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NADELMAN, CYNTHIA-  ARTNEWS:   Middle Aged Gods and Giant Babies

December 2004    Pages 116-121


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 will take 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