Artist Jennifer Levine talks about the joy she experienced collaborating with WAE Center artists and how “starting local” is advice she lives by every day.
1. What is your education and background as an artist?
I have a BA in Jewish Studies from UMASS/Amherst, and also completed a two-year conservatory program at the San Francisco School of Circus Arts. I have worked as a classroom teacher in private schools for over twenty years.
2. What inspires you?
The people I am working with, my environment, my immediate surroundings, the interactions and things happening in the present moment.
3. How would you describe your artistic style and your process?
My theme-portraits and large-scale paintings on canvas and wood convey the same whimsical themes of my publications, recordings and performance art. I would call my style figurative abstract and put myself in the category of neo-outsider artist, I am self-taught. My process is very quick and spontaneous. I like to have all of my materials ready. I enjoy working to music, and mostly complete a piece in one day. Then I sleep on it, go back to it and finish it the next day. I also enjoy feedback from close friends.
4. What initially inspired your Chair concept?
I always enjoy working collaboratively and with collage. I had an idea to use different mediums but the WAE Center members inspired me to choose other objects as well, which added a definite softness to the project.
5. What was your experience working at the WAE Center on your Chair?
There was a lot of nurturing and nonverbal connection there. I really enjoyed the energy, love and kindness between the staff and members interacting with each other. It was inspiring, fun and beautiful.
6. Did your Chair concept change or evolve as you worked with the Center’s artists?
My process is very primitive and primal, non-verbal. I felt as if the members and I were operating in the same realm during the project and it was very magical. We ended up making two chairs because we had so many materials. One is a busy, heavy chair and the other is a big image, holding dolls. The concept developed as I worked with the artists. For example, one brought dolls in every day and it brought softness to it so we took that concept and incorporated it into the design. That combined with seeing the embrace of the staff to all of the individuals inspired the nurturing and holding of that particular piece.
7. What does Inclusion mean to you?
All beings in the world need help in some way, and in turn all of them also have the ability to contribute.
8. Other than Chairs, what are some of the recent projects you’ve worked on?
I recently had a solo show at The Gallery at Hillside Square. I am also a co-founder of the Peace Garden Song and Mural Project, which is a five-day artist-in-residency program that can be adapted to all settings, institutions and schools.
9. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Start Local – Always connect with what is closest to you first. For example, for me I connect with my daughter, my cats, and my community. I focus on being kind to the people that I see every day. I believe in starting from the inside out.
10. What is your next project?
My creative partner and I will be traveling to Mexico in February for a mural project at a school in San Miguel. We have several residencies like this planned throughout the school year at various schools.