek using glass and plastic containers filled with water. It is possible that the water’s evaporation will result in the growth of algae similar to that of the actual creek.
Students may participate in the construction of the exhibit by contributing clean and label free glass or plastic vessels. Levy will also give a lecture “Constructing Nature: What Art Reveals” on March 5th at 4:30 in the LPAC Cinema. A reception in the List Gallery will follow.