Carol Gellner Levin. American, born 1943

Levin’s work almost always is about people and animals, sometimes together and often interacting with one another. The work is sometimes humorous and light hearted, but encourages a viewer to consider several layers of meaning, some of which are frequently of a serious nature.


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Artist Statement

For many years I have been sculpting in a variety of media--from clay and bronze to various casting materials. I almost always sculpt people and animals, sometimes together and often interacting with one another. Within the last few years, I have also been experimenting with mixed media pieces. This work consists of a vast variety of media: burlap, nails, glue, paint, glass, string, packing peanuts--all combined to form sculptures of real and imagined people and animals.

The relationship between an artist and her viewer is a very personal one. My work often depicts a universal situation or emotion and my hope is that the viewer will recognize something familiar in what the sculpture is expressing. A piece of work will capture a viewer’s attention for a short amount of time as the viewer passes in front of the piece. Once in a while, an observer feels a relationship with the work and thus with the artist. The art and what it communicates stays with the viewer well after the artwork is no longer present. That is my goal. I want my work to tell a meaningful story.

Essays

Social Worker as Artist-Storyteller
University of Chicago
Social Service Administration
Spring 2011

In her sculpture, 5 figures are tied to a fence-like structure, each figure wrapped tightly in a cocoon of fabric and twine. Their faces are modeled sparingly and 2 of the figures huddle together as if comforting each other. Levin, a social worker-turned artist, whose studio is located in the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA, is interested in the precarious nature of life and relationships.

Other sculptures illustrate her ideas about the unpredictable aspects of life. Levin frequently juxtaposes a human being with a ferocious looking animal. In Dancing with Bear, a woman and bear blissfully dance with one another—nose to nose—with the woman in a tight bear hug. The moment looks happy, but could rapidly change.

Levin works in ceramics, bronze, various casting materials, and mixed media. "I often tell a narrative that has been informed by my experiences with former clients," says Levin. Through her artwork, she deals with such issues as bullying, balancing motherhood with a career, and feelings of personal entrapment. As an artist, she responds to the full range of human experiences, from the everyday to unthinkable tragedy.

Another sculpture, Jessica's Day portrays a woman dealing with a multitude of everyday issues. "Jessica" looks as if she is a classical figure who could be carrying a water jug on her head. Instead, she is toting a basket that includes all the responsibilities she deals with each day. The basket includes babies, pets, a computer case, cooking utensils, a briefcase, et cetera.

Levin enjoys experiencing the interactions between her work and her audience. For Levin, "art is a conversation between a viewer and myself." Exceptional art communicates an idea, emotion, or experience in a unique way and the viewer may respond by feeling a personal connection with a piece. That is my goal."

During an exhibit in Norfolk, Va., a little girl walked up to her sculpture, My Guardian—a ferocious looking dog/wolf. Levin thought that the girl might find the sculpture frightening, but the girl proved otherwise. "The piece was originally called "Black Beast," said Levin, "but the little girl called it 'My Guardian.' She said she would like to name it her guardian because she'd like a creature like that to protect her as she walked to school. So I renamed the piece."

Levin says that through her work with families and children as a social worker, she's aware that some children can be reached primarily—and sometimes only—through art. "This is why art in schools is so critical for youngsters," says Levin. "Not only can a teacher or counselor better communicate with children while they are engaged in art projects, but some children can be propelled into academic subjects through art making."

Carol Levin's sculpture has been exhibited at the Corcoran Museum of Art, the Museum of the Americas, and the Jane Haslem Gallery in Washington, DC; The National Sculpture Society and the National Arts Club, both in New York City; and in Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina. Her art is included in national and international private collections, including collections at Baylor University and Ithaca College. One of her sculptures, "Marilyn and Sarah Anne" stands in front of Strathmore Hall Arts Center in Rockville, Maryland.

Student Days

As a student at SSA, Levin remembers the legendary Charlotte Towle, as well as her favorite field supervisor, Gerda Schell. Ms. Schell was Levin's supervisor at Scholarship and Guidance Association and they remain in touch. Charlotte Towle was also a supervisor at Scholarship and Guidance. Levin remembers Ms Towle's very sensible, no-nonsense approach to dealing with clients. According to Levin, she cut through a good deal of psychoanalytic jargon that was popular at that time

Post Graduate School

After SSA, Levin worked at Illinois Children's Home and Aid Society in adoption and foster care. She then moved to Argentina with her husband, Peter, where she worked as a counselor and teacher at the American Community School in Buenos Aires and volunteered at an Argentine Psychiatric facility.

Upon her return to the States, Levin worked in Washington, DC at a day care center with Latino children, for an Office of Economic Opportunity program dealing with the legal problems of seniors, and for a family service agency.

Levin is "very attached to SSA" and in 2002 returned to talk with students and faculty, and to lecture and show images of her work. Some of her sculpture was exhibited in the SSA lobby. Her advice to current students is: "A Masters degree in social work is marvelously versatile. It opens up a wide range of employment opportunities, both within traditional social work settings and in alternative venues. In addition, I've found my social work training very useful in a personal way," says Levin.

Full Circle

Recently, she brought her artistic talents and social work skills to a program at the Kreeger Museum in Washington, DC and is conducting small interactive tours and discussions with early to intermediate stage Alzheimer's patients. "Conversations" at the Kreeger Museum: A Program for Individuals Living with Alzheimer's Disease and Their Caregivers is modeled after a program at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (Meet Me at MOMA). The Kreeger is the first museum in the Washington DC area to offer such a program. The program is free of charge to patients, family members and caregivers.

For many patients, art brings a palpable sense of joy and peace. "Conversations" hopes to stimulate memories associated with a visitor's past as well as new thoughts and group conversation. "We try to stimulate all our participant's senses," says Levin, "from the visual, (through a magnificent art collection), to the auditory (with masterful piano playing by a volunteer pianist) and sense of touch as well. We distribute sculpture tools, brushes and other objects that have a distinctive feel."

Levin helped develop this program as a volunteer. She became involved at the request of Kreeger Museum Director, Judy Greenberg, who was visiting Levin's sculpture studio when she noticed that the sculptor also had social work credentials. Along with Kreeger Museum personnel, Levin had meetings with researchers from the National Institutes of Health, and professors and statisticians from Howard University. She has led many tours herself, together with "Conversations" Program Director, Derya Samadi, and has recruited program participants. Levin has watched "Conversations" grow and gain status within the arts community and the community of people servicing Alzheimer's patients.

-- Julie Jung

Biography

Within the past two years, I had a marvelous invitational show of my work at Flanders 311 Gallery in Raleigh, North Carolina, participated in a BBC World News broadcast about artists and the economy (with my black sheep sculpture), exhibited work in a national traveling exhibition of selected Torpedo Factory artists, showed work at the Sussex Art Museum in Sussex, Virginia, and had work on display at the Museum of the Americas, located in Washington, DC. That show, entitled "Bilateral Engagement," featured the work of local artists intermingled with art from the Museum’s permanent collection of mostly Latin American art. My most recent invitational show was at Zenith Gallery in Washington, DC during the summer of 2011 and was entitled, "The Artists of Chevy Chase."

In the past, I have been invited to show my work at the Jane Haslem Gallery in Washington, DC on two occasions, have been featured on WETA public television in a program entitled "Take the Day Off," exhibited sculpture at the Corcoran Museum of Art in Washington, and had work at the National Sculpture Society in New York City and Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina. In addition, I appeared in my studio on "Good Morning America" with Tony Perkins and have participated in the United States Department of State "Arts in Embassies" program. I have shown my sculpture at the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration and I frequently exhibit locally (the Washington, DC area) with the Washington Sculptors Group.In addition, my work has been featured in American Embassies in Europe and Africa through the US Department of State's "Art in Embassies Program."

CV

born 1943 Cincinnati, OH

education
1974-02 Corcoran School of Art, Washington DC
1967-68 Independent study with Roberto Hale, Buenos Aires, Argentina
1966 MA University of Chicago, ILL
1964 BA University, Bloomington
Reviews

New Raleigh.com/galleries 3/27/2009
     Artists like Carol Gellner Levin embrace the realist style emphasizing the human form as subject of the view's gaze. Levins's sculptures, despite the contemporary esthetic and dependence on modern materials, capture the playful quality of a child; as the rhythmic energy of their motion echoes the imaginary space in which they play. Like Alberto Giacometti, Levin uses color or the lack thereof to amplify their innocence.

Bilateral Engagement Catalog 2009; Laura Roulet
     Carol Levin…takes figurative sculpture to witty and expressive lengths with an inventive use of mixed media. The burlap body of the guardian dog is bound together with string; its realistic glass eyes assaulting the viewer while snarling with teeth of nails.

The Washington Times, Feb.1, 2001; Trish Foxwell
     "Ms Levin's approach is passionate and conveys her emotions in every curve and angle."

Sculpture Review Magazine, Spring 1986; Don Miller
     "Civil Defense Drill" by Carol Gellner Levin relies on pose and action more than a literal form for its humor. The viewer is given a hint by its title, and at the same time is offered a mystery. Is the girl preening before a mirror before going our to face the world… Or is it in truth a civil defense drill to protect herself from violence during an air raid?

Bibliography

Christo and Four Modern Creators of Environmental Art, Dennis L. Forbes, Sebroffsbooks, 2012 Pgs.62-67. 2012 Photos

The Washington Post, March, 2007 "Life is Short, Autobiography as Hiaku." Carol G. Levin. Photo

Donna Cedar-Southworh, "Carol Gellner Levin," ELAN MAGAZINE, March, 2007. Three page Feature Story. Photos

ART CALENDAR MAGAZINE. Centerfold. December, 1999. Photo

Nicole Lewis, Art Editor, "Corcoran Alumni Show Highlights," THE WASHINGTON POST, SEPT. 26, 1999, Sunday Arts Section, Photo

The Associated Press, CNN.COM, "Corcoran Alumni: The low-down on High Tech," Sept. and Oct., 1999, Photo

Nicole Lewis, Art Editor, "Strathmore's Out-side Interests: New Sculpture Gardens Features Local Artists," July 16, 1998

Michele McCauslin, Art Reporter, THE JOURNAL NEWSPAPERS, Cover Story: "Levin's work Offers Insights," August, 1997. Photos

The Lab School of Washington, "Carol G. Levin, Sculptor. DC AREA ARTISTS, 1993 to present Photos

Carol G. Levin, "The Sculpture of Carol Levin," PHEBE, THE GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY LITERARY MAGAZINE, Summer, 1994 Photos

Ruth Palumbo, "Clay Sculptures Reveal Communality of Spirit," GAZETTE NEWSPAPERS, Oct. 1993 photos

Laura Burton, "The Subject is Women, THE NEW ART EXAMINER, June, 1988 photos

Don Miller, With Tongue in Cheek," SCULPTURE REVIEW MAGAZINE, Spring, 1986 photos

Pamela Kessler, "Reach out and Touch Someone's Art, THE WASHINGTON POST. Mar. 14, 1985 photos

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