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

The Mint Museum From Home is Sponsored by Chase.

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.

‘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)