Today’s Feature – April 23-24: Heather Levy

April 24, 2008 at 9:55 pm (Today's Feature)

The well traveled New Yorker Heather Levy seemingly has no weakness when it comes to putting a brush to canvas. This artist who has gathered inspiration from her travels through France, Spain, Canada, Mexico and Greece is garnering more and more attention for her work in drawing, oil, water color, acrylic, and even from her own original series, the RocketScience Series and the United Series.

Looking to the work of Dali, Chagall, Kahlo, and Picasso among others, Levy ended up at Emerson College in Boston, MA to study film after struggling with direction in higher education. She says, “I was encouraged to create without any concessions… I would often film my latest paintings or include them in my short films somehow.” She’s still creating animated art and experimental films along with her painting, working with musicians, the Basso Modern Duo to create films for their music and vice-versa, marrying two of Levy’s favorite imaginative mediums.

Looking more to her work in the studio, the United Series “responds to the notion that we, as human beings, are all united,” all a different circle interacting with one another. The unique circle designs “reminds us that the spirit of unity we feel with others is part of our natural condition.” The exquisite corpse is truly attention grabbing, even for the artists involved. The process calls for two painters to choose a subject matter with one painting half of a canvas and then covering it up. The second artist paints the other half and in the end, everyone is surprised.

Heather calls DC home nowadays, which makes sense: free museums are everywhere. Keep an eye out for more work from this artist, including a few children’s books with her illustrations. Get into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: Heather Levy (PEV): What is your first memory of your attraction to art?

Heather Levy (HL): I can remember being entranced when I was a child by two small Art books… one about Marc Chagall and the other about Salvador Dali.

I was freaked out and amazed all at once. Those books are now a part of my library and I still love to look at them.

PEV: Growing up, which artists were you watching or interested in? Did anyone in particular help shape your style?

HL: Growing up in NY I had great access to many Museums and Art Exhibits. Modern Art has always fascinated me most. The MOMA is one of my favorite museums.

I continued my obsession with Dali and Chagall. I was amazed by Frida Kahlo, Alice Neel, James Rosenquist, Egon Schiele, Francis Bacon, Vermeer,Picasso, Bosch, and Rodin.

PEV: Tell us about your earlier days in art, when you were at Emerson College, in Boston, MA.

HL: Emerson was a great environment to be an artist of any ilk. As a film major, I was encouraged to create without any concessions. I would often film my latest paintings or include them in my short films somehow. At Emerson I learned the Art of painting/drawing on Film which is still one of my favorite mediums.

PEV: Most artists face several obstacles when coming up in the art world. Tell us about yours, if any at all?

HL: The Art world is a tough cookie. Perseverance is key… One must become to used the rejection letters. I like to think that each “no thank you” brings me that much closer to my next “yes,” statistically speaking.

PEV: What is one misconception most people have about someone who is a professional artist?

HL: Many people think it is really easy to be an artist. Once a lawyer said to me, “Oh how fun it must be”…While, yes, there is great satisfaction in creating Art, it is hard work as well. I work 24/7… If I am not creating Art I am thinking of ways to sell or exhibit my work. If it weren’t enjoyable, there is no way I could be so dedicated.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life that you realized art was going to be your full time profession?

HL: Yes, I suppose that occurred while I was at Emerson. When I had first graduated high school, my father gave me two choices- “What do you want to be, a lawyer or accountant”, he was paying for my education so I felt obliged to choose one of these options. I spent a year at the University of Tampa as an accounting student and faithfully failed out. I spent a year at a community college to reassess my situation. While at the community college, I interned at an alternative radio station and really enjoyed it. It was a counselor at the community college who recommended Emerson to me. Once I arrived at Emerson, I felt a great relief and finally felt as if I belonged.

PEV: When you start to work, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?

HL: I require a lot of light and will also light many candles… unless it is summertime and then no candles. Then I choose some music. Must have music!

PEV: You have shown work in drawing, oil, water color and acrylic, do you find one to more challenging than the other?

HL: Each medium has its own attributes. I love oil, but I was getting too many sinus headaches so I haven’t used them for about four years now. I look forward to using them again when I have a more ventilated space to work in… I love gouache. It smells so good I want to lick it! Acrylic is a joy as it is a lot like oils but dries faster. Watercolors will always be my friends.

PEV: In all your travels, which city (US or International) do you think offers the best art scene?

HL: That’s a tough one. It’s a toss up between Paris and NYC.

PEV: What kind of music are you currently listening to?

HL: I am a little addicted to Glenn Gould right now… specifically his Bach variations.

PEV: After living in New York and Paris, and now calling Washington, DC home, where is the best place to catch great art?

HL: All three cities are top notch for checking out a wide variety – classic through modern-of Art. DC rocks for its free museums!

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist right now you think we should all be looking out for?

HL: Check out Andrew Wodzianski… a very talented and cool artist.

PEV: Which artist alive or passed would you like to sit down to dinner with? Why?

HL: I would like to sit down and have dinner with Dali and Vermeer together. Dali idolized Vermeer and between the two of them I think I would learn an incredible amount… and be very entertained!

PEV: Tell us about your work with experimental films?

HL: Film is such an amazing medium. I fell in love with it at Emerson and am still awed by it. These days I don’t have access to professional equipment so I make due with the resources I have. Lately, I’ve been working with a couple of musicians (a stand up bass and piano player…Basso Modern Duo) where I make a film for their music or they make music for my films. It has been a great challenge. One of my favorite things to do with film is to paint or draw on it. Marrying my two favorite mediums… I like to paint my film and film my paint…

PEV: When you hit a creative roadblock, what do you do?

HL: Creative roadblocks are necessary evils. They give you time to reflect before you go back to that loss of sense of self when creating… I try to inspire myself by visiting a museum or gallery or look at my favorite artist books, websites… get the juices flowing again!

PEV: When you look at a blank piece of paper, canvas or space, before you begin to work, what is going through your mind?

HL: It varies… When I’m working on a specific piece i.e. a commission or portrait, then I will have done many studies and tests before the actual painting, and I will have mapped out the approach as well as the final composition… When I’m working on what I like to call my loss of sense of self paintings, I don’t even see the blank canvas… I turn to my paints and let them speak to me… Usually it is a color scheme that will start it and by the time I “wake up” there is usually an interesting beginning… It is then that I think about what I’ve started and elaborate from there.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Heather Levy?

HL: I’m quite the chameleon. I feel as if I have lived many lives in this one life. I have so many different experiences from which to draw from it can be a little overwhelming. I wish I had documented them all because now that I’m getting older, I think I am forgetting some of them!

PEV: If I were to walk into your studio right now, what would I most likely find?

HL: Besides a big mess and several work stations- as I like to be working on several paintings at a time, possibly my napping cat Charlie and me!

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your success?

HL: At first most were quite dubious… Now they are proud and very supportive…

PEV: So, what is next for Heather Levy?

HL: Great things! I am about half way through illustrating a children’s book. I have a bambino on the way… Someday to have an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and the Hirschhorn Museum. More painting!

For more information on Heather Levy, check out


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