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A Conversation with Sculptor Stacy Levy

by Meg Freeman Whalen

March 22, 2015

Stacy Levy is a sculptor whose interest in the natural world lies in both art and science. She lives in rural Pennsylvania, but is doing three art projects in Charlotte this spring: Passage of Rain and Watershed Pantry for KEEPING WATCH on WATER at UNC Charlotte (opening March 27) and a project for the McColl Center for Art + Innovation, where she is in residency.

An installation in west Charlotte’s Revolution Park neighborhood, Passage of Rain will reveal the path of rain and runoff along a .8-mile stretch, from street to storm drain to stream to a final destination in Irwin Creek. Stacy will lead volunteers in a community installation activity on Saturday, March 28. To join the project, contact Donna Sofsky. Passage of Rain is funded by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services.

Levy talked with Charlotte Viewpoint about creating sculptural metaphors for nature.

Along with your undergraduate sculpture degree, you received a minor in Forestry at Yale – an unusual combination! Your interest in nature must have begun early on.

Even though I grew up in a city, I grew up on the edge of an urban park in Philadelphia – Fairmount Park. My backyard was right at the woods. There were lots and lots of trees and creeks. I got to spend a lot of time in urban nature; it was the place I went to explore, and I used to play a lot in creeks.

How would you describe your relationship to water?

Water is kind of hard not to love. I have always thought it was interesting. I love to swim, and I love to be underwater. And being in water, I started to think about what lives in water. I started to get into fish, and then the invisible life forms in water – microscopic aquatic organisms. There are so many parts to water that are invisible to us.

A lot of the art that you create is about making things that are invisible become visible.

Because we don’t spend much time in the natural world, most of us don’t really know that much about nature – how the moon moves, why leaves turn red in the fall. That understanding about how nature works is really interesting. I create sculptural metaphors that help you remember how a process works – simple natural phenomena.

Describe the work you are doing in Charlotte – both for KEEPING WATCH on WATER: City of Creeks and the McColl Center for Art + Innovation.

I’m kind of doing a wet and dry combo with these two projects. The KEEPING WATCH is about an invisible part of water: Where does the rain go and how does it connect? I’m trying to map on the urban surface the relationship between the rainfall and the sidewalk and the road and the creek (Passage of Rain). I want to make that a very apparent, visceral connection. We’re also doing a project in the Projective Eye Gallery about collecting water throughout the watershed and bringing it to the gallery (Watershed Pantry).

The McColl is the overland part of the project. That’s about sharing our backyard habitat with birds. In a relatively new neighborhood, Brightwalk, we are building a neighborhood for birds at the same time – a really nice thing to do. We’re planting species that will support birds in all of their needs – cover, nesting areas, and food (Fly Line: Bird Habitat Ribbon).

You also have work at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.

There’s a very long path that connects the North American component and the African component. It’s a long asphalt path, and it kind of looks like a creek. So, I thought, what if this were a creek? What would the hydrological patterns look like? Whenever water is moving, it creates those patterns, which are really cool. So I kind of drew that out, using line-striping paint to do it.

What do you hope people who see your work learn, think, and do?

I think I just want them to have a small translation of nature so that they can understand how it’s working – not just how it looks, but how it is acting. In the end, I think people who understand nature enjoy it a bit more, and if they enjoy it, they will think about preserving it more. You just don’t preserve what you don’t love.


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Tags: Stacy Levy, rainwater, Irwin Creek, Brightwalk, sculpture, installation, Projective Eye Gallery, Keeping Watch on Water, McColl Center for Art + Innovation

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