Nina Levy's Family Portraits Make Yours Look Less Frightening.
above: family resemblance, 30" x 24" EDITION OF 6 + A.P.
Artist Nina Levy has been living and working in Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1996. A prolific photographer and sculptor, her work has been widely exhibited across the United States, including The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. where her life sized portraits of four artists' heads hung as part of the gallery reopening in 2007 (shown below):
above: a view of the installation in the National Portrait Gallery in the Smithsonian, 2007
above: life-sized self-portrait sculpture Spectator, 2002 (also used in the 2007 National Portrait Gallery installation)
An artist who has long worked with body parts made of oil-painted resin, gypsum or clay, fiberglass, cast polyurethane and other materials for over a decade to create large outdoor sculptures, indoor installations, portrait heads, and self-portraits in many forms, created her own series of family portraits or 'family resemblance' from 2006-2008.
above: Woman with huge fist (self-portrait) 2008
She has a very impressive education, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Yale with a B.A. in English and Art in 1989 and she received a Masters in Fine Arts from The University of Chicago in 1993. She's also the mother of two young boys, whom are frequently the subjects of her recent photographs. But these aren't the kind of family photos you're used to seeing embellishing hallways and mantels.
To say that her portraits of herself and her family, consisting largely of her two sons, Archer, now 6 and Ansel, now 2, are bizarre is an understatement. Creepy and disturbing may be more appropriate descriptors for some viewers.
above: Nina's older son Archer with giant prosthetic baby head,2007
above: Nina's youngest son Ansel with giant prosthetic baby head, 2007
What's respectable, and certainly unexpected nowadays, is that there is no digital manipulation involved in her photographs. She actually sculpts the enlarged body parts or prostheses and then juxtaposes them with her subjects, so that the size relationships you see are actual real physical representations.
Babies eating babies, children cradling what look like lifeless bodies and small-framed, vulnerable boys sporting hulk-like hands and steroidal limbs are the subjects of some of her these recent photos. Here's a look at much of her family portraits and family resemblance photographs, 2006-2008:
Nina explains: "I have been interested in using fragmentation and shifts in scale to explore both discomfort with the human body and with other people"
"I started to make photographs, mostly featuring myself interacting with a series of sculptural props and prosthetics that I modeled and fabricated from clay or plaster and cast in resin," she says.
I am now the mother of two small boys, and the primary subject of my work has become my own dysfunctional parenting and the often overwhelming intensity of small children"
"Ansel, however, boycotted my last photo shoot," says Nina, "and is under-represented... but thanks to the promise of a highly desirable set of action figures, Archer was willing to assist me"
"The photographs were, and still remain, very low tech - there is no digital manipulation," says Nina. "All of the objects and people in the images exist exactly as they appear."
Special thanks to the UK's Telegraph for the quotes from the interview with Nina.
HER PORTRAIT COMMISSIONS:
Her commissioned portrait heads are available cast in resin, ultracal or gypsum painted with oils and in more traditional treatments and materials (bronze, plaster, cement). Please contact Nina Levy for more information.
See her website here.
To check out her work prior to 2002, go here.
all photos: NINA LEVY/REX FEATURES