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Nina Levy, who shows at New York's Feigen Contemporary as well as at Metaphor Contemporary Art in Brooklyn, where her work can be seen this spring*, says "It's nice not to be horribly out of style." Levy, who has done work for New York's Madame Tussauds wax Museum**, brings mordant humor to the genre. Using her own head and body as models, she has created parallel series of works- sculpture on its own and photographs in which she incorporates her sculpture, forming often -alarming juxtapositions. For example, in one of her photographs, she features her own face with a sculpture of her head emerging from the mouth. Curator Nick Capasso, of the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln Massachusetts, say Levy is "one of a group of contemporary sculptors to render patently unreal things palpable and thus emotionally and allegorically true."
Levy's sculpture Greeter is a life-sized*** painted figure of herself with an outlandish, toothy smile, a comment on the "artist's opening" syndrome, when faces become locked into smiles. "It was a metaphor for social insecurity," she says. Her work, much of which has been placed outdoors--where her body might seem to be throwing its giant head off a roof, for instance--is modeled in clay, then cast in a material such as polyester resin and painted naturalistically with automotive paint. Levy aims for what she calls "interpretive" or "hyped realism." A group of her head portraits of art-world personalities, hanging at roughly head height****, the way they would mingle at an art opening--will be featured at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in 2006, when the reopened museum inaugurates a series of exhibitions showcasing artists working in portraiture.
Sometimes realist sculpture elicits outrage or discomfort from viewers. When Levy installed a seven-foot-high baby outside the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, earlier this year, the local press reacted.***** Say Levy, deadpan, "They responded in a rather literal fashion." Comments ranged from how cold the baby must have been during the winter, wearing only a diaper, to how the diaper seemed to need changing.
* The Exhibition at Metaphor took place October 2005
** Worked with Stuart Williamson, a former Madame Tussauds artist on a portrait project
*** Greeter (6'3") is a good bit larger than Nina (5'7")
**** Portraits hang at the eye level of each subject
***** The Ridgefield Press was unbiased, but printed a series of hostile letters to the editor from local residents