Stacy Levy is an artist entranced with nature and its relationship to the man-made industrial world. Her pieces of temporary art are intended to be collaborative projects, interactive with nature and the community they exist in. While some pieces of art are made in a studio and shipped to a location, Levy intends for her pieces to create space. Two of Levy’s pieces are currently on display on Swarthmore’s campus — “Crum Creek Meander” and “Waterways.” Both pieces are intended to represent the Crum Creek Waterway and to remind us of the natural element in our own backyard.
On March 5, Levy gave a short talk about her past work and the concept and application of her two current displays on campus. This event also marked the official opening of her exhibit “Waterways” in the List Gallery.
Levy is an eco-artist; she believes that art can not only represent nature but can be a part of it as well. Levy distinguishes herself from a scientist who records natural processes and plots points on a graph. However, in many ways Levy is related to the scientific study of nature through her art. A large portion of her work focuses on monitoring changes in the environment, such as rising water level. She hopes that her art can help provide an indicator for these natural phenomena and make them visible to the man-made world.
Levy and her team are putting the final touches on her piece “Crum Creek Meander,” a 300-foot-long sculpture that winds through the field behind Sharples. The sculpture is made out of metal pipes and pieces of black and clear vinyl. “I really like the idea of industrial materials being affected by nature,” she said. “Crum Creek Meander” exemplifies this ideal as the hanging pieces of vinyl are free to move in the wind and are exposed to the elements. Soon, the piece will be lit with blue ambient lighting.
Levy explained, “I use a lot of materials that aren’t typical sculpture materials. These are surveyor’s materials to indicate a change in the environment. I love the idea of the industrial meeting the natural… I wanted the piece to be translucent and to have the sense of a curtain but I wanted it to be reflective as well.” Thus, the black pieces are reflective and the clear are more see-through. The piece creates a permeable curtain for people to see and walk through.
Her piece “Waterways,” currently on display in the List Gallery, is a representation of the Crum Creek and its tributaries made of tiny glass jars. This is a large piece that fills up the entirety of the gallery. The art is not only a representation, but also a piece of the Crum, as it is made from various clear vessels such as glasses and bottles filled with water from different tributaries of the Crum. Visitors are invited to remove their shoes and enter this space, wandering along this replica of the Crum Waterway.
“I think it’s important to do work which involves the whole community and something that everyone can be affected by.” Levy said she chose the spot for “Crum Creek Meander” because it was a visible space where students would be walking from dorms or class to dinner. She hopes that the placement will encourage students to interact with the artwork as she intended it.
Both pieces are meant to convey the flow of the river and the subtlety of the eddies and curves of the creek. “Crum Creek Meander” takes solid objects in hopes of representing the fluidity of the creek while “Waterways” takes actual elements from the creek to recreate. Levy said “I often describe my art as a raspberry: small, repeated parts to make a whole.” Both pieces represent this ideal to create one beautiful and cohesive art work.
Both pieces were carefully planned and tested. As a self-proclaimed eco-artist, the use of vinyl could be controversial, however, Levy said she is dedicated to a conscious recycling of her pieces. When working with temporary art and materials like these, “it is important to think about adoption and where the materials will go once the piece is removed,” she explained. Levy hopes that once the art is taken down, the pieces will be repurposed in the community.
These two projects were made possible by funding from the William J. Cooper Foundation. “Crum Creek Meander” will be present on campus for two years, during which students and passers-by will be able to experience the sculpture through varying weather and changing seasons. “Waterways” will be kept in the gallery for a month and is open to the public.