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.
- Carol Gellner Levin
Social Worker as Artist-Storyteller
University of Chicago
Social Service Administration
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.
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.
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
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."
born 1943 Cincinnati, OHeducation
permanent collections1974-02 Corcoran School of Art, Washington DC1967-68 Independent study with Roberto Hale, Buenos Aires, Argentina1966 MA University of Chicago, ILL1964 BA Indiana University, Bloomington
Baylor University, Waco, TXIthaca College, NYUniversity of Chicago, ILStrathmore Hall Art Center, North Bethesda, MD
Levin's Battleground Horse
NEW ART examiner
By Carol M Dupré
Without doubt the most exquisite exhibit that ever went up on gallery walls was a few years ago in the Selden Gallery in Norfolk Virginia. A photo of the piece here highlights its sheer agony and sheer beauty. The Battleground Horse by Carol Levin, along with approximately ten other pieces of sculpture, was both here and not here; the profound sorrow could be felt greater than all sorrow because of the way it revealed itself as all sorrows—and all at once—to represent us or for us crucially en masse: human, and animal. Although there were few materials, all of those used worked just right: depicted by mere twine, cloth bandages, a glistening eye. Despite this utterly destroyed animal, its prescient head was still lifted. Thanks to Carol Levin, with such a pliant divining sense for anatomical perfection, life has been shown here on its veritable edge of existence: one of sheer genius.
Carol Levin's Battleground Horse
We want to know what makes this so. How is it both a captivating extreme, and yet plangent: so very simply, on the mark? It is an accomplishment that has straddled several lines of potential in answer to our most fervent viewer wishes for that 'special thing,' the promise that's almost always beyond the horizon.
After witnessing something of such strengths, with an unusual, compelling access to a mysterious beyond that may be called 'empty reality'—implying there is one truth pitted against another—then it's natural to want to follow the puzzle with hard questions. It can begin with a wide stretch of art histories that resonate throughout their disparate ranges, and their most honored critically fine work, searching through the scalloped unevenness, the inconsistent eras of creative talent, for mental-spiritual dispositions and material techniques: what it all entails. There are the theories that support ultra sensitive psychological treatment, that may underlie the physique of living organisms and also the supporting physiognomy of the creature's profile in which every detail supports the body and its individualized movements; and, in this, supports the living creature that we can readily suppose exists there, knowledgeably, philosophically within. This would be the 'Existent' and the 'Being' itself, the so-called 'ontological' and 'deontological': that in which we deeply, involuntarily—even religiously or inveterately, believe.
It doesn't come from nowhere but it does, definitively, leave its mark. Yet I hesitate here when I think what Carol Levin might tell us that could humorously fall clattering like two imperatives into aluminum buckets; neither would help us, or satisfy the reach of our more arduous scholars or thinkers. These are "curve balls" that have become chronic replies. Can we avoid words like 'taste' (which is one obvious choice)? or the clichéd 'feeling' that rocks against the less favored 'thinking' (suspected of carrying unwieldy baggage)? how can we sidestep 'feeling' and 'subjectivity' and the smug catch-all 'universal' that provides an adequate filler, allowing the human posture to spread out in a sustaining balletic poise?—or the hieratic signifiers, semiotics, or the less predictable aleatory—systems of categorical use. All these usually lead straight into all those tin buckets quickly deployed. But peeping between interstices I've noticed available opportunities that can be generated with little effort, useful enticements, then replacements, made to order to proceed in order elsewhere. It's probably a nascent process we're looking for that can be freshly understood, cleanly elevated and fused into a future that we'll become (more naturally) attuned with, in accord.
First, I need mention that such ingenuous, faithfully rendered yet startling work as Battleground Horse is not always appreciated, often not properly recognized. This multiple-jointed schism, quietly questioning any simple explanation, is incredibly knotted. Too many examples have existed in art, in literature, in philosophy where credit was denied, even (or maybe especially) by relatives, clan-members, for elegant work that had awed and effected others yet made into less to some autre controlling model—going beyond legitimate influence to one that would dominate entirely. This is considered hegemonic—hold on to that concept, hegemony—and oh how interesting it is for the contemplation of social bondage, controls, and alertness, in that hegemony in most eras lead, mitigate, limit or control allegiance. And intelligence. Excellent works have sometimes been destroyed, partially or wholly reconstituted, neglected.
Cultural boundaries apply here, obviously, to aid build-up of condemnation but without the deeper knowledge that had surrounded a (now) diminishing protection of the Arts and Humanities. Mundane taboos or tendentious assumptions exist everywhere, can often strengthen inside personal differences, biases, injunctions, sanctions, and so on, seemingly haphazard. These socially divisive standards are lined up, so we're told, on a level playing field. But their roles and purposes, despite being in abeyance, merely lie in wait for a slight shift of shapes and shields curved unseen round bitter preludes. They rest on such variables as content, meaning, expertise, technique. At the head, there's locality, environment, and venue: context. Context is still the lead.
Giving into the artistic power of Battleground Horse at another level might be 'transcendent forces' that could include 'second sight' and 'extrasensory perception' hovering on the edge of mysterious energies outside our immediate or liminal (psychological) line of enticing grasp. These tend to form interesting links that may not have substantial credibility or a dependably unfolding logic unless one develops enough patience to follow such languages as conditional logic, Venn, the intertwining of latent traces, events, Gödel-Escher-Bach, secrets of dreams, vicissitudes of memory, layers of phantom-limb syndrome and other recurring, replenishing threads, the niggling promises of by-ways, that may never be complete even for the artist or author who realizes the (promising or vicious) closing-in of any of those but without seizing an actual close. The saving moment. The change. Nonetheless, to discount these as "out-of-hand," especially in such an amazing instance as in the Levin piece, could be a loss or foreshortened query clamped over a concomitant gift-giving, principle-expanding cosmos. Any use of outré properties could presume a new form despite unfamiliarity of coincident peripheries, either their resistant or residual commonalities, any fine invitational gloss, or glamorous encouragement that enters into 'poetic' fluctuation (mythopoesis) as possible. They are there despite ordinary hesitation that often begins agreeing with the appeal of introduction—on the other hand and in unadorned opposition a critical 'immediacy of grasp' can mean a reading, reread phantom, without separation between entries into any fixed comprehension, a compliant or measurable position on the pre-real-presentative, pre-conscious (or, on a different level of precognitive learning—an opened celebratory scale of receptive acceptance, a Welcome).
These differences of scale or precognition remain in an ambient, therefore, uninvestigated state that does not delimit return. This is called metacognition assumed as a 'near clarified-clarifying state of alternatives' but existing, importantly and necessarily, apart from 'human desires and needs.' In trying to explain why there is such a different state we'd need consider that there is a possible position in which we can share a sheer drop in function, in temperature as it may be, and in such saving grace as Reason. Add precognition to this list of possibilities, which is one of the recently reconverging considerations of learning potential due to emerging states of discoveries underneath the compunctual, or the dutiful second thoughts, or hesitational thoughts, that disallow or allow various fortuitous or unexpected and in a serendipitous way, finely articulated and in some way 'critically' truthful manner. But, more immediately, let's take on the concept 'animal' and the specific figuration 'animal,' and the thing as 'phenomenon' that passes into, enters 'cosmos' or 'world' as we know it.
How is it that we know the natural world? To understand and accept it, live inside it? This is the question that makes us stop and consider "selflessness" which I take to be a Levin trait, dispensing with the ego, and countermanding the often over-looked consideration—that exists in the simplistic or unconcerned actuality, enabled to dispense with self-condemnation or self-judgment, seen as a realistic pragmatic allegiance—and her exquisite (unbearable) knowledge of 'horseness', dispensing with the ego, and countermanding the often overlooked consideration—that exists in the simplistic or unconcerned actuality, enabled to dispense with the bouncing regurgitating guilt of self-condemnation or self-judgment, called a realistic pragmatic allegiance—where the moments of creation suspend a dialectical process, since dialectics, or argumentation actually act soto voce within this very 'nature of reality' itself'. This means, strangely enough, that all the true-false, good-bad, healthy-sick, black-white and other likely symmetrical arrangements (contrasting, seen as ethical or moral arrangements; faced by our biblical Job and many others who fought against 'god's will,' the 'nation,' or 'sovereignty) are held in abeyance. This is the "open reality" mentioned earlier.
It denotes a strength of artistic control that extends so far into a realm of art making that it seems nothing else is in contest beyond it or beyond its very moment. It is at this point that the mark is set, where "subjection of the real" seems complete. There's nothing else that needs to pass beyond, nothing needs be mastered beyond this point. No negative, no negation, no hostile reality comes under the sign of the artist's will or beyond that creative power.
There is only the horse. Inside, outside, dying and fully cognizant.
It also seems to indicate that there's one powerful and dangerous use of transformational language (from the Functions of Language [by the theorists Roland Barthes and Roman Jakobson]) that seems to present a danger to any outside judgmental procedures. That is INTENT—the one criterion that may need for a congruent trial and conviction. Intent, I think Levin would agree, is 'realistically' (even systematically, cumulatively) impossible to detect. And pursuit of that, in Levin's amazing strength-beyond-illusion sees only the sign and mastery of the will, and creative power.
Carol M Dupré
Volume 32 no 4 March/April 2018 pp 25-27
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?
Christo and Four Modern Creators of Environmental Art, Dennis L. Forbes, Sebroffsbooks, 2012 Pgs.62-67. 2012 Photos
Life is Short, Autobiography as Hiaku. Carol G. Levin. Photo The Washington Post, March, 2007
Carol Gellner Levin, Elan Magazine, March, 2007. Donna Cedar-Southworh, Three page Feature Story. Photos
Centerfold. Art Calendar Magazine, December, 1999. Photo
Corcoran Alumni Show Highlights, Nicole Lewis, Art Editor The Washington Post, Sept. 26, 1999, Sunday Arts Section, Photo
Corcoran Alumni: The low-down on High Tech, Sept. and Oct., 1999, The Associated Press, CNN.COM, Photo
Strathmore's Out-side Interests: New Sculpture Gardens Features Local Artists, Nicole Lewis, Art Editor, July 16, 1998
Levin's work Offers Insights, Michele McCauslin, The Journal Newspapers. Cover Story: August, 1997. Photos
Carol G. Levin, Sculptor. DC Area Artists, The Lab School of Washington, 1993 to present Photos
The Sculpture of Carol Levin, Phebe, The George Mason University Literary Magazine. Summer, 1994 Photos
Clay Sculptures Reveal Communality of Spirit, Ruth Palumbo, Gazette Newspapers, Oct. 1993 photos
The Subject is Women, Laura Burton, The New Art Examiner, June, 1988 photos
With Tongue in Cheek, Don Miller, Sculpture Review Magazine, Spring, 1986 photos
Reach out and Touch Someone's Art, Pamela Kessler, Washington Post. Mar. 14, 1985 photos