Argentinian-born glass artist Silvia Levenson on how the pandemic is affecting her work

Silvia Levenson posing against a simple backdrop

‘I know that everything is changing around us and we are profoundly changing our being in this world.’

Argentinian-born artist Silvia Levenson, now a resident of Italy, has hopes that the pandemic will help people to come together to break cultural barriers and overcome xenophobia. Her glass sculpture Until Death Do Us Part is part of The Mint Museum collection.

Studio location: Lesa, Maggiore Lake, Italy


Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Louise Bourgeois, Doris Salcedo, Loris Cecchini, and Eva Hesse

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I have two favorite pieces: Until Death Do Us Part and She Flew Away.

Until Death Do Us Part conveys my answer to the violence in homes, when someone who would protect and love you became the perpetrator. This topic is so actual now, as thousands of women and girls found the bravery of report abuse. Every year 50.000 women and girls are killed by a partner, ex-partner or relative. An now with the pandemic, lots of women are trapped. The fact that the cake is beautiful and made of glass is very functional to my idea.

Wedding cake made of glass with a white grenade used as a topper. the words "until death do us part" words on the backdrop
Silvia Levenson (Argentinian, 1957–). Until Death Do Us Part, 2013, kiln-formed glass, metal structure, plaster, wire. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by the Mint Museum of Craft + Design Collections Board and the Charles W. Beam Accessions Endowment. 2018.64

She Flew Away started from a childhood memory. In Buenos Aires, Argentina I played for hours on the swing. At a certain moment I took off my shoes and climbed up on the wooden surface. I remember that ambiguous feeling. On the one hand I wanted to fly away, but on the other I was terrified of that possibility. Later that sculpture represented a loss: the loss of childhood, life or visibility.

"She Flew Away" by Silvia Levenson

How does your environment influence your art?

I need calm and loneliness to create. Living in an small village, in an old paper factory is great for me. But my inspiration comes from books, news and my memories.

Tell us about your new morning routine, including when you start your day and how you spend the early hours.

I start my day at 7 or 8 AM. Sometimes I walk for one hour, sometimes I start my day with meditation, and sometimes I feel the urgency of working in my studio. I can say that I have more energy in the morning. I usually don’t answer to my phone until 3 PM.

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

Now I am working on the idea of invisibility. Invisibility can be a joy or a sentence. I know that everything is changing around us and we are profoundly changing our being in this world. I will see how all this will influence my art work.

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

I am so lucky to have my home and studio together. I combine my life between the two. I spend lots of my time on the computer in any case, but now my assistant cannot come to work with me, so I am making everything for myself and the process of producing sculptures in glass is very long, but I enjoy that!

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

I would like to see more empathy. When the virus started in China, in Italy several people in Italy thought that it was a “Chinese problem.” Many politicians and people were so racist even with citizens from China living in Italy. But after few days, Italians become the “new Chinese.” The same in the U.S. and United Kingdom. I hope people will understand that we are all humans, and that if the Coronavirus can expand and cross borders, why we are so connected to walls and borders?

How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

My advice would be to pay attention to the fake news. Being critical and looking for the right information is a sort or resistance high now.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

My partner Marco is cooking and I love everything he makes.

What are you currently reading?

The Lies That Bind by Kwame Anthony Appiah.

What is your favorite music choice?

Mercedes Sosa

13 lbs of love by Silvia Levenson

After years of exploring racism, inequalities, and crises through his art, Dr. Leo Twiggs feels pull of pandemic

Dr. Leo Twiggs and his wife at his induction to the South Carolina Hall of Fame.

After years of exploring racism, inequalities, and crises through his art, Dr. Leo Twiggs feels pull of pandemic

An American painter, artist, and educator who grew up in the South, Dr. Leo Twiggs’ phenomenal exhibition Requiem for Mother Emanuel was showcased at the Mint Museum Randolph. Requiem was his artistic response to the massacre of nine church members during a prayer meeting in the historical Charleston house of worship, Mother Emanuel AME Church. Here he shares his thoughts on how the pandemic is affecting his daily routine and inspiring his art, as well as the positive effects he hopes to see after.

Studio location: Orangeburg, S.C.


Describe the artwork you create and medium you use.

Innovative batik painting—wax and dyes on cotton fabric mounted on hard board.

Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Hale Woodruff, Aaron Douglas, Jackson Pollock, and Joan Miro, among others.

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I work in series. The Commemoration Series (Flags) and the Targeted Man series evolved into Requiem For Mother Emanuel, a series of nine paintings lamenting the victims of the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It is a favorite because it is a place I arrived at after years of exploring the issues of racism and inequalities in our country. Mother Emanuel challenged me to vent my emotions while maintaining the aesthetics and integrity of the creative process. Conversation, the painting at the Mint, is an extension of that new exploration.

A batik painting from Twiggs' "Targeted Man" series.

How does your environment influence your art?

I was born in the South. The sights, smells, sounds and traditions of the region impact my work, especially the southern African American experience.

Tell us about your new morning routine, including when you start your day and how you spend the early hours.

I paint in spurts, allowing lots of time in between for contemplation. Batik is a slow process and it fits my tempo. I am currently working on a painting commissioned by the Inaugural Committee at Claflin University. When it is complete, I will get back to my regular routine.

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

Yes, just as it was when Hurricane Hugo came through and after 9/11. The Hugo series is on YouTube.

"Milly's First Steps" a commissioned painting.

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

My studio is attached to my house so I can work all night if I wish. More often I work until late hours after midnight. There is a solitude about the night that I find invigorating.

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic

Learning how fragile humanity is, and how insignificant bickering and harboring racial animosities are.

How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

I am catching up on some reading and some great biopics on Netflix. I like listening to jazz, and the documentary of Miles Davis is elegantly filmed and the music is powerful. I began my work life in 10th grade as a projectionist, so I saw hundreds of movies through high school and college. Now I look for storyline, editing and cinematography. There are some good things out there.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

My wife is such a good cook that I am spoiled, relegated to great aromas and looking in the pot. Anything she cooks is comforting.

What are you currently reading?

The New York Times Series 1619.

What is your favorite music choice?

All that is jazz.

What is your favorite podcast(s)?

PBS, All Things Considered, and sometimes Phil in the Blanks.

"Dreamers" batik on cotton collection.

Artist Anne Lemanski talks life in the mountains, ‘gin and tonic season,’ and her epic life-size tiger on a ball

The inimitable Anne Lemanski talks life in the mountains, ‘gin and tonic season,’ and her epic life-size tiger on a ball

Multidisciplinary artist Anne Lemanski, based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, creates everything from two-dimensional collage to three-dimensional sculptures. An artist of the natural world, she focuses on the complex, sometimes tense relationship between humans and animals, and her work is part of the Mint’s permanent collection. Here, she shares her favorite creation to date, how her mountain life influences her work, and the way Mother Nature always “will take care of business.”

Studio location: Blue Ridge Mountains, NC


Describe the artwork you create and medium your use

I make sculpture that is constructed by hand stitching a skin, often paper, unto a copper wire framework. I also transform small hand-cut collages into large format digital prints.

 

Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Joseph Cornell is always a go-to when I need a pick me up. Contemporary peers whose work I greatly admire include Adonna Khare, Josie Morway, Walton Ford, Hilary Pecis, Alex Dodge. I also find kindred spirit in quilts and folk art.

 

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

To date, it is Tigris T-1, a life size tiger balancing on a ball. It was an engineering feat. I wanted it to be freestanding, and it is. I also love the color and pattern of the skin, which consists of a print that I created using straws. It has many cultural references without being specific.

How does your environment influence your art?

I live and work in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I see something in nature on almost a daily basis that is beautiful, surprising, or even tragic. I am hyper-tuned to my immediate surroundings. There is really no separation between the way I live my life and my artwork.

 

Tell us about your morning routine right now. 

My morning routine is the same: coffee and the New York Times.

 

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

No. I have been raising alarm via my artwork regarding environmental issues and the exploitation of resources and man’s impact on the earth for years. Eventually, Mother Nature will take care of business.

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

My studio is right next to my house, so my routine hasn’t really changed. I’m finding it difficult to concentrate.

 

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

I’m a bit of a pessimist, so I’ll keep my thoughts to myself for now.

 

How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

In my house, gin and tonic season has officially started.

 

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

My cooking habits haven’t changed. Last night I made a delightful asparagus and mushroom risotto. We make everything from scratch, and that won’t change. My favorite comfort food is fettuccine alfredo with homemade pasta.

 

What are you currently reading?

The news. I listen to audiobooks when I work, but I am not currently listening to any.

‘I feel an impulse to be bolder, more direct,’ says artist Damian Stamer

Photo by Katrina Williams/Fifty Two Hundred Photo

‘I feel an impulse to be bolder, more direct,’ says artist Damian Stamer

Damian Stamer is a North Carolina native whose art is influenced by his Southern roots and rural landscapes. Though he’s painting the same subject matter, Stamer says he’s finding a different energy and urgency to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Studio location: Nestled in the woods of northern Durham County, North Carolina


Describe the artwork you create and medium your use

I paint architectural remnants that dot the rural landscape of the Carolinas. These are mostly oil paintings on panel, but I also love printmaking.

Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Anselm Kiefer, Beverly McIver, Neo Rauch, Matthias Weischer, Cecily Brown, Willem de Kooning, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly, Dana Schutz, Adrian Ghenie, Kerry James Marshall, Vincent van Gogh, Enrique Martinez Celaya, Gerhard Richter, and Robert Rauschenberg.

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I appreciate different pieces for different reasons, but if I had to pick one at this moment, I’d say St. Marys Rd. 8. It depicts an abandoned house on St. Marys Road just a few miles from the studio. In addition to enjoying how it turned out visually, it’s one of my favorites because I wrestled with it for over two years before laying down the final brushstroke.

St. Marys Rd 8

How does your environment influence your art?

In a way, my environment is my art. I paint my everyday surroundings. These are the places of my childhood. They allow me to explore memory, with all its faults and fictions, and investigate the tension between personal and historical truth.

Tell us about your new morning routine, including when you start your day and how you spend the early hours.

Before this all started, I was waking up between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to paint, but then I decided it would be a good idea to sleep in to make sure I get enough rest for a healthy immune system. So now I’m waking up around 8 a.m. and beginning the day with meditation and exercise.

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

Although I continue to paint the same subject matter, I’m finding a different energy and urgency to the work. It’s hard to describe, but I feel an impulse to be bolder, more direct. To quote my favorite musical, “no other road, no other way, no day but today.”

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

My studio is a short walk or very short drive from home, so I’m back and forth between the two quite a bit. In addition to painting, I have better wifi at the studio, so I’m usually on that computer if I have a Zoom meeting. I’ve also been taking a walk with my parents every afternoon. We stay on opposite sides of the road. We talk about our fears and what makes us anxious. We talk about the latest news and our plans for the day. We walk by the farm and say hello to the steers or take a moment to appreciate the redbuds’ blossoms or songbirds’ calls. We say what we are thankful for. These walks have been an incredible gift.

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

This pandemic definitely has a way of putting things in perspective. Although it can bring up a lot of fears, it may also help us realize the many things in life that we are grateful for, the precious nature of every present moment.

How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

We started watching movies every night, which seemed like a bit of an indulgence compared to the normal schedule, but it has been a fun way to relieve stress and relax.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

First off, I feel very privileged to have ready access to food during this time. I’m fortunate to live with a partner who is an amazing cook, so I’ve been washing a lot of dishes to do my part in the kitchen. Red lentil dal is a favorite, but I’m pretty spoiled because everything is delicious. It’s like a gourmet quarantine.

What are you currently reading?

Interviews with Artists: 1966-2012 by Michael Peppiatt and a lot of digital NYTimes.

What is your favorite music choice?

The Avett Brothers

What is your favorite podcast(s)?

The Daily (NYTimes)

Artist Katherine Boxall on virtual connections, mental blocks and 6 AM puppy cuddles in COVID-19 crisis

 

Artist Katherine Boxall on virtual connections, mental blocks and 6 AM puppy cuddles in COVID-19 crisis

Katherine Boxall is the most recent artist to have an installation hanging at the Mint Museum Uptown as part of Constellation CLT. She’s also the first of many artists that we are asking about how the coronavirus — and shift in the world — is affecting their day-to-day lives, as well as the art they create.

Studio location: West Charlotte


Describe the artwork you create and medium your use.

I paint and draw using graphite, pastel, acrylic, oil, and spray paint. Although mostly abstract, I do work representationally as well.

What artists inspire you and your work?

I am inspired by lots of artists, dead and alive. They are not restricted to the visual landscape, writers and musicians are huge sources for me too. Right now I am thinking a lot about my MFA mentors from the Bay Area such as Alicia McCarthy, Brett Reichman, Maria Elena Gonzalez, Jeremy Morgan, Danielle Lawrence, Terry Powers, Felicita Norris … just to name a few.

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I don’t have a favorite piece(s). Everything that I make comes out of a certain time and context. Each work has it’s own stories and reasons, so it isn’t obvious to me how I would judge them on the same playing field.

How does your environment influence your art?

Environment influences your mind, body, and being all the time. I’ve heard people say you’re only as smart as the five people you surround yourself with. I don’t know if that’s true, but surrounding myself with other creative and inspiring people has helped me reach my highest potential in the past. It’s obviously very challenging to do that right now, so I am trying to connect virtually as much as I can with the people I love and keep my environment as uplifting as I can. Being a painter is about being aware of your ways of seeing, then learning to adapt and use them. Even though my environment is physically the same (in my studio) the psychological environment is different. So I’m working to find a way to level my emotions towards to the crisis and transform them into a positive output.

Tell us about your new morning routine, including when you start your day and how you spend the early hours.

I usually start my day with coffee and petting my golden retriever puppy Sophie. The pandemic hasn’t dawned on her so she continues to wake me up at the usual time (6am). Now that I don’t leave the house to exercise, we’ve been going on longer walks instead and calling family to check-in.


(from left to right)
Katherine Boxall. Black Licorice, 2020, acrylic, pastel, spray paint, and oil on canvas. Courtesy of the artist
Katherine Boxall. Maple Candy, 2019, acrylic, oil, spray paint, and pastel on canvas. Courtesy of the artist
Katherine Boxall. Tread, 2020, acrylic, pastel, spray paint, and oil on canvas. Courtesy of the artist


Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

I feel grateful that my work is already self-directed and motivated, but the toll of this crisis is making it challenging to feel ‘inspired’. Right now, I am working to break down those mental blocks and use the opportunity to push myself and my work.

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home or going to your studio?

Both. I am working from home for Jerald Melberg Gallery as much as I can and then spending the rest of my time in the studio. I am the only tenant in the warehouse, so my studio is literally the ultimate place to work while social distancing. I’ve also set up a space at home for small drawings and watercolors for a more low key/meditative creative vibe. I had a really busy winter with exhibitions and projects, so at the moment I am enjoying slowing own a bit.

How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

Lots of cuddling with the dog and spending time with my partner at home. I’ve added some exercise later in the day to fuel myself with endorphins and a few extra skincare steps because I no longer have any excuses. I guess my #1 recommendation (if you can) would be to eat chocolate while wearing a bathrobe on the couch watching your favorite show. In my experience, few things in life feel as luxurious. I’d also treat yourself to reading fiction and steeping some tea, anything to get a good night’s sleep.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

I’m always cooking and we do it all. Breakfast has expanded beyond the smoothie to eggs, banana breads, muffins, etc. For lunch we have the leftovers from the previous night’s dinner which is usually salmon, cod, steak, chicken, homemade pizza, it just goes on. Cooking has always been a creative outlet for me so if anything the pandemic has just ramped that up. Watching my Instagram story will usually leave you hungry.

What are you currently reading?

The New York Times (it’s not for the weak)

What is your favorite music choice?

All kinds of things as the day goes, but Medasin, Future, and Lane 8 seem to be dominating my current playlists.

What is your favorite podcast(s)?

The Daily, The Journal, How I Made This

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

I know for myself that being a busy body can sometimes act as a distraction from the things I really need to work on or slow down to appreciate. Socially, I hope this will put in perspective our real values and help us prioritize them in more human way. Systematically, I am hopeful to see protection for those who need it most. Only a fraction of us have the luxury to work from home or take time off (and even fewer for long periods), so I hope that our government and community really pulls together to support one another.

Look inside Charlotte-based artist Katherine Boxall’s west Charlotte studio. Boxall was the Mint’s first Constellation CLT artist of 2020, and in partnership with the Young Affiliates of the Mint, the Mint’s Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, chats with Boxall to give us a glimpse into the artist’s creative process, her striking works of art, and the studio where it all comes together.

Star Gallery

The Star Gallery is a place for students from around Charlotte to have their works displayed in The Mint Museum. The works presented rotate periodically to correspond with the themes present in our current special exhibitions and our permanent collection.

BURN YOUR ASSUMPTIONS | Spring-Summer 2020

Inspired by the Immersed In Light: Studio Drift at the Mint exhibition, Hough High School students worked to create pieces that explored the relationship between humanity, nature, and technology. Creating a dialogue about the in and out of body conversations we have with these relationships was our main focus. Throughout the work you can see that students worked with many materials, both tangible and digital. These works are from Katherine Allen’s Visual Art Honors and AP classes as well as Justin Pierce’s Media Arts Honors and AP classes.

Katherine Allen’s Visual Art Honors and AP classes

Justin Pierce’s Media Arts Honors and AP classes