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Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities: A talk by Eco-Artist Stacy Levy

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Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities: A talk by Eco-Artist Stacy Levy

By Dyana Wing T. So.


Eco-artist Stacy Levy’s curiosities have flowed through many different streams and disciplines, but her avid breadth of education and hands-on experience in ecology, art, architecture, landscape architecture, and urban forestry ultimately return back to a common delta.

A native of Pennsylvania, Levy likes to work with “wudder.” As a child she played in the river near her home and drank “Schuylkill punch.” For Levy, nature was always close by, but as she grew older, she also developed a greater awareness of our human impact on the natural environment. “There was a time when the Wissahickon sewers overflowed and it got into the river I played in growing up,” Levy recollected before a room of Penn students, faculty, and community members attending her talk at Slought.

Most of Levy’s work is a response to the strong desire she has to make people more aware of the water systems around them. “Humans don’t like change,” Levy observed, but she points out that nature also has natural ‘needs’ of its own that pushes against our human preferences. Just as it is significant for urban people to be more aware of and have a better understanding of what’s in their backyards, Levy believes it is also important to acknowledge that people can be engaged in many different ways. Levy found her solution by blending science with art.
 

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    • Stacy Levy, Pink Wedge, Spring Mills, PA. Courtesy of the artist (www.stacylevy.com).


Levy calls her work “factual art,” meaning that she likes to collect and assimilate the environmental facts she learns to create works of social art in response. Levy is not a scientist herself, but her own socio-environmental conscience and passion allow her to channel her energy and engagements with environmental science towards the work she displays. In this way, Levy’s work strives to plant seeds of curiosity to our environment by strategically drawing direct attention towards the area and provoking deeper inquiries to follow.
 

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    • Stacy Levy, Bushkill Curtain (2011–12)Bushkill Creek in Easton, PA. Courtesy of the artist (www.stacylevy.com).


As an artist, Levy believes art can be part of environmental solutions. For her, Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty work is her Mona Lisa. By blurring the rigid worlds of art and environmental science, Levy’s works embody the potential shared by the coming together of these two disciples. 
 

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    • Stacy Levy, Spiral Wetland (2012), a project for Artosphere 2013, Fayetteville, AR. Image: Courtesy of the artist (www.stacylevy.com).


Levy’s close engagement with environmental science and scientists impacts her relationship with her living materials, and makes her critically reflexive of her own carbon footprint. Levy strives to minimize her own art waste by avidly repurposing and reusing her materials. She remarks that today, many artists and galleries continue to discard of a lot of waste after their installations. Levy always uses native vegetation in the environmental systems she constructs. During the winter, Levy even treats the snow as a giant, natural drawing board on which to test out some of her ideas.

Levy and her eco-art work reflect the diversity of disciplines among the attendees at her talk at Slought. “Regardless of whether you are from the humanities or just a curious visitor, go forth and ask Stacy questions,” encouraged Deenah Loeb, the Executive Director of the City Parks Association of Philadelphia. The environment encompasses all of us. While environmental scientists have dedicated their life’s work towards improving our factual understanding of the Earth’s various systems, artists like Levy bring art into the discourse to widen the necessary space of dialogue about our natural environment, and our roles in it.
 

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Event photos by Dyana Wing So. View the full gallery on Flickr>

Learn more about the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities: http://www.ppehlab.org


Dyana Wing So is a senior majoring in Visual Studies and minoring in Cinema Studies. At Penn, Dyana is also a speech adviser for Communication Within the Curriculum (CWiC), a research fellow representing Du Bois College College House, and a student ambassador for Penn Art & Culture. 
 


Edited by Mariah Macias.